Monday 30 April 2007

BBC Documentary on Fischer v Spassky 1972

As technology moves forward, it often reaches back. By that I mean that advances in technology often allow us to access information from the past. As an example, the BBC produced a documentary on the 1972 Fischer Spassky match, containing present day interviews, as well as archival footage from the match (and elsewhere). Now while this information has always existed, it hasn't always been available (unless you worked in a film archive). However, with the advent of Youtube/Google/Internet etc this sort of information is now available at the click of a button.
If you wish to watch the documentary on your PC, just click on this link. Although I haven't watched it all, the bits that I have watched are interesting, if only to place faces to many well known chess names.
BTW Many thanks to Stephen Mugford for sending me the link.

Sunday 29 April 2007

World Cup Winners

Tried to watch the start of the 2007 Cricket World Cup Final between Australia and Sri Lanka, but rain delayed the start, so I missed Adam Gilchrists spectacular 100. I almost missed the end of the Final as well, but this can be blamed on the decision to end the game in complete darkness.
The win by Australia is its 3rd in a row, and as usual there are those who say that this is bad for cricket. I guess the thinking is that sport is more interesting when it is a contest, and when it isn't a contest, it is no longer interesting. Personally I don't see it that way. To me competition is (mainly) about doing your best, and if one sides "best" is far superior to everyone else's, then I can enjoy watching the skill and abilities of the winners.
In one sense it brings to mind Bobby Fischer's run of 19 (or 20) straight wins during the lead up to the 1972 World Championship Match. While I was too young to remember comments at the time, reading the coverage of Fischer's run, both from that period, and in retrospect, no one seemed to think that this was bad for chess. The same goes for Fischers 11-0 win of the 64/64 US Championship. Rather than being bad for US chess, it inspired a generation of players to try harder to keep up.

BTW Both the Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies also won this weekend, so all in all it was a good sporting weekend.

Saturday 28 April 2007

Blayney Open

While it is still a fair way off, I'll put in an early plug for the 1st Blayney Open.
The tournament is to be held on the 8th & 9th of September, in the NSW country town of Blayney. Blayney is on the Mid-West Highway, between Bathurst and Cowra. It is about 2.5 hours from Sydney, and the same travelling distance from Canberra (although I do know a shortcut!)
This is the first time to Blayney Chess Club has put on a weekend event and hopefully it will have a successful beginning and continued success. Tournament first prize is $300 and there will also be a lightning tournament on the Saturday Night.

Friday 27 April 2007

Live Game Broadcasts

Despite the advances in technology, broadcasting live chess games over the net is still a tricky undertaking.
For example this years Doeberl Cup was ready to broadcast the top 6 games live, until we discovered that the venue didn't have net access. The Sydney International Open had bigger difficulties, as despite having net access, they struggled to even get 1 game going.
However it isn't impossible to do, as both the 2006-07 Australian Open, and the 2007 Australian Junior were able to broadcast multiple games live to the net.
Based on my experience at the Australian Open you probably need the following things to make it happen.
  1. Equipment that you know physically works (DGT Boards, power supplies)
  2. The right set of connectors and cables
  3. The correct computer equipment and software for net broadcasting
  4. People with the right technical smarts to trouble shoot problems as they arise.
Both at the Australian Open and Junior, there were various problems with the equipment on Day's 0 & 1, but we were able to isolate the problems and find solutions. This is a function of point 4 on the list, something that organisers can overlook from time to time. Indeed in the case of the Sydney International Open, it appears Nicholas Chernih was a big help in this area, especially as the first couple of attempts at getting the boards working came to naught.

However, when talking to Brian Jones after the event, he also criticized the "old" DGT technology. The reliance on serial connectors rather than USB plugs made the task of setting up more difficult. Now DGT do produce a USB version of their board, but it is still quite expensive to buy.

But there may be a cheaper alternative. While looking at the Closetgrandmaster blog I saw a story on USB chess boards. The link to the post is here. Visiting the actual website I was surprised to find the cost of the USB chess board is only $45(US), which is amazingly cheap. What I couldn't find were the technical specifications for the device, including board and piece size. Nonetheless it does look promising, both in terms of price, and possibly hackability.

Thursday 26 April 2007

Papua New Guinea Chess

Due to my father serving in the Australian Army, my place of birth was Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Now at the time I didn't think this was important, but in later years this turned out to be quite useful. Especially when the PNG Chess Federation were looking to send a team to the 2000 Istanbul Olympiad.
I happily volunteered my services (despite not having lived there since 1977), and as the team only had 3 players at the time, my offer was accepted.
Since then PNG has sent a team to all subsequent Olympiads, and is planning to do so for Dresden 2008.
Due to the fact that we only have a small group of players to draw from, and for resident PNG players the travel expenses can be prohibitive, we often languish towards the rear of the tournament. Nonetheless playing is an enjoyable experience and as a team we look for victories over traditional rivals such as Fiji or Bermuda. As individuals we are also on the lookout for title opportunities (such as Rupert Jones earning an FM title in 2004), or just to play some good chess.
As an example PNG Board 1 Stuart Fancy (Olympiad Medalist in 1982 and 1992), scores a neat win over Octavio Croes from Aruba

Fancy, Stuart v Croes, Octavio
Turin Olympiad, 2006
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. e5 Nc6 6. Qa4 Nd5 7. Qe4 Ndb4 8. Bb5 Bg7 9. a3 Qa5 10. Nc3 O-O 11. axb4 Qxa1 12. O-O d5 13. Qh4 Bf5 14. Nxd5 a6 15. Bxc6 bxc6 16. Nxe7+ Kh8 17. Bh6 Qxb2 18. Bxg7+ Kxg7 19. Qf6+ Kh6 20. Nxf5+ 1-0

Wednesday 25 April 2007

New Australian International Master

Congratulations to new Australian International Master, Les Rowley. Rowley earned is second and final IM norm at the Cecil Purdy Centenary Correspondence Chess Tournament. A cross table for this event is here.
The actual title will be awarded at the ICCF Conference in October of this year.

Spoiling the Ending

Frequent contributor to this blog, Milan Ninchich, has sent me another item of interest. The Nalimov endgame tablebases can now be queried over the net. They are provided by the Knowledge4It website, and you can use them to query endgames involving 6 pieces (combined) or less.
For those that aren't aware of the Nalimov Tablebases, they provide a complete assessment (win, loss, draw) of every position involving 6 pieces or less. This task has been progressing for years, starting with 3 piece endings (eg K+PvK). As computing power has increased, positions with more material has been investigated. The method for generating these results is to start with the final position (and assessment) and then work backwards to generate a set of positions that lead to the final position.
Nalimov Tablesbases are much beloved by computer chess programmers as they can be incorporated into a chess program, removing the need to actually teach a program what to do in a number of endgame positions. Personally I find this a sign of laziness on behalf of a programmer, but it does make the program play perfect chess in these endings, resulting in better results.
Another use of Tablebases is to check endgame analysis from books like Basic Chess Endings (Fine) or Pawn Endings (Averbakh and Maizelis). Indeed in the later book the diagrammed position is of interest.

The book gives 1.d5! as winning, which it does, but states that White can also win with 1.a4. However the website states that this is a draw after 1. ... Ke4! 2.a5 Kd5 3.Ke2 Kc6 4.Ke3
At this point the book leaves off with an etc, implying that the win is a matter of technique, but the tablebase shows that every move for Black, with the exception of 4. ... e5, still holds the draw.

Tuesday 24 April 2007

The secret to a long life

Apparently it is porridge for breakfast, and chess every day. At least that is the method that Alec Holden used to live to 100. In doing so he earned $60,000, having been offered the odds of 250/1 by bookmakers William Hill 10 years ago that he wouldn't reach his century. The full story can be found here.

Monday 23 April 2007

A Chess Playing Robot

For my day job I work at the Australian National University in the area of Robotics. This mainly involves writing software that allows robots to operate, navigate, and appear more intelligent in interacting with humans. I've included a couple of pictures of the robot I am mainly working on for Questacon.
One of the possible outcomes of my work (but not necessarily with this project) is a chess playing robot. By that I mean a robot that is developed enough to enter and compete in a chess tournament autonomously. While for non-roboticists this may seem some way off, most of the building blocks are already in place.
The robot in the picture was designed by David Austin and he also wrote most of the initial software. Included in the software for the robot is a chess program, although it is hardly complete at the moment. The robot also has a vision system, allowing it to keep track of the game via the stereo cameras on its head. It also has a speech recognition and response system which allows humans to converse with it, and receive sensible answers. This is particularly important as one ANU Professor (unnamed) who rejects the notion of computer chess as AI stated that "You may be able to develop a program to beat Gary Kasparov, but it isn't able to discuss the game with him after it's over"

And finally it is a mobile robot, which means it can navigate sensibly, as well as being able to avoid running over things. All that is missing are robot arms, which would allow it to move it's own pieces. However there have been separate projects that do exactly that, so implementing that feature is also possible.
What this means that all that is needed to build a real chess playing robot is the time and energy to glue it all together. And personally I wouldn't be surprised if that happens within the next 3-5 years.

Sunday 22 April 2007

Yakov Estrin - Happy Birthday

Yesterday (21st April) was the 84th anniversary of the birth of Yakov Estrin. Estrin covered a lot of ground as a chess player, being a Grandmaster in both the Correspondence (CC) and "Over the Board" (OTB) versions of the game. He was CC World Champion from 1972 to 1976 as well as author of a number of books, especially in the areas of chess openings. His book on the Traxler (Wilkes-Barre) opening is a particular favourite of mine.
Now in honouring a player I would normally find a spectacular win to publish. However while looking through Estrin's games I found a game where he played one of my all time favourite players, Rashid Nehzmetdinov. Unfortunately Estrin lost to one of Nehz's trademark attacks, but it looks so good I decided to use it anyway.

Nezhmetdinov,R - Estrin,Y [C92]
URS-ch sf Baku (4), 1951

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 d6 7.c3 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.h3 Be6 10.d4 Bxb3 11.Qxb3 Qd7 12.Nbd2 Rfe8 13.Nf1 exd4 14.cxd4 Na5 15.Qc3 Nc4 16.Ng3 c5 17.b3 Nb6 18.Bb2 b4 19.Qd2 a5 20.dxc5 dxc5 21.Qg5 h6 22.Qf4 c4 23.Bd4 Ra6 24.Nf5 Qe6 25.Bxb6 Rxb6 26.Nxg7 Kxg7 27.Nd4 Qc8 28.Nf5+ Kg8 29.Qg3+ Ng4 30.Qxg4+ 1-0

Saturday 21 April 2007

Free Chess Books?

A quick return trip to the Lifeline Book Fair didn't turn up many more chess books than yesterday. However, in the "Collectibles" section, I spied a copy of "Lasker's Chess Primer" for $5. I'm not sure how collectible a $5 book really is, but I bought it nonetheless.
I have quite a few chess books written by authors long since passed away, and I have often wondered what the copyright status is on these works. I have always assumed that copyright exists for 50 years from the death of the author and after that the work is in the public domain. Recently copyright terms have been extended to 70 years from death of author, but I assume that this hasn't been applied retrospectively.
So I wonder whether "Lasker's Chess Primer" is now in the public domain, as Lasker died in 1941, and is anyone entitled to republish or distribute the original text? If so, it may be a project worth pursuing. Converting chess works in the public domain to electronic format and making them available free of charge on the net. Any advice from those with greater legal knowledge than I would be appreciated.

Friday 20 April 2007

Lifeline Book Fair

One of the great Canberra social events is the Lifeline Book Fair. Every six months Lifeline holds a second hand book sale, selling books donated by the Canberra community. I usually try and get there on opening morning to pick up whatever chess books I can find.
Unfortunately I was delayed this morning (by work) and by the time I arrived all the chess books had gone. I was able to pick up a few books on other topics so the morning wasn't a complete loss. Also, the organisers replenish the tables every couple of hours, so hopefully there might be some books waiting for me when I return.
What I do find interesting at the book fair is the number of books on Bridge that are for sale. They easily outnumber the chess books by a factor of 5 or 6 to 1, and have done so at almost all Book Fairs I have been to. I've also noticed this at second hand book shops, although not at Bookshops selling new books.
I have two theories about this. (A) Chess players are bigger hoarders of books and would rather sell their children to gypsies than sell their books. (B) Bridge players are much older than chess players and therefore die sooner, and their heirs don't care for Bridge.
Now I'm not saying either theory is correct, but I would be interested in hearing alternatives.

Thursday 19 April 2007

The Fine Art of (Computer Assisted) Annotation

Long time chess playing friend of mine, Milan Ninchich, sent me a couple of games that he played in the 2007 Doeberl Cup. Now while most players are happy to submit their glorious victories, Milan submitted a lucky draw and an unlucky loss. In his email to me he said "they may prove educational and lowly rated chess players hardly ever get there games published".
So I figured to publish at least one of the games, and decided to add some of my own notes (I hope he doesn't mind). With the aid of Fritz 7 I went to work. When I finished 90 minutes later, I had attached far more analysis than I had intended to. But I guess this is a consequence of Computer Aided Analysis.
In the BC (Before Computers) era, analysis was far more general, and in adding long variations, you ran the risk of having embarrassing holes pointed out. But on the flip-side, the post game analysis matched much more closely what the players were probably capable of seeing during the game. Now anyone with a half decent computer and program can dissect an entire game, pointing out where wins were missed, even if that conclusion might not be clear for 15 or 20 moves.
The following game is a perfect example of this. White misses a Rook sac on move 19 which would have given him a better game, but only after a sequence of "only moves", moves that I for one would not have been able to find. And if I was White I would have only looked so far into the position before confusion over took me, and would have then chosen a much safer reply.

Ninchich,M - Holland,D
Premier (6), 2007
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.a3 c5 6.f4 Nc6 [6...cxd4 7.Qxd4 Nc6 is more assertive than Black's actual choice.] 7.Nf3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 10.Qd3 f6 11.Be2 0–0 [11...fxe5 turns out to be a little too dangerous for Black. 12.Bh5+ is the obvious idea. 12...g6? (12...Kf8! 13.Qg3 e4 and although his position is uncomfortable, Black still has an extra pawn.) 13.Bxg6+ hxg6 (13...Kf8 14.Qh3 e4 is equal according to Fritz 7) 14.Qxg6+ Ke7 15.fxe5 Nxe5 and now White has to play accurately to justify his sacrifice. 16.Qg7+ Kd6 17.Bf4 Rh5 18.Ne4+! Kc6 (18...dxe4?? 19.Rd1+) 19.Nxc5 Kxc5 20.Bxe5 Rg5 21.Bd4+ Kc6 22.Qf7 Rxg2 23.0–0–0 and White is better.] 12.Qh3 fxe5 13.Qxe6+ Kh8 14.Qxd5 exf4 15.Bd2 Qh4+ 16.g3 Bf2+ A clever tactic, which White rightly avoids. [16...fxg3 17.0–0–0 gxh2 gains material, but leaves White with plenty of opportunity to attack.] 17.Kd1 [17.Kxf2?? fxg3+ 18.Kg1 g2!–+] 17...fxg3 18.hxg3 Qe7 (D) [18...Qxg3?? allows a forced mate, but seeing White missed this move in the game, I'm wondering if he would have spotted it. 19.Rxh7+!! Kxh7 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Bc4+ Rf7 22.Qxf7+ Kh8 23.Qh5#]

[Instead the fun starts with 19.Rxh7+!! Kxh7 20.Bd3+ g6 (20...Kh8 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Bh7+ Kh8 23.Bg6+ Kg8 24.Qh7#) 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Bc4+! (22.Qxg6+?? Qg7 23.Bc4+ Kh8 24.Qh5+ Qh7) 22...Rf7 23.Qxg6+ Kf8 24.Ne4!! (24.Nd5 only appears better, although it does lead to some fantastic variations. 24...Qe5! (24...Rg7 25.Qh6 Qe4 (25...Qe5 26.Qh8+ Kf7 27.Nc7+ Ke7 28.Qe8+ Kd6 29.Bf4+-) 26.Qh8+ Kf7 27.Nb6+ Kf6 28.Bg5+! Kxg5 29.Qxg7+ Qg6 30.Qxg6+ Kxg6 31.Nxa8+-) 25.Nc7! Rf6 26.Bb4+ Now begins an amusing King chase. 26...Bc5 27.Bxc5+ Qxc5 (27...Nxc5?? 28.Qg8+ Ke7 29.Qe8+ Kd6 30.Nb5#) 28.Qe8+ Kg7 29.Qg8+ Kh6 30.Bd3! threatening mate in 2. (30.Qh8+ Kg5 31.Qh4+ Kg6 32.Bd3+ Kg7 33.Qh7+ Kf8 34.Qh8+ Ke7 35.Qe8+ Kd6 36.Nxa8 Now White is two pawns ahead, but ... 36...Rf8! 37.Qg6+ Nf6 and White will have difficulty in developing his rook, as well as saving the knight on a8. Black seems to be winning here.) 30...Qg1+ Black seems to have nothing better than a draw. 31.Kd2 Qg2+ (31...Qxa1?? 32.Qh7+ Kg5 33.Qh4#) 32.Ke1 Qh1+ 33.Ke2 Qf3+ 34.Kd2 Qg2+ 35.Ke1=) 24...Rg7 25.Bh6 Ne5 26.Qh7!! Qd7+ 27.Bd3 Qg4+ 28.Be2 Kf7 (28...Qd7+ 29.Nd2 Qf7 30.Qh8+ Ke7 31.Bxg7 Ng6 32.Qh6+-) 29.Bxg7 Qxg7 30.Qxg7+ Kxg7 31.Nxf2 leaves White two pawns ahead.] 19...Qxe4 20.Nxe4 Bd4 21.Bb4 [21.c3] 21...Rd8 22.Ng5 Ne5 23.Rxh7+ Kg8 24.Ke1 Be3 25.Rh5! g6 (D)
26.Bc4+? [26.Ne6 Only move. 26...gxh5 (26...Bxe6?? drops a piece 27.Rxe5) 27.Nxd8 Bg5 28.Bc3 Bg4 29.Bxe5 Rxd8 30.Bc4+ Kf8 31.Bc3 and White has nothing to fear.] 26...Nxc4 27.Rh8+ Kxh8 28.Nf7+ Kg8 29.Nxd8 Bg4 30.Nxb7 Re8 31.Kf1 Black is a piece ahead, and seems now to be a mopping up operation. 31...Bh3+ [Which probably explains the missed mate after 31...Bd4 Threatening Bh3# 32.Kg2 Re2+ 33.Kf1 Ne3+ 34.Kg1 Nf5+ 35.Kf1 Nxg3#] 32.Ke2 Bg5+ 33.Kf2 Ne5 34.Re1 Ng4+ 35.Kf3 Nh2+ 36.Kf2 Be3+ 37.Ke2 Bc1+ 38.Kd3 Bf1+ 39.Rxf1 Nxf1 40.b3 Re3+ 41.Kd4 Rxg3 42.Nd6 Ne3 43.c4 Nc2+ 44.Kd5 Nxb4+ 45.axb4 Rxb3 46.b5 Bf4 47.Nc8 Bb8 48.Kc6 g5 49.Kb7 a5 50.Kxb8 a4 51.Na7 a3 52.c5 a2 53.c6 a1Q 54.c7 Qe5 0–1

Wednesday 18 April 2007

You be the Ref

This years O2C Doeberl Cup was a very pleasant affair. There were no major disputes, no arguments over pairings, and most importantly for me, I didn't lose my temper once. Nonetheless there were a number of rulings the arbiters were called on to make. The majority of these occurred in the Lightning tournament, and for the interest of other arbiters I list them here. NB Not all these rulings strictly complied with the FIDE rules of chess. In some cases the laws are silent, on others arbiter "judgment" came into play.

1. Can players use two hands to capture?
Simple answer, no. The rules of chess require players to move with one hand only. However two-handed castling is usually permitted in Lightning events, as long as the King is touched first.

2. Is King capture allowed?
For the Doeberl Cup Lightning the answer was Yes. I have never understood why FIDE have outlawed King capture as a way of proving an illegal move. My decision to allow King capture was announced prior to the start of Round 1.

3. Player A had a King and a Knight. Player B had a King, a Bishop and a number of pawns. Player B lost on time. What was the result?
I ruled the game a draw. Player A then claimed that if Player B under promoted a mate could be achieved, assuming Player B arranged his pieces to allow this to happen. While a strict reading of the rules may support this claim, the actions taken to reach that point do not qualify as "unskilled counterplay" in my book. However I do feel sorry for Player A, as no doubt a different arbiter may rule differently, most likely when Player A is in a position to want a draw.

4. Player A delivers mate, Player B then notices that Player A has lost on time. Who wins?
Player A wins. Legal checkmate ends the game, meaning Player B can no longer claim a win.

5. Player A plays an illegal move but does not press his clock. He then retracts the move. Player B stops the clocks, before Player A has played a legal move, and asks the arbiter to force player A to make the original move. Do I?
Of course not. Players cannot be forced to make an illegal move, and are entitles to replace an illegal move with a legal one (touch move rules still applying) before starting their opponents clock. As an aside Player B then complained that Player A was receiving free thinking time while the clocks were stopped. As Player B stopped the clock to ask for a ruling, that was a risk he took.

6. If a Queen isn't available when promoting, can you use two pawns on the same square instead?
I allowed this, although the other player wasn't happy. I have heard of incidents were players have "accidentally" bumped a queen off the side of the table when their opponent is about to promote. Of course a player is entitled to stop the clock if the piece they need isn't available, although in practice very few players do.

7. DGT clocks have a symbol which indicates which players flag fell first. In 5 minute mode, the DGT clock continues to operate even if one player has run out of time. Player A noticed both players had run out of time, but Player B pointed out that Player A's flag had fallen first. Who gets the point?
Of course this game is draw, and both get half a point. An oft overlooked clause in the rules is that a player must have time on their own clock to claim a win on time.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Doeberl Cup - SIO Future Observations

Two successful international chess events have been wrapped up and it is worth looking at what may or mat not happen next year.
Both event organisers are committed to working together to achieve the sort of outcomes that occurred this years. This means co-ordinating prize lists, conditions, and timetables.
In terms of tournament format there is a strong push to extending the Doeberl Cup to 9 rounds. How this would work in practice is likely to be as follows. The Major, Minor and Senior would remain as 7 round events, and still be held from Friday to Monday. The Premier would become a 9 round event and begin on Thursday and finish on Monday. For players who either cannot spare the extra day, or aren't looking for norms, then two half point byes would be available for the first 2 rounds.
It has also been suggested that the SIO start a day late (ie Wednesday), giving players a rest day between the tournaments. This is up to the organisers of the SIO, but it hasn't been ruled out.
One further suggestion worth looking at is the status of these two successful events, in relation to the struggling Australian Chess Federation title events. This years Australian Open attracted a very poor turnout, and the ACF has yet to even find an organiser for the upcoming Australian Championships. One idea being floated around is the the title of Australian Open Champion go to the player with the highest combined score over the two events. There probably wouldn't be any extra prize money to go with the title, but you would get your name on the trophy.

Monday 16 April 2007

Common Sense in Arbiting

During the O2C Doeberl Cup there were a couple of "Mobile Phone" incidents. Before the start of each round the players and spectators were instructed to switch off their mobile phones, and the penalties for allowing their phones to ring were spelt out.
The penalty for a player was immediate loss of the game. This only occurred once, and was accompanied by the look of surprise on the offending players face, followed by a "Don't I get a warning" query. Sure, but the warning came before the round started. To the players credit he later spoke to one of the arbiters and accepted that he had broken the rules.
In the case of spectators, the penalty was to be excluded from the playing hall for the rest of the day. The question asked was "What happens to players who have finished their games, but break the rule?" The short answer is that they are treated as spectators and are excluded from the playing hall. However if they have a second game to play, they are allowed back into the playing hall to play the next game.
The other incident involved a player who had finished his game and had left the hall. At some point he switched his phone back on, and as he was re-entering the hall, his phone began to ring and he immediately left the hall. Although I didn't witness the incident myself, in discussion with the other arbiters it was clear he was only at the doorway to the hall, well away from any games in progress.
As no one appeared to be disturbed by the ringing of the phone, the decision was to give the player a stern talking to, with some finger wagging on my part, and a warning that "this better not happen again".
Ultimately the issue was resolved with the required amount of common sense, and no one went away feeling that the process treated them unfairly. And as an arbiter, this is something I will always try and aim for.

Sunday 15 April 2007

2007 Sydney International Open - Last Day

The inaugural Sydney International Open finished yesterday, with the top 2 places going to visiting Grandmasters. GM Georgy Timoshenko (UKR) and GM Dejan Antic (SCG) finished equal first on 7.5/9, with Timoshenko finishing with the better tie break.
In equal third was another overseas GM, Victor Mikhalevski (IS), along with a trio of Australians, IM Zong Yuan Zhao, GM Darryl Johansen, and IM Gary Lane, all on 7.
Darryl Johansen leapfrogged long time tournament leader GM Ian Rogers with a brutal last round win. Rogers, who had gone into the final day on 6/7 only managed half a point on the final day and finished in a tie for 7th on 6.5/9
Canberra player Gareth Oliver scored an IM norm with a last round draw with Moulthan Ly. Olivers score of 6/9 was enough for the norm, having played a field that included 2 Gm's and 2 IM's during the tournament. Probably his key game was against IM David Smerdon in Round 7.

Gareth Oliver v IM David Smerdon
2007 Sydney International Open, Round 7

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3 Bg7 9.d5 Ne5 10.Be2 Bxf3 11.gxf3 O-O 12.Qb3 Qc8 13.h3 c6 14.Rc1 Kh8 15.f4 Ned7 16.Bf3 Rd8 17.O-O e5 18.dxe6 fxe6 19.Qxe6 Ne5 20.Bg4 Qxe6 21.Bxe6 Nd3 22.Rc2 Re8 23.f5 gxf5 24.exf5 Nxb2 25.Ne4 N2c4 26.Bc5 Ne5 27.Nd6 Re7 28.f4 Nd3 29.Ba3 Bd4+ 30.Kh1 c5 31.Rd2 Rd8 32.Nf7+ Rxf7 33.Bxf7 Nb4 34.Bxb4 cxb4 35.Be6 1-0

Based on the number of entries, and the level of overseas interest, it is almost certain that there will be a 2008 Sydney International Open. Already discussions between the organisers of the SIO and the O2C Doeberl Cup have been held concerning the co-ordination of next years events. It is hoped that title norms will be available at both tournaments giving Australian (and overseas) players two chances at earning IM and GM titles.

Saturday 14 April 2007

2007 Sydney International Open - Oliver and Rej Star

The final day of the 2007 Sydney International Open is about to commence, and two outstanding performances should be grabbing the headlines. After 7 rounds there are 3 players leading on 6 points. Not surprisingly 2 of those players are GM's, with Ian Rogers continuing his outstanding Doeberl Cup form, while Georgy Timoshenko is living up to his high seeding. But the third player is untitled Sydney player Tomek Rej. He plays on the top Board in Rd 8 against Timoshenko, and has good chances for an IM norm.
The other amazing performance is by Canberra uni student Gareth Oliver. He is on 5.5 points and is already on the verge of his first IM norm. His spectacular run started in Round 4 and went win over FM Smirnov, win over Steadman (NZ), draw with IM Toth (Hun), and finally a win over GM title aspirant IM David Smerdon.
Oliver is paired with GM Carlos Matamoros Franco in round 8. For an IM Norm Oliver only needs 0.5/2, and even if he loses round 8, a draw in round 9 against anyone will do.
Full results of the tournament are on the Sydney International Open page, and live games are here.

Friday 13 April 2007

ChessVibes and other links

As this blog rolls along, I'll be adding more links around the edges of the page. As you may have noticed I've added an advertising strip down the right hand side, but hopefully in a way that isn't annoying or distracting. What you may not have noticed is I've also added a link to various google/youtube chess videos along the bottom of the blog. You need to scroll all the way down to see those. For the record, the choice of videos is not mine, but whatever google serves up under the heading of chess (that goes for the advertising as well).
At the moment my list of links to other chess blogs is very small. At the moment I am linking to bloggers I know personally, as well as blogs that are updated regularly (eg at least 3 times a week). The newest blog I've added is Chess Vibes.
One of the ChessVibes editors is Manuel Weeks. Manuel and I have roomed together at a couple of chess Olympiads, Manuel in his role of Australian Mens Team Captain, me in my role of Board 2 or 3 for Papua New Guinea. While Manuel has an important role in looking after the Australian team during the tournament, he also was able to make time to assist the PNG team in their pre-game preparation.
The following game is a brilliant example of that. While discussing possible openings for me to play in my game against Fiji in the 2004 Olympiad I suggested the Torre Attack. Quick as a flash Manuel showed me a particularly vicious trap, which picks up a rook in the opening. Here's what happened.

Shaun Press (PNG) - Manoj Kumar (Fiji)
2004 Chess Olympiad, Majorca, Spain
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 d5 4.e3 Nbd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Be7 7.Nbd2 b6 8.Qa4 O-O 9.Ne5 Nxe5? 10.dxe5 Nd7 11.Qh4! Here is where the trap is sprung. The threat of mate on h7 forces Black to lose the Bishop on e7 followed by the rook on f8. 11. ... h6 12.Bxe7 Qe8 13.Bxf8 Qxf8 14.f4 Bb7 15.Rg1 a6 16.g4 Qd8 17.g5 Nf8 18.Qh5 hxg5 19.Qxg5 Qxg5 20.Rxg5 g6 21.Kf2 Kg7 22.Rag1 Kh6 23.R5g3 b5 24.Nf3 Rd8 25.h4 d4 26.cxd4 Bxf3 27.Kxf3 cxd4 28.h5 dxe3 29.Kxe3 1-0

Apart from their excellent choice of staff, the ChessVibes site also has very good coverage of current European events, as well as a discussion board and puzzle pages. All in all, it is well worth checking out.

Thursday 12 April 2007

Sydney International Open 2007 - Day 3

Round 4 is almost finished in the 2007 Sydney International Open and already there have been a number of upsets. It appears that top seed Sergei Shipov has lost to Indian player Manthan Chokshi, leaving him back on 2.5/4.
As I am observing the tournament from over 300kms away, I am relying on the excellent tournament website to keep me up to date.
One game from Round 4 worth featuring is a cracking win by Canberra player Gareth Oliver over former Canberran Vladimir Smirnov. The opening is an interesting one as I believe that Smirnov has some experience with it, as it was used in a fixed opening match between Canberra and the Dutch town of Soest some years back.

Smirnov, V - Oliver, G
Sydney International Open 2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bh4 c5 4.f3 g5 5.fxe4 gxh4 6.e3 Bh6 7.Qh5 Qb6 8.Nd2 cxd4 9.Nc4 Qb4+ 10.Kd1 Bxe3 11.a3 Qa4 12.Nd6+ exd6 13.Bb5 Qa5 14.Bxd7+ Bxd7 15.Qxa5 Nc6 16.Qh5 Rg8 17.h3 Rxg2 18.Qxh4 Ne5 19.Qf6 d3 20.Qxd6 dxc2+ 21.Ke1 Nc4 22.Qd3 Bd2+ 0-1

Wednesday 11 April 2007

A train leaves Chicago travelling at ...

Here is a challenge that you may try and solve while waiting for the live coverage from the SIO to start.

The following really occurred during this years O2C Doeberl Cup.
Round 4 started at 3:00 pm. At 4:05 pm a player approached me to tell me that the clock being used in his game was defective. It seemed that both clocks were going at once. Knowing that this was highly unlikely with DGT clocks I investigated. But he was correct. Indeed both clocks were going at the same time. It turns out that the clock had been set to Hourglass mode, rather than Fischer mode. In Hourglass mode, the time that is used by one player is added to the time available for the other player.
In the case of the game at hand the time for the White player read 1:19, while for the Black player it was 1:40. Each player had started with 1 hour and 30 minutes (1:30) and should have received 30s added to their time for each move they played (although in this case they hadn't). White had just played his 14th move.
The question to solve is: In fixing the problem, what times should I set on the clock for each player?

Sydney International Open 2007

The 2007 Sydney International Open is underway, with the first round taking place yesterday afternoon. There are 143 players taking part, which makes it the largest Open chess event in Sydney for a number of years.
In terms of titled players the event is even stronger than the O2C Doeberl Cup, with 1 extra GM (Murray Chandler), and a few extra IM's entering. There are a couple of places to see the pairings and results but my preference is for the link, that uses the sp2html system developed by Jonathan Paxman. The hompage for the tournament is here.
The first round went almost according to seeding, with the most notable upset being Vivian Smith's win over Malcolm Tredinnick. A couple of higher rated opponents were also held to draws. The tournament starts to get harder for most players this morning, with round 2 starting to see some tricky match ups for the top seeds.
There is also planned to be live coverage of the top boards using the DGT system, but technical difficulties are delaying this from happening. When it does start you should be able to it from the LIVE page. Having set up the DGT coverage for the 2006-07 Australian Open and assisted in setting up the live broadcasts for the 2007 Australian Junior, I know how difficult it can be to get it right. While both these events were able to start broadcasting from Round 1, normally it takes a day or two before the technical kinks can be ironed out.

Tuesday 10 April 2007

Title Norms at the O2C Doeberl Cup

As has been previously reported, title norms could not be earned at this years Doeberl Cup due to the fact it was only a 7 round tournament. Although it has been suggested that the tournament should be a 9 round event, up until now this hasn't been attractive for one important reason. The number of overseas and titled players taking part has been too low to make a player earning a title norm at all likely.
However this years event has shown that it is now possible, assuming that the Doeberl Cup/Sydney International Open double continues to attract overseas visitors. And if both tournaments do, then FIDE even relax the requirements for players to play 4 overseas players from at least 3 federations. These requirements are waived for events containing at least 10 GM's/IM's and 20 international players.

In anticipation of this, the Doeberl Cup officials paid close attention to which players would have a reasonable change of scoring a norm, if the tournament did run for 9 rounds.The two players "most likely" turned out to be IM Stpehen Solomon (GM Norm), and Junta Ikeda (IM norm).
In Solomons case the following results were required. If he scored 2/2 in the last 2 rounds he needed to play two opponents with an average rating of 1901. 1.5/2 then 2140, 1.0/2 then 2383, 0.5/2 then 2567, and 0/2 then 2770.
Clearly the last outcome was unachievable and getting two opponents averaging 2567 unlikely, but the other three results seem likely to me.
Ikeda was even closer to his norm, and indeed had achieved it over 7 rounds. For a 9 round norm he needed the following: 2/2 - 1805(!), 1.5/2 - 2048, 1.0/2 - 2233, 0.5/2 - 2435, 0/2 - 2602. Assuming that both Solomon and Ikeda would have received highly rated opponents in the theoretical round 8, I would be reasonably confident that both would be able to score at least 1/2 and earn a norm.
A couple of other players were also in with a chance of norms, most notably David Smerdon, although he would have needed 1.5/2 or better to achieve his third GM norm.

Monday 9 April 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

GM Ian Rogers wins another Doeberl Cup! He defeated GM Victor Mikhalevski in the final round to end up sole leader on 6/7. In equal second were a trio of Australian IM's in the shape of Gary Lane, David Smerdon and Stepehen Solomon, all on 5.5.
The excellent result by the Australian players is a good omen for the Sydney International Open which starts tomorrow at Parramatta Town Hall.
Various visiting GM's finished in a tie for 5th place, along with a couple of other Australians. The full results for all the tournament can be found at Ian Rout's page.
From a local point of view (both in terms of Canberra and Australia) one of the more outstanding results was achieved by Junta Ikeda. He had a draw with GM Dejan Antic, a win over GM Tejas Bakre and his final round win over FM Goldenberg left him with a score good enough for an IM norm, if only they counted in 7 round events. Sadly they don't (except for a couple of limited exceptions) and consequently he misses out. However the fact that a number of players played enough OS and titled opponents to reach various IM category fields means that the organisers are strongly considering holding the 2008 Premier as a 9 round norm tournament.
I'll certainly do more tournament reports over the next few days but I would just like to thank a number of hard workers for the moment. Paul Dunn for organising the whole event. My fellow arbiters Dr Charles Zworestiene and Simon Mitchell (Simon's first Doeberl!). Shun Ikeda for manning the desk and organising the other helpers. Jenny Mason, Agus Setiabudi and Jenni Oliver for collecting results, organising scoresheets, handing out chocolates etc. And finally Ian Hosking and Aiden Lloyd who came down on the first morning to help set up, even when neither was able to play in the tournament. Without the help of all these people the tournament wouldn't have been the success it was.

Sunday 8 April 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup Day 3

As in golf, Day 3 of the Doeberl Cup is usually "moving" day. However the strength of the field at the top end of this years event, meant that a whole lot of players moved together, without anyone player jumping ahead.
At the end of Round 6 three players lead the tournament on 5/6. They are GM Ian Rogers, GM Victor Mikhalevski, and IM Stephen Solomon. Of the three, Solomon had the most impressive day with a win over tournament second seed GM Georgy Timoshenko. Timoshenko seemed to be winning their round 5 game before going into a trance and letting his time run out. This is Solomons second win on time, after his win over top seed GM Sergei Shipov in Round 3.
GM Ian Rogers moved from 4/4 to 5/6 with two draws today. His round 5 game against IM David Smerdon had the crowd enthralled, as it looked at first Rogers was winning, then Smerdon. In a complicated position, Rogers took a draw by perpetual. In Round 6 Rogers drew with Solomon to leave them in equal first with Mikhalevski.
Mikhalevski caught the leaders with 2 wins today. The first was against Jesse Sales and the second was against Canberra junior, Junta Ikeda.

Ikeda,J - Mikhalevski,V [D94]
Doeberl Cup, 08.04.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.e3 g6 4.c4 Bg7 5.Nc3 0-0 6.Be2 d5 7.b3 Nc6 8.0-0 dxc4 9.bxc4 Nh5 10.Rb1 b6 11.Bb2 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Nxd4 13.exd4 Nf4 14.d5 Ba6 15.Nb5 Bxb5 16.Bxg7 Ba4 17.Qxa4 Nxe2+ 18.Kh1 Kxg7 19.Qd1 Nf4 0-1

Mikhalevski was Ikeda's 3rd GM opponent of the event. After drawing with Antic yesterday, Ikeda went one better and defeated GM Tejas Bakre (IND) in round 5. If the event was a 9 round event, then Ikeda would have been in with a good chance of scoring an IM result.

The key final round pairings are: Mikhalevski (5) v Rogers (5), Solomon (5) v Matamoros (4.5), Antic (4.5) v Shipov (4.5), Johansen (4.5) v Smerdon (4.5), Rej (4.5) v Lane (4.5)

In the Doeberl Cup Major, Adrian Denoskowski has at least a share of 1st after winning his first 6 games. Only Richard Voon on 5 has any chance of catching him. Jonathan Shen is in the same situation in the Minor (6/6) although there are 4 other players on 5 points. And the Seniors is down to 2 players with Bob Gibbons (5.5) just ahead of Phil Viner (5).

O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2.5

Paul Dunn has been entering games from the top 10 boards of the Preimer and you can download them from his excellent Ozbase site. The complete set of games from the Premier (and other events) will be available sometime after the event is finished.
The tournament has already thrown up some interesting games, and here is a selection.
The first game is between Tamzin Oliver and Mike Canfell. As you can see from the photo, Tamzin is playing under a slight(!) handicap, having injured her knee a few weeks before the tournament.

Oliver,T - Canfell,M [B23] Doeberl Major Canberra (2), 06.04.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.Bd3 d6 7.Nxd4 cxd4 8.Ne2 e5 9.c3 dxc3 10.dxc3 Ne7 11.0-0 0-0 12.f5 Nc6 13.Bc4 Qc7 14.Bb3 Re8 15.fxg6 hxg6 16.Bxf7+ 1-0

The Ikeda - Antic second round game was a rematch from the 2006-07 Australian Open where Ikeda missed a mate before the game ended in a draw. The same result was acheived this time, without quite the same drama.

Ikeda,J - Antic,D [A40] 45th Doeberl Cup Canberra (2.8), 06.04.2007
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 f5 6.e4 fxe4 7.f3 d6 8.fxe4 Qa5 9.Nf3 Nf6 10.Qc2 Nbd7 11.Bd3 Ng4 12.0-0 Nde5 13.h3 Nxf3+ 14.gxf3 Ne5 15.f4 Nxd3 16.Qxd3 Bd7 17.Kh2 0-0-0 18.f5 Rdf8 19.Bg5 Rf7 20.f6 exf6 21.Bxf6 Re8 22.Bh4 Rxf1 23.Rxf1 Qxa2+ 24.Rf2 Qb3 25.Bg3 Qb6 26.Rf6 Qb2+ 27.Rf2 Qb6 ½-½

Finally, the return of Alexander Kanikevich (former NSW Champion) generated some excitement. But an almost 15 year layoff doesn't usually help your chess and he was upended by NZ visitor Hilton Bennett is a fine attacking game. Watch for the neat Queen switchback on moves 22 and 24.

Bennett,H - Kanikevich,A [B02] 45th Doeberl Cup Canberra (2.12), 06.04.2007
1.e4 Nf6 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2 dxe4 4.dxe4 e5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.Bd2 0-0 8.0-0-0 Bg4 9.Qc4 Bd6 10.Bg5 Nd4 11.Be2 Be6 12.Qd3 Nxe2+ 13.Qxe2 Qe7 14.Nh4 h6 15.Nf5 Bxf5 16.Nd5 Qe8 17.Bxf6 Be6 18.Rd3 Bxd5 19.Rg3 g6 20.exd5 Qa4 21.Rg4 Qxa2 22.Qe4 Qa1+ 23.Kd2 Bb4+ 24.Qxb4 Qxh1 25.Qe4 g5 26.Rh4 Qf1 27.Rxh6 Qxf2+ 28.Kc3 Qc5+ 29.Qc4 Qe3+ 30.Qd3 Qc5+ 31.Kb3 Qb6+ 32.Ka2 Qa5+ 33.Qa3 Qxd5+ 34.b3 1-0

I've also posted more photos at my Picasa site.

Saturday 7 April 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The end of another long day at the Doeberl Cup, with Rounds 3&4 of the tournaments out of the way, as well as the traditional Doeberl Cup Lightning tournament.
After 4 rounds of the Premier the major surprise is that there is a single leader. GM Ian Rogers is the only player on a perfect 4/4. He defeated Jesse Sales (PHI) on Board 1 to move half a point ahead of the field. The second board matchup of IM Stephen Solomon v IM David Smerdon ended in a draw, leaving both players on 3.5.
In fact there were a whole raft of draws in Round 4 with Timoshenko-Goldenberg, Matamoros-Mikhalevski, Lane-Antic, and Shipov-Bakre all ending peacefully.
The big news from earlier in the day was the win by IM Stephen Solomon over the tournament top seed GM Sergei Shipov. Also significant was Jesse Sales win over Darryl Johansen.
In the other events Adrian Denoskowski is leading the Major with 4/4 while Bob Gibbons (NZ) is on 3.5/4 in the Seniors. The Minor is headed by Jonathan Shen and Emil-Lion Nomat who are on 4 points.
The Lightning event this evening was won by GM Carlos Matamoros Franco who score 8/9, winning his first 8 games. Outright second was Moulthun Ly on 7.5, and equal third were Manathan Chokshi (IND) and Zhigen Wilson Lin on 7. 65 players took part.
Scores and crosstables for the event can be found at Ian Rout's chesspage.

O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1.5

After the late finish to Round 2 (R+B v R ending between Ly and Schon which ended in a draw), I didn't have time to post some photos from the event. I've now upload a few that I took yesterday, and will probably upload a lot more this evening (after the Lightning comp).
I've place the photos on my Picasa site and they can be access at
Unfortunately there is no web access from the venue which means that there will be a) no live blogging b) score updates will probably occur late in the evening and c) no live broadcast of any of the games.
This, and some other venue issues, indicates that the Doeberl Cup may be looking for a more upmarket venue for next year.

O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The strongest Doeberl Cup in its 45 year history is underway. The Premier section has 8 GM's playing in it, which is a record for any Australian weekend event, and probably a record for any Australian event, at least until Tuesday.
GM Sergei Shipov is the top seed, with GM's Mikhalevski, Timoshenko, Matamoros, Rogers, Johansen, Antic and Bakre filling 8 of the top 10 seedings. IM's David Smerdon and Stephen Solomon are seeded 7th and 9th respectively, with IM Gary Lane seeded 11th and IM Andras Toth seeded 12th.
At the end of two rounds all the GM's are on 2/2 with the exception of Antic who was held to a draw by Junta Ikeda in Round 2. Also on 2 points is David Smerdon who won his second round game against Homer Cunanan (PHI) in crushing style.

Smerdon,D - Cunanan,H [D32]
Doeberl Cup, 06.04.2007

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.h3 a6 11.Bg5 Be6 12.Rc1 Rc8 13.Bb1 Re8 14.Re1 b5 15.Ne5 Na5 16.Qd3 g6 17.Nxg6 hxg6 18.Rxe6 Ne4 19.Nxe4 Rxc1+ 20.Bxc1 fxe6 21.Nd6 1-0

For the first time since the event was run in divisions the Premier has attracted the largest field with 72 players. The Major has 44 players, the Minor 68, and the Seniors 12. The total field of 196 is a little disappointing given the 210-220 fields over the last few years, as well as the stellar field and the extra prize money.

Thursday 5 April 2007

Bangkok Open - Correction

Seems the scores I posted from the Bangkok Open were incorrect. The correct final scores are
1. IM Smerdon(Aus) 7.5 (half a point over the GM norm);
2. GM Antonio (Phi) 7;
=3. GM Rogers(Aus), GM Ramesh(Ind), Haag(Ger), GM Komarov(Ukr), IM
Ansell(Eng), Van Dongen(Ned) 6.5.
Thanks to GM Ian Rogers for supplying the correct information.

Silly Computer Games

My career as both a chess player and a computer head took off at about the same time. I particularly enjoyed reading books on Computer Chess from the 1970's, so much so that I still have a couple I borrowed from Woden Public Library in about 1983. Books like Chess Skill in Man and Machine, and Advances in Computer Chess contained both tips on how to write chess playing programs, as well as a number of horror stories about what happens when you don't get it right.
Unfortunately these days, most computer programs are too strong for human opponents, and games played between programs are often dry affairs where the position is even until one program looks that extra half move ahead, and the other program drops a piece.
So as a remembrance of a more error prone time I present one of the sillier computer v computer games I have witnessed. The game was from the 1998 National Computer Chess Championship and was played between Vanilla Chess (VChess), which I authored, and Desperado, written by David Blackman.
For the early part of the game everything went according to plan as VChess dropped a piece, and then contrived to lose the exchange. Then for reasons still not explainable, it played some inspired chess to force a draw.

vchess - desperado
1.Nc3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.g3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qd6 7.Bg2 Ne4 8.0-0 Nxc3 9.Qd3 Ne4 10.Bf4 Qd8 11.Ne5 f6 12.Ng4 e5 13.Nxf6+ gxf6 14.dxe5 f5 15.c4 c6 16.Rfd1 Be6 17.cxd5 cxd5 18.Qb1 b6 19.Qb5+ Kf7 20.Rac1 Nd7 21.Rc6 Ndc5 22.Bxe4 fxe4 23.Rd6 Qe8 24.Qb4 Nb7 (D)
The Rook on d6 is trapped and so White has to give up the exchange, leaving it down a rook for 2 pawns. But now something weird happens ...
25.R6xd5 Bxd5 26.Rxd5 Nc5 27.Rd6 h5 28.Qc4+ Kg7 29.e6 Rh7 30.Be3 h4 31.Bxc5 bxc5 32.Rd7+ Kg8 33.Rxh7 Kxh7 34.Qxe4+ Kg7 35.Qe5+ Kg6 36.g4 h3 37.f4 Kh7 38.Qe4+ Kg8 39.e7 Kf7 40.g5 Qh8 41.Qd5+ Kxe7 42.Qxc5+ Ke6 43.f5+ Kd7 44.Qd5+ Kc7 45.Qc5+ Kb7 46.Qb5+ Kc7 47.Qc5+ Kb8 48.Qb4+ Kc7 49.Qc5+ ½-½

Wednesday 4 April 2007

Chess Tournament Marketing

I'm pretty hopeless at marketing chess tournaments. I'm kind of OK at publicising them (which is a different thing), but for marketing I don't do a good job. Part of my problem is my attitude. For I long time I felt that marketing involved the following steps
  1. Organise good chess event
  2. Make sure the tournament details are easy to find
  3. Rely on chess players to find out the tournament details
Sadly this approach hasn't worked as well as I hoped. (My feeling is that Step 3 is the point of failure.) So what strategies do work?

Over the last 12 months I've looked at 4 tournament for guidance. I have been involved in organising 2 of these events, and have been in contact with the organisers of the other 2.
The two major outlets for publicity that all the tournaments looked at were Direct Marketing and Internet Marketing. Direct Marketing consisted of sending out either a flyer or an entry brochure, usually direct to the prospective entrant. For the purpose of the summary a flyer is considered "weak" direct marketing, while a brochure is considered "strong" direct marketing. Internet Marketing involved setting up either a web page or a web site connected with the tournament. In the case of a web page it usually consisted of a single page providing information, while a web site had a whole lot more bells and whistles including online entry facilities. Again, a single web page would be "weak" internet marketing, and a web site would be "strong" internet marketing.

So how did each event do?

Event A
Direct: Weak
Internet: Strong
Entries: 58 in main section , 54 in other events. 112 Total

Event B
Direct: Strong
Internet: Weak
Entries: 200+ expected (Last years event attracted 220 using the same marketing strategy)

Event C
Direct: Weak
Internet: Strong
Entries: 150 (Tournament Limit)

Event D
Direct: None
Internet: Strong
Entries: 220 (Event record)

So what conclusions do I draw from this sample? Basically none. To my eyes there appears to be no general rule concerning the type of marketing versus the expectation of success. Instead it is worth noting that the type of marketing that "may" work probably depends on what sort of tournament it is.
So basically, I'm as still as confused as ever on the issue of what gets chess players to enter chess tournaments.

Tuesday 3 April 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup Blogging

Obviously the big upcoming events in Australian chess are the O2C Doeberl Cup, and the Sydney International Open. As one of the arbiters at the Doeberl Cup I hope to be able to keep everyone up to date about the tournament via this blog. This of course depends on what sort of network access we have at the venue.
Based on previous years experience this may well be 2 tin cans and a piece of string, but I am hoping that we will be able to better than that.
Assuming we do better than the tin-can phone, there should be live broadcasts of the top games from the Premier. Again depending upon available resources, we should have at least 4 games, and hopefully more.
I'll also try and get photos from the event, although the ClosetGrandmaster will probably do a much better job than I can hope to.
As of yesterday there were 157 players entered into the 4 events, and I would expect at least another 60 players to be entered by the time the tournament starts.
In the Premier Section there were 63 players, including 8 GM's, 4 IM's and 3 WIM's. The Major (which will be FIDE rated for the first time this year) had 35 players, the Minor had 50 players, and the Seniors event had 9 players.

Monday 2 April 2007

David Smerdon wins Bangkok Open

Congratulations to Australian IM David Smerdon in winning the 2007 Bangkok Open. Smerdon scored 7.5/9 to finish outright first ahead of GM's Antonio (PHI), Ramesh (IND), and Komarov (UKR), all in 7 points. Australian GM Ian Rogers finished in equal 5th on 6.5 points.
The extra good news for Smerdon is that this was also his second Grandmaster norm, after the first he scored in the 2005-06 Australian Championship. He now needs only 1 more GM norm, and to get his rating over 2500 to earn the Grandmaster title, and become Australia's 3rd (OTB) Grandmaster.
He has a good chance of doing this quite soon as he is playing in both the O2C Doeberl Cup, and the Sydney International Open. While he cannot earn a norm at the Doeberl Cup, as it is only a 7 round event, he can hope to gain rating points, especially against a field containing 8 Grandmasters. As the Sydney International Open is a 9 round event, he will hopefully be able to earn his 3rd and final GM norm.

Sunday 1 April 2007

Shipov Lecture and Simul

A good crowd of 40 keen chessplayers turned up to hear GM Sergei Shipov (pictured with event sponsor Tony Oliver(R) from Stratagem IT Personnel), give a lecture, and then conduct a simul. There was a nice mix of experienced players and newcomers, as well as young, middle aged, and old. The lecture was supposed to run for 30 minutes, but the crowd got their moneys worth as Shipov spoke for almost an hour on the subject of Square Clearance.

Using specific examples from tournament games he demonstrated the power of using a pawn push to free a square for use by a stronger piece. One example he used was from the Carlsen-Topalov game at Morelia-Linares this year.

In this position Carlsen chose 40.Rde2 and after mistakes from both sides, Topalov eventually resigned in a drawn position. Instead Shipov suggested 40.d5 as a stronger move and after 40. ... Rxd5 41.Rxd5 cxd5 42.Nd4 g6 43.Nxb5 Nf5 44.Rc1! he felt that White is just winning.

After the lecture, 32 players took part in the Simul. Again the field was of varied strength, although one quarter of the circuit was occupied by a group of strong ACT Juniors, who probably felt there was safety in numbers. When I left Shipov had maintained a 100% record with about half the games finished, and while he looked better in most of the remaining games, he was working hard against Yi Yuan and Charles Bishop.

Result Update In the end GM Shipov conceded only 2 draws. One was against a consultation team consisting of Mos Ali, Baldev Bedi, Milan Grcic, Brian Mengelkamp + others. The other draw was a solo effort by hard working junior chess organiser Jennie Nicholson.