Saturday 31 March 2007

The 150 Chess Club

Over the last few weeks at the ANU Chess Club, we have been running a rapidplay event. The format was 2 rounds a night, and for those who played it worked quite well. This led me to think that their might be a market for a 150 Chess Club.
Now some people may have heard of the 150 Attack which refers to (BCF) rating of the players likely to use it, but the 150 here is the length of time (in minutes) the club meets. A once a week club which starts at 7:30pm and is finished by 10:00pm.
The format that we used for the ANU Rapidplay seems to suit this structure. Two rounds a night using a time limit of G/20m+10s per move allows you to hold a decent tournament over 4 or 5 weeks. The time limit is long enough to play some normal chess (rather than the thud and blunder of blitz), but not long enough so that games drag on long into the night. You can also schedule a coffee break between rounds, making the club a little more social. Also, having 2 games each evening hopefully gives players something positive to go home with (unless you lose both).
The advantages of this format include
  • Fixed club time
  • Shorter tournament length (10 rounds in 5 weeks)
  • A slightly less serious chess environment
Of course there are some things that don't work with this proposal, such as
  • Rapidplay isn't "real" chess
  • Games aren't rated on the normal ACF Rating List
  • The sameness of the format may become boring
Nonetheless, as modern society conspires to take away our leisure time, this format may be worth experimenting with, especially if chess wishes to attract and keep players who have come to the game via newer, non-traditional paths.

Friday 30 March 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup & Shipov Simul

The deadline for early entry for the 2007 O2C Doeberl Cup is today (30th March 2007). If you intend to enter, and wish to save some money get your entry form into the post today, as entries with todays postmark are still ok.
As of yesterday evening there were 109 entries, including 8 GM's, which is clearly a record for GM entries in any weekend event in Australian chess history. Hopefully total entries will also exceed last years record field of 220 players.
As a warm up for the Doeberl Cup, GM Sergei Shipov will be giving a lecture and simul this Sunday (1st April 2007) at Campbell High School, Treloar Cres, Campbell, ACT. The lecture starts at 12 noon, with the simul to start afterwards. The cost is $10 for the lecture and $15 for lecture and simul. If you wish to register send an email to

Thursday 29 March 2007

Dubbo Open 2007 - Results

Congratulations to the winners of this years Dubbo Open, Bill Egan and Alexander Aich. Both players finished on 5/6 ahead of Phil Bourke and Fritz Van Der Wal on 4.5
Bill Egan successfully defended his title from last year, while equal first for Alexander Aich must be particularly satisfying as he is one of the chief organisers for the tournament.
Here is the full crosstable (courtesy of the organisers via ACF Ratings Officer Bill Gletsos)

No Name               Feder Loc  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6

1 Egan, Bill 1530 5 14:W 10:W 4:D 6:W 3:W 2:D
2 Aich, Alexander 1489 5 12:W 7:W 6:W 3:D 10:W 1:D
3 Bourke, Phil 1526 4.5 19:W 11:W 13:W 2:D 1:L 5:W
4 Van Der Wal, Fritz 1789 4.5 16:W 9:W 1:D 5:L 8:W 11:W
5 Bemrose, Trevor 1784 4 13:D 8:D 14:W 4:W 7:W 3:L
6 Hellman, Oscar 1716 4 15:W 21:W 2:L 1:L 13:W 9:W
7 Mann, Garry 4 18:W 2:L 16:W 9:W 5:L 10:W
8 Losh, Gary 1438 3.5 11:L 5:D 19:W 16:W 4:L 18:W
9 Wilkie, Mary 1307 3 20:W 4:L 11:W 7:L 15:W 6:L
10 Parsons, Col 1310 3 17:W 1:L 21:W 15:W 2:L 7:L
11 Teisseyre, Marcin 3 8:W 3:L 9:L 20:W 18:W 4:L
12 Aich, Ramon 797 3 2:L 15:L 18:L 0:W 14:W 19:W
13 Wilson, Greg 1191 2.5 5:D 18:W 3:L 14:D 6:L 15:D
14 Aylwin, Helen 1015 2.5 1:L 17:W 5:L 13:D 12:L 0:W
15 Pandich, Donald 1174 2.5 6:L 12:W 20:W 10:L 9:L 13:D
16 Yeong, Jonathan 1300 2.5 4:L 19:W 7:L 8:L 17:D 21:W
17 Rogerson, David 2.5 10:L 14:L 0:W 18:L 16:D 20:W
18 Emblen, Pat 1319 2 7:L 13:L 12:W 17:W 11:L 8:L
19 Momot, Alex 848 2 3:L 16:L 8:L 21:W 0:W 12:L
20 Dowton, Norman 2 9:L 0:W 15:L 11:L 21:W 17:L
21 Tran, Jordan 1 0:W 6:L 10:L 19:L 20:L 16:L

As for myself, I fully intended to play until ambushed by family commitments at reasonably short notice. Having plugged the tournament, and having often argued for the necessity of chess players to do more to support event organisers, does my not playing make me a bad person? The simple answer is yes. Hopefully I will be able to redeem myself next year.

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Tim Krabbé's Chess Curiosities

Tim Krabbé's Chess Curiosities website is one of the real gems on the net. Running since before there were blogs, the website contains a vast collection of the weird, fabulous, bizarre and downright silly in the world of chess.
And while most players use "The Complete Chess Addict" as the standard reference work in the area of chess trivia, it is worth noting that Tim Krabbé had written a number of books of this type prior to the release of TCCA, including Chess Curiosities, published in 1985.
The reason I'm highlighting the site today is a recent entry that Tim added to his section on chess records. The game between Vince Suttor and Zhigen Wilson Lin from the 2006-07 Australian Open Championship is listed under the heading of Longest unclaimed repetition. From move 32 to move 62 the position was repeated 15 consecutive times, with neither player claiming the draw. Black then broke the repetition with his 62nd move, although the game was eventually drawn on move 119.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Why do we play chess?

As any chess organiser can attest, it is always better to have more players in your event than less. Well in most circumstances. And when events fall short of their predicted, or required, numbers, an obvious question is "Where did all the players go?"
However, before this question is answered (in another, later post), I think a better question needs to be asked first. "Where do all the players come from?"
This can be boiled down into a question of why we start playing chess, and why we keep playing chess. Over the years I have often wondered about these questions and I've got as far as answering the question as it relates to me. That is, I understand why I play chess, but I'm still not sure why everybody else does.
Over the last couple of weeks I have come across two interesting theories that may shed some light. The first was mentioned in Jonathon Rowson's column in New In Chess (although it wasn't is theory), and put simply, states that humans value status over happiness. In relation to chess he suggests that this may account for the value that players put on their ratings, as opposed to their enjoyment of the game.
The second theory came via the Kenilworthian chess blog. Referencing the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath, it suggests that curiosity, in the form of a known gap in each persons knowledge, drives us. In the case of chess, we are aware that there is so much more to know, and therefore we are constantly trying to fill this void.
Putting these two ideas together possibly explains why, once you start playing chess, that you work so hard at something that the vast majority of the worlds population would find un-important.

Monday 26 March 2007

More on Draw Offers

The Association of Chess Professionals has just released the results of the survey they conducted of its members concerning Draw Offers.
Just a little under 50% of the players surveyed replied that they thought that the rules should stay as they are, ie allowed at any stage of the game. Interestingly, the next most popular choice was no draw offers at all (the Corsican rule). However this was only by a small margin ahead of no draw offers before move 30 and no draw offers before move 40.
The full results of the survey are here.
As for my own opinion, I believe the rules should stay as they are, mainly because there is no real way of enforcing restrictions. As demonstrated in Gibraltar, if a player wants a quick draw then it sometimes can happen anyway, and if two players want a quick draw they can play down some well known drawing lines in the opening eg
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.O-O Bg4 6.h3 h5 7.c3 Qd3 8.hxg4 hxg4 9.Nxe5 Bd6 10.Nxd3 Bh2+ 11.Kh1 Bg3+ 1/2-1/2

Sunday 25 March 2007


I'm a big fan of Wikipedia, and it is one of my daily reads. Not only is it great for just following links of interest as you move from article to article, it has also become an important repository for information. I'm more likely to look for information concerning winners of various Australian Chess Titles on Wikipedia than on the Australian Chess Federation Website.
The obvious strength of Wikipedia is that anyone can update information, even if you are not a registered user. This removes the problem of relying on someone else being required to keep things up to date, especially if you are able to do it yourself.
There are a number of entries on Wikipedia related to Australian Chess. For example there is a link to a list of Australian Chessplayers. Some of the biographical details may be a little sketchy for some players, but hopefully they will be updated by informed users.
The bottom line is that if you are aware of any extra information that can be added to any of the entries concerning Australian chess, feel free to add it. And hopefully this will become an important resource for those trying to maintain a record of Australian chess history.

Saturday 24 March 2007

SCID - A Free Chess Database

While Chessbase clearly dominates the chess database market, there is a free alternative in the shape of SCID - Shane's Chess Information Database. Developed over a number of years by Shane Hudson from New Zealand, this piece of software is not only free as in beer, but also free as in speech ie it is 'open source' software.
Having used it on and off for a number of years there are two important features it has. Firstly, it runs on a number of platforms, and as I am mainly a Linux user, this is pretty useful to me. Secondly, with every new release the product gets better, both in terms of features and in ease of use.
SCID even contains its own analysis engine, Scidlet, although it does come with the facility to use pretty much any Winboard compatible engine.
Probably the best way to find out more about SCID is to visit the homepage at

Friday 23 March 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup - Sponsorship Handover

Today representatives from O2C confirmed their sponsorship deal with the 2007 Doeberl Cup by handing over a cheque for $6000. As you can see from the attached photos it is a pretty big cheque, which is fitting, given the size of the sponsorship deal. (Right hand picture: Steve Rohan-Jones from O2C handing over the $6000 cheque to Paul Dunn, Doeberl Cup Chairman)
With the assistance of O2C the Doeberl Cup is now offering a prize fund in excess of $16,000. This is a fabulous boost for chess in Australia, and plans are being made for both an increase in the prize pool for next year, as well as the possibility of organising other "Doeberl Cup" type events in other cities around Australia.

And if the Sydney International Open, which takes place straight after the Doeberl Cup, is held against next year, then the Doeberl Cup organisers are considering extending the O2C Doeberl Cup Premier to 9 rounds to allow the opportunity for IM and GM norms in both events.
(Left hand picture: Paul Dunn and Charles Bishop from O2C posing with the sponsorship cheque)

Thursday 22 March 2007

Giving Odds

The art of giving odds in a game of chess has been a long neglected art. Popular in the 19th century, it began to die out as the 20th century approached, possibly as a consequence of the introduction of chess clocks. Instead of spotting your opponent material, just give them a headstart on the clock. But I'm not convinced that the extra time helps the weaker player as much as the extra material does. And anyone who watched Greek GM Ioannis Papaioannou play 1 minute v 5 minutes and still destroy all comers at 3am during the Majorca Olympiad would probably agree with me.
One area where giving odds is very useful is when coaching. Instead of handing out a pasting to a weaker player, or trying to avoid playing your best, "to make a game of it", spotting your opponent a rook or a queen allows both players to try their best, while still maintaining an even level of competition.
You can even use it is a useful measure of progress, reducing the odds every time you drop a game to a student. I will usually start by offering queen odds, and then going rook, knight and finally pawn.

Here is one of the classic odds games in chess history. Paul Morphy starts without a Queens Rook and finishes the game by giving checkmate by castling.

Morphy,P - NN [C57]
New Orleans sim New Orleans (5), 1858
(Remove Whites Queen Rook)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 Nd4 9.Bxd5+ Kd6 10.Qf7 Be6 11.Bxe6 Nxe6 12.Ne4+ Kd5 13.c4+ Kxe4 14.Qxe6 Qd4 15.Qg4+ Kd3 16.Qe2+ Kc2 17.d3+ Kxc1 18.O-O# 1-0

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Late Night Chess Blogging

Wednesday night is chess night for me, so I usually don't get to update the blog until late. But if I play a halfway decent game then I at least have something to post.
While this game isn't perfect (I simply missed some obvious tactics), I was still happy with the outcome.

Press,S - Bliznyuk,A [A53]
ANU Rapid, 21.03.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.d5 This is a committal move, and White is better off waiting, either to exchange or to push on when necessary. However the reason for playing it had more to do with a desire to research the position rather than look for what is objectively best.
What I was looking for was for Black to play c5 and allow me to investigate the strength of the b4 break for White. 5...a5 Doh! There goes that idea. 6.g3 However there is a plan B (or indeed a Plan A) in this position. g3, f4 and then a kingside attack has been used against this Black setup. 6...Nc5 7.Bg2 Be7 8.Nge2 0-0 9.0-0 Ne8 With f5 coming I thought I would go for f4 first. 10.f4 f5 11.Be3 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 fxe4 13.Bxe4 Nf6 14.Bg2 Ng4! I missed the strength of this move. 15.Bd2 exf4 16.Nxf4 Bf6 And here my calculating ability went entirely out the window. 17.Qc2 Bd4+ I simply missed this! 18.Kh1 Bf5 Bf5 is actually recommended by Crafty, but both Andrey and myself though it wasn't the best. [18...Nf2+ 19.Rxf2 Bxf2 looks straightforward and would probably lead to a win for Black. 20.Bxa5 would have been my followup but it isn't enough. (20.Be4 was better, but I'm not sure I would have chosen it as Bxa5 would have been the only move I would have looked at. 20...g6 21.Bxg6 Qe7 is OK for Black (21...hxg6?? 22.Qxg6+ Kh8 23.Bc3+) ; 20...Be3!-+] 19.Be4 Bxe4+ 20.Qxe4 Nf2+ 21.Rxf2 Bxf2 22.Qe6+ now I decide to head for a draw based on the idea of sacrificing the knight on g6. 22...Kh8 [22...Rf7 23.Rf1 Bd4 is objectively good for Black, but Andrey thought it was starting to look dicey for him.] 23.Rf1 Bd4 Happy to take the draw. 24.Ng6+ with checks on h3 and e6. ½-½

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Computer Chess in Australia

On a per capita basis, Australia does very well in the area of computer chess development. Over at the online hub of Computer Chess, there are a number of Australian programs taking part in the various tournaments.
One activity that brings Australian developers together is the National Computer Chess Championships, or NC3 for short. This event is run as part of the Australian National University Chess Festival, usually held in July each year. To get the ball rolling for this year I am putting out a pre-registration call. If you are interested in finding out more about NC3 just send me an email, or visit the NC3 home page. The page contains the details of previous years tournaments, as well as a list of tournament rules used each year. Official announcements concerning the dates of this years tournament will be made in a month or two.

Monday 19 March 2007


If you are looking for a more frequent email newsletter than that provided by the Australian Chess Federation, then the ChessToday Email Newspaper is a good choice. Established by Irish GM Alex Baburin, this daily magazine contains contributions from a number of strong players. Each day an issue arrives in more inbox containing the very latest chess new from around the world, as well as a selection of annotated games.

Here is a short game from the 31 December 2006 issue.

Maze,S - Porras [C69]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 f6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bc5?? [7...c5 8.Nb3 Qxd1 9.Rxd1=] 8.Qh5+ 1-0

For more information click visit the ChessToday website

BTW Many thanks to Henrik Mortensen who showed me the game above, as well as the issue it came from.

Sunday 18 March 2007

Quick and Dirty Rating System

While the discussion of Swiss Pairings is almost guaranteed to create a fight at any chess tournament, the discussion of chess ratings will almost certainly generate a massive outbreak of cluelessness. Why? I'll discuss that another time. But chess ratings are important, and handled correctly provide an excellent tool for keeping players enthusiastic about their chess.
For the junior chess club I run I use quick and simple rating system that can be used in any stand alone chess club or coaching group. However, it isn't my invention, as the credit rightly belongs to the US Chess Federation. The system I use is described in their Guide to Scholastic Chess.
At the Gungahlin Junior Chess Club I start every player off with a rating of 500. Then simply for each game the winners rating goes up by 25+(Lr-Wr)*0.1 eg 25 points for a win plus 10% of the difference between the players. If a 600 player beats a 500 player the winner gets 25+(500-600)*0.1 or 15 points. The losers rating goes down by the same amount. The ratings changes are limited to 0 and 50 points which can occur if the ratings differences between the players exceed 250 points. In the case of a draw there is no winning bonus and the rating change is simply (Or-Pr)*0.1 where Or = Opponents Rating and Pr = Players Rating.
Although the system can be applied on a game by game basis, I usually apply it across a tournament, by calculating the changes using the rating at the start of the tournament for all players, and applying the changes at the end of the event.
While it is simple to use it does have a couple of drawbacks. The winning bonus of 25 is possibly too high, causing ratings to jump around. Reducing it to 20 maybe more sensible. Secondly, I would not regard it as accurate as the Glicko System. This is hardly surprising as Glicko is the product of serious statistical analysis, while this system is designed for ease of use.
There are a couple of possible modifications. Peter Simpson, who organises the Tuggeranong Junior Chess Club, independently developed a similar system a number of years ago. In his system the win bonus is 20 points. If the ratings difference between the two players is < 100 points then the modifier is 1 points for every 10 points of the difference. However if the difference is between 100 and 200 the the modifier is 10+1 point for every 20 points of difference above 100. And above that the modifier is 3 points (or 37 points for an upset) for a difference between 200 and 250, 2 points between 250 and 300, and 1 point above that.
So if a player rated 685 beat a player rated 500, the winner would get 5 points and the loser would drop 5 points. Of course if the result went the other way the winner would gain 35 points.
So if you are thinking of setting up a ranking system in your club or coaching group, then either system should do the trick. As the number of games played at the GJCC increases, I'll report back on any interesting findings.

Saturday 17 March 2007

ACF Newsletter

After a reasonably long break (due to technical and manpower issues), the Australian Chess Federation Newsletter has returned. The addition of a new technical editor has resulted in a "clean" looking email newsletter, something that is not always easy to achieve.
Subscribing to the newsletter now seems a lot easier as well. Simply go to the Australian Chess Federation home page and enter you email address in the box provided. Then every fortnight the email newsletter should arrive in you inbox (barring any technological failures).

A Fifty Dollar Haircut

Each year around this time the Leukaemia Foundation organise the Shaveforacure fundraiser. King O'Malley's Bar in Canberra City are one of the big supporters of this event and many a brave soul sits down to have their head shaved. As King O'Malley's is also the venue for, and sponsor of, Street Chess, the Street Chess crowd decided to a throw a little money into the pot.
The deal was that if they could scrape together $50 I would get my head shaved. As a testament to the players generosity, or because they just don't like me, the $50 was soon collected. Of course there were a couple of players who were never going to part with any money, even for charity, but what would the stereotype of chess players being incredibly selfish be without a few players being incredibly selfish.
Attempts to negotiate a generous No.2 shave were unsuccessful, and soon the trimmer went to work. Despite the fact that the person wielding the weapon of "thatch destruction" wasn't a hairdresserer, but instead one of the bar staff, the finished product wasn't that bad.
So hopefully the Canberra winter will not be too cold, and I can wait 6 months before I need another haircut.

Friday 16 March 2007

Saturday Morning Junior Chess

Since 1982 (and possibly before that), one of the backbones of the junior chess scene in Canberra has been Saturday Junior Coaching. This was my first exposure to organised chess and throughout the years a continuous stream of strong chess players have emerged from it, many going on to become chess coaches themselves.
When I started as a 16 year old, it was being organised by Julian Mott through the Belconnen Chess Club. After a few years I took over before taking a break due to University commitments. It was then restarted through the efforts of the Tuggeranong Chess Club in 1990. There was another short break in the mid 90's before the club found its current home at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club.
These days the club is organised by Peter Simpson, who was a strong OTB and CC player before retiring from both forms of the game to concentrate on coaching. The club runs for 2 hours using a format that has become pretty standard at most junior clubs in Canberra.
The first 15 minutes is set aside for registering arrivals as well as a problem solving task. The player who is first out of the hat with the correct answer wins a prize. Then the players are broken up into 3 groups (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced) for 45 minutes of lecture style coaching.
For the second hour the players play in a lightning tournament. Peter has a rough and ready rating system he uses to divide the players into groups of 6, and each group plays a 5 round round robin. The best performed player in each group (not necessarily the best scoring player) receives promotion to the group above the following week.
The club usually attracts between 30 and 50 players each week, including a number of keen adult players looking for some extra help. While the club has a good track record of turning out title winning players (including 3 out the 4 first place getters at the last Australian Junior Championships), the vast majority of kids who come along do so to just have fun and enjoy playing against other kids.
The club meets on Saturday Mornings between 10:am and 12 noon at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Erindale. There is no charge for attendance. Pre-registration is not necessary, so just simply turn up at 10:00 am

Thursday 15 March 2007

This porridge is too hot ....

For its opening night, the Australian National University Chess Club had a good start. We had a number of new players from the undergraduate body of the University, the returning group from last year, consisting of what might be termed "solid club players", and a couple of strong players trying it out for the first time.
For its second night, the new players failed to return, and the strongest newcomer didn't come back either. Having organised a few clubs (successfully and unsuccessfully), this phenomena is not uncommon. Without trying to read the minds of the absent players, it appears that the weaker players think the club is too strong for them, while the strong players think the club is too weak.
Is there a solution to the problem? Yes, although it isn't an easy one. I feel the players in the groups at either end of the spectrum probably need to themselves bring players to the club of a similar strength. Strong players should encourage other strong players to play, while newcomers may need to encourage their social chess playing friends to give it a go.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

The Last Fiji Zonal

One of the attractions of playing in a zonal is the opportunity to (a) score either an IM or FM title or (b) have a really good time at a holiday resort. Sometimes you can even try for both although trying for one usually reduces your chances of the other.
In the following game PNG No.1 Stuart Fancy upsets one of the tournament favourites in Round 1 of the last Zonal held in Fiji. Sadly for Stuart it got much harder after this, and so Plan A was a no go. But there was always Plan B.

Fancy,S (2209) - Depasquale,C (2335) [A36]
Oceania zt Warwick Fiji FIJ (1), 06.05.2002

1.e4 c5 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 e6 5.Bg2 Ne7 6.Nge2 Nbc6 7.d3 0-0 8.h4 Nd4 9.Nxd4 cxd4 10.Ne2 d5 11.exd5 exd5 12.cxd5 Nxd5 13.Bg5 Qa5+ 14.Qd2 Qxd2+ 15.Kxd2 h6 16.Bxd5 hxg5 17.hxg5 Rd8 18.Nf4 Bf5 19.Rhe1 Rd7 20.f3 Bf8 21.a3 Be7 22.Be4 Bxe4 23.dxe4 Bxg5 24.Kd3 Bxf4 25.gxf4 Kf8 26.Rac1 Ke7 27.Rh1 Rad8 28.Rc5 Rd6 29.Rh7 Rb6 30.Rc7+ Rd7 31.Rxf7+ Kxf7 32.Rxd7+ Ke6 33.Rxd4 Rxb2 34.Rb4 Rf2 35.Ke3 Ra2 36.Ra4 a6 37.Ra5 Rb2 38.a4 Ra2 39.Re5+ Kf6 40.a5 Ra3+ 41.Kf2 Ra2+ 42.Kg3 Rb2 43.Rd5 Rb1 44.f5 g5 45.Rd6+ Kf7 46.Kg4 Rg1+ 47.Kh5 Rg3 48.Rb6 1-0

Tuesday 13 March 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007

While it is still a couple of months away, the Oceania Zonal website is now up and running, and it looks good. The address is and while there isn't much content it does contain the list of entries so far.
There are obviously a few names missing from the entry list that are certain to be going (eg IM Zong Yuan Zhao) but the official PNGCF selections, Stuart Fancy and Imelda Flores, are listed.
The Zonal runs from the May 5-12 and is being hosted by the Fiji Chess Federation.

Monday 12 March 2007

FIDE Time Controls

Recently I have been appointed to serve on FIDE's Technical Commission and one of our first tasks is to look at time controls the FIDE will recommend in the following areas.

A) Standard Chess (World Ch, festivals, continental championship etc)

B) Rapid chess - World Championship, tie-breaks in the standard
WCh and Continental Ch., , rapid tournament etc

C) Blitz chess - World Blitz Championship, friendly event,tie-breaks for the standard WCh and Continental Ch

Now I have my own reasonably strong feelings on this matter, both based on events I have organised, and events I have seen, but opinions are always welcome. No guarantee I'll listen to them of course, but no harm in trying.

Actual decisions won't be made until November, but I will probably make my own suggestions fairly soon.

PWM Signals on a PXA270 Chip

NB Clearly this is a non-chess post

Trap for young players trying to get a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) signal off a PXA270 chip using the Colibri board. As a power saving feature, the 13Mhz clock used to control the signal is switched OFF by default, and must be enabled before anything can happen. To do this you need to set either bits 0 or 1 in the CKEN (Clock Enable) register which is mapped to memory location 0x4130_0004.

Sunday 11 March 2007

GM Sergei Shipov Lecture & Simul

GM Sergei Shipov will be in Canberra to give a lecture and simul on the 1st of April.
The details, courtesy of Jenni Oliver are

GM Sergei Shipov will be conducting a lecture and simul in Canberra.

Date 1 April 2007 (no this is not an April Fool’s joke :) )
Register 11:15
Venue ACTJCL centre at Campbell High, Treloar Crescent, Campbell.
Lecture 12 noon for ½ hour
Simul Starts 1pm
Cost $15

Please register your interest by emailing . You may also register on the day, if space is available.

GM Sergei Shipov is the top seed in the Sydney International Open to be held in Parramatta after Easter. He has been in the top 100 players in the world list for many years and still has a world rank of 163. As a comparison Australia’s 2 GM’s have world ranks of 525 and 1,196 respectively.

He is also a master Blitz player and believes Blitz is very democratic, as it allows a more level playing field. He studied Physics at University and turned professional after gaining an Engineering degree.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Canberra players to attend a short lecture and then pit their skills against him!

GM Shipov is sponsored by Stratagem Computer Contractors P/L

Saturday 10 March 2007

More Shopping

Spent some of this morning looking for chess related bargains in the various bookshops, computer shops and games shops in Canberra City. Bargains were fairly hard to come by, although there are plenty of chess books on the shelves in a couple of bookshops.
Apart from Academic Remainders (which I referred to in a previous post), the new Borders bookshop in the Canberra Centre has a wide variety of titles. The only drawback is that would regard them as slightly pricey (although to me anything over $20 is pricey). I did get The Reassess Your Chess Workbook by IM Jermey Silman for $44 a couple of weeks back, and they still have copies in stock. I am also tempted by Secrets of Russian Chess Volumes 1&2 by Parr and Alburt but have so far been able to resist the urge to buy. There are plenty of other chess books there if you are interested.
A couple of people have asked me where the best place to get a chess set is. If you want a cheap and cheerful set where you can't tell the difference between the King and the Queen, and the pawns are in danger of being carried off by large ants, then I guess you can try the toy section in any department store. If instead you want a proper tournament set, then your options are somewhat limited. The Mind Games store in the City are selling proper sets for $20 (and slightly improper ones for $15), but I wasn't able to find a price for boards. They also sell chess clocks if you are interested, but you would be better off getting those from Australian Chess Enterprises in Sydney.
In the end the only bargain I did find was in the area of software. ChessMaster 10th Edition has now been released by Ubisoft under its "That's Hot!" range. This means it is retailing at $19.95, and is probably available in most computer games shops. Having installed and given it a preliminary run through, it looks pretty good. A full review will follow at some stage.

Usual disclaimer: I have no financial relationship with any of the retailers listed, with the exception of Australian Chess Enterprises, who pay me for articles I write for their magazine Australian Chess.

Friday 9 March 2007

Happy Birthday, Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer turns 64 years old today, and I thought I'd wish him a happy birthday. I'm not sure that he would care that I'm wishing him a happy birthday, as we have never met. Although I have met his real estate agent.
There is one thing you can do to see how close you are to arguably the greatest player ever. Visit the I Beat Garry website and see how far you are from beating Fischer (or Kasparov, Tal etc). Using various games collections the site will attempt to connect you to another chess player via a chain of victorious opponents.
For example my Fischer number is 5, as I once beat Rory Obrien, who once beat Phil Viner, who once beat Werner Ziltener, who once beat Ludek Pachman, who once beat Bobby Fischer.
The direct link to finding your Fischer number is here.

Thursday 8 March 2007

Draw of the Year

With many tournaments introducing regulations concerning the offering draws before move X it is worth looking at an example of when the rules are no help at all.
The following game was reported to me by Stewart Rueben from the Gibraltar Masters (which had a No Draw Offers before move 40 rule) earlier this year.
Kuzubov v Sokolov
1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 Be6!? 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Ng5 Bg4 7 Bc4 Bxd1 8 Bxf7+ Kd7 9 Be6+ Ke8 10 Bf7+ Draw.
Rueben then wonders whether the arbiters should have ordered Kuzubov to choose a different 10th move.
In this case it appears that Kuzubov wanted the draw, while Sokolov wanted to play on, but not to the extent of being worse after 7 ... e6 8.f3.
To me this raises the question of whether attempts to make chess more "exciting" create a whole new set of problems for players, arbiters, and organisers. My initial belief is that it will, but maybe someone will come up with a problem free way of making such regulations work.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Swiss Pairings

The "Swiss" tournament is probably the backbone of tournament chess worldwide, and the introduction of the Swiss Pairing Rules (way back in 1895) is one of the reasons why chess continued to grow throughout the 20th century.
Nonetheless, if you want to start a heated discussion amongst chess players, questioning the accuaracy of a set of tournament pairings is a good way to go about it. In fact is some Australian tournaments, arguing about pairings prior to the last round has become so common that there is a joke that the organisers have changed their tournament schedule to refelect this eg 10am Round 6 2pm Argue about Round 7 pairings 2:30pm Round 7 (Hopefully) .
But why the confusion? While there probably isn't one single answer, the most common reason I have seen is that people don't take the time to understand the rules in the first place. Often they get as far as understanding the intent of the rules, but then don't go as far as reading the rules in detail. However I have had dealings with players (and arbiters) who having read the rules, then apply their own interpertrations.
Common confusions include
  • Players in the top half of a score group can only play players in the bottom half of a score group (not true)
  • Players always get the opposite colour than they had in the previous rounds (desirable but not always achievable)
  • There is more than one "correct" pairing (not according to the FIDE pairing rules)
Now some of the blame does lie with the wording used in the offical FIDE swiss pairing rules. The major culprit is clause C.6 which can imply that you stop pairing once you have paired top half v bottom half. However further reading of the rules clearly indicates that more steps need to be taken before the pairings are finalised (Exchanges & Transpostions being required).
As a consequence a couple of arbiters, led by IA Gary Bekker, are putting together a submission to FIDE in an effort to clear up the confusion. Hopefully these suggested changes will be accepted in time for the next major FIDE rule revision.

Tuesday 6 March 2007

ANU Chess Club

It has been a pretty wild week for the Australian National University (ANU). Last Tuesday night (27 Feb 2007) the University was hit by a massive hailstorm that damaged a number of buildings. The skylights in the building I work were all smashed and the top floor was flooded. Photos of the wreckage (by Felix Schill) are here.
Fortunately most of the University is back in operation, including the venue for the ANU Chess Club. It what may be fortunate timing, the Chess Club starts for 2007 this Wednesday evening (7 March).
The full details are as follows
The Australian National University Chess Club is starting on Wednesday 7th March 2007. The club meets in the Staff Common Room in the Asian Studies Building, Australian National University. The Asian Studies Building is off Childers St, next to the Canberra School of Art. The meeting room is on the 4th floor. To get to the room you can either go through the front entrance and take the stairs on your right to the top floor, and then turn right, or take the elevator to the top floor. The club meets from 7:30pm every Wednesday night.

The first meeting (7th March) will be an introductory night for new members, with either a lightning or allegro event to be held. The club is open to all ANU Staff & Students as well as invited guests.

The clubs emphasis is both on enjoyable but competitive chess, as well as assisting in chess education and development for adult chess players (ie 18 years and older).

Monday 5 March 2007

Chess Organisers Face Jail Time

A report in todays Canberra Times newspaper reveals that the Australian Capital Territories Unlawful Games Act "prohibits any games of 'skill or chance' in which money or other valuables are staked".
Games covered by the legislation include chess, bridge, backgammon and scrabble. The penalties for players involved in these activities face a $1000 fine, while organisers can be fined $10,000 and jailed for up to a year.
The act has been on the books for 23 years, "but the Gaming and Racing Commision believes no one has ever been prosecuted for the offence".
It appears that the government will amend the law later in the year to exempt the games concerned.
Until then I figure the government won't waste the time or money of trying to arrest anyone for running a chess tournament, so its probably safe to come to Canberra for the Doeberl Cup.
And I did like the headline for the article: Step away from the chess set and put your hands up

Sunday 4 March 2007

Climbing the Silicon Ladder

During my second "proper" chess tournament (the 1983 Australian Junior Championships) I was struck by a comment made by one of the younger competitors. I'd asked him how long he had been playing chess and he replied "I've been playing real chess for about 3 years". "Real chess?" I asked. "You know, when you stop leaving pieces en-pris".
From that point onwards I have always considered this a major boundry for anyone learning to play chess. While memorising openings, studying endgames, or learning about pawn structures is all well and good, if you continue to lose material for no good reason, then all the learning in the world doesn't help you win games.
My first serious chess opponent was a chess computer my parents bought for me way back in 1981. It was a Scisys computer and I played it constantly. The most important thing I learnt from it was how not to leave my pieces where they can be taken.
I was reminded of this recently when talking to Shervin Rafizadeh, local Canberra chess coach, and winner of the 2005 Doeberl Cup Major. He described his learning experience as very similar to mine. He said he would play against his chess computer until he dropped a piece. Then he would resign and start again. Soon he developed the "board sight" to avoid playing stupid moves, leaving himself free to concentrate on more complex issues.

So here are some tips to using your chess computer/program to help you get better.
  1. Find a computer program that lets you change the strength. Programs that incorporate player "personalities" with a strength setting will also do. I found both Kasparovs Gambit, and Kasparov Chess will do this, as will the various ChessMaster programs.
  2. Set it on the easiest level or personality.
  3. Start playing it until you are (a) no longer losing pieces for free and (b) beating it more times than it beats you.
  4. Move it up to the next level and repeat the exercise.
Some chess programs will also give you a ratings estimate for your play after each game. You can also use this as a guide to determine which level the program should be set on.
I found that by doing this when I was younger I was able to move onto the more "complicated" stuff, like openings and endings, within a few months of becoming serious about my chess.

Saturday 3 March 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup Update

With the O2C Doeberl Cup starting in just over a month the organisers are pleased to announce that this years event will be the strongest ever. As of this moment 4 overseas Grandmasters have confirmed their entries. The GM's from overseas are Victor Mikhalevski (ISR 2590), Georgy Timoshenko (UKR 2563), Carlos Matamoros Franco (ECU 2540), and Dejan Antic (SRB 2452). Australian GM's Ian Rogers and Daryl Johansen are also expected to take part, meaning that for the first time ever, an Australian Weekend tournament will have 6 GM's taking part.
Full details of the event can be found on this link, including the full $16,800 prize list.
Watch this blog for further updates of the entry list as they come to hand.

Friday 2 March 2007

Dubbo Open 2007

I really admire organisers of country chess tournaments in Australia.
With the large distances between large towns, most country events only attract a small to medium sized entry. And yet every year they still put the effort in to run a great tournament. A classic example of this is the Dubbo Open.
For those that missed geography class at school, Dubbo is about 4 to 4 1/2 hours drive from Sydney, Newcastle or Canberra. Each year the Dubbo Chess Club organises a small, but very enjoyable weekender. There aren't huge prizes on offer ($350 for first) but if you are looking for a weekend away, and some enjoyable chess, then I highly reccomend this event.
This years tournament is on the weekend of the 24th and 25th of March. It will be a 6 round open, leaving the evening free to enjoy the dining delights of this growing regional centre.
While previous winners have included IM's John-Paul Wallace and Gary Lane, last years event was won by Bill Egan, who was rated Under 1600 at the time. He described his victory as a "real marketing boost for next years event".
And if you didn't already know, the real tourist attraction in Dubbo is the Western Plains Zoo. So you can even bring the family, knowing that they have plenty to do while you are occupied over the chess board.

Full details of the event are available here.

Thursday 1 March 2007

From Beginner to Club Player

Over my past 20 years of chess coaching I have been asked what books I would recommend to new chess players to study/learn from. While I have given a number of different answers, experience has lead me to mainly recommend 3 books. Taken as a set, these 3 books should be able to take any enthusiastic and hard working player from someone learning the rules up until club level.

1. Comprehensive Chess Course by Lev Alburt & Roman Pelts
Since I discovered this book this has been the mainstay of my coaching resource. The first volume is designed to explain the rules and get you playing chess, while the second volume helps you learn what you need to be a chessplayer. While designed to be used as a self-learner, it is also very useful in the hands of a chess coach for class teaching.

2. Play Better Chess by Leonard Barden
In my opinion the best single volume beginners book written. Starting with an explanation of the rules, it progresses from simple tactics and opening traps to informative opening analysis and player biographies. It's main strength is that every section is both interesting and informative. The only drawback: As far as I know it is out of print meaning that you may have to purchase it second hand.

3. Logical Chess Move by Move by Irving Chernev
For a long time I treated anything by Chernev (and Reinfeld) with suspicion, meaning I ignored this book quite unfairly. Having picked up a second hand copy a few years ago, I now kick myself that I didn't read it when I started chess as a teenager. Containing a collection of games, Chernev explains the reasoning behind every move played in every game. For the player who has progressed beyond the "how" and is moving onto the "why" this book should equip you with enough knowledge to confidently start your club or tournament career. (I've even recommended it to an Olympiad player of my acquaintance) .