Friday 31 August 2007


In Bill Hartston's excellent How to Cheat at Chess, he has a section on calculating sacrifices. He recommends the use of Hartston's Iconoclastic Calculation Uncertainty Principle (HICUP). The basic principle is that the accuracy of calculation decreases as a function of the square of the number of moves a player is looking ahead. The actual formula given is V = (G/n^2)-S where G is the expected gain from the combination, S is the value of material sacrificed, and n is the number of moves needed to look ahead. The resultant value V is the value of the calculation.
If V is positive then the combination "may" be sound, but if it is negative, try another move instead.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Bb5 a6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.Ne5 Bb7N 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.0-0 0-0 12.Na4 Bd6 13.Ng4 Ne4 14.b3 f5 15.f3 fxg4 16.fxe4 (D) I reached this position in a game I played the other night (G/20+10s). Obviously the sacrifice on h2 looked like the move but I decided to check everything first. My main line began with 16. ... Bxh2+ 17.Kxh2 Qh4+ 18.Kg1 g3 with mate to follow. But White has 19.Rf4 providing a shield along the f file for the fleeing King. So at this stage for V to remain positive I needed G to be above 32 points (looking 4 moves ahead), which is basically mate. As I didn't see the mate after 19.Rf4 Qh2+ 20.Kf1 Qh1+ 21.Ke2 Qxg2+ 22.Kd3 (23.Ke1 Rxf4 wins) 22. ... dxe4+ 23.Kc3 I was in a quandary. I resolved this by deciding my life wasn't ruled by numbers, chucking the piece anyway. 16. ... Bxh2+ "I expected that" said my opponent 17.Kh1 My opponent hadn't seen Rf4 as a defence 17. ... Qh4 18.Bb2 Bg3+ 0-1
But another calculating machine (Fritz) said the sacrifice was indeed sound, I just needed to play 20. ... dxe4!! and the value of my position was at least 9 points!

So I guess in this instance that Hartston's basic theory is correct.

Blayney Open & Surfers Paradise Open

Only a week to go to the 1st Blayney Open (8th & 9th September). Already this tournament is looking to be very successful (a field of up to 50 players expected) and such a turnout would be a just reward for the effort that Phil Bourke and the Blayney Chess Club have put in. Click on the chess club link for further tournament details.

Also, the Surfers Paradise Open is coming up on the 27th & 28th of October. Already the event is attracting a number of strong, titled players (GM Schmaltz, GM Antic, WGM Nutu-Gajic) but one of the interesting things is the field is restricted to 80 players (for venue reasons). Given the hew and cry from players over whether they can enter restricted tournaments (as opposed to the "didn't feel like playing" for non restricted tournaments) I suspect 120 players will try and enter this event. Full details from the Kings of Chess website.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Comeback of the boardgame?

Over at The ClosetGrandmaster Blog, TCG wonders how chess is ever going to compete with the new generation of video games. Coincidentally the Canberra Times had an article today describing the resurgence of board games as a popular past time. Can both points of view be correct?
Here are links to both articles, no-dough-no-glam-no-chicas and This time it's personal (direct link to the Guardian rather than the edited Canberra Times version).
Maybe they both are, as while the Guardian article does talk of an increase in board game players, it does remark that the "classic" games (chess,bridge,backgammon and even poker) aren't the ones growing.

Is Chess a Sport?

In Australia the answer is clearly no. This is both for administrative reasons (not recognised by the government as a sport) and cultural reasons (not enough sweating to qualify).
But for most of the world the answer clearly is yes.
Now I'm not going to get into the whys and wherefores of the issue, just to note that FIDE is a member of the International Olympic Committee, while the International Cricket Council is not. Although they are trying to change that.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Evening v Weekend

While the NSW Championship attracted a small field, the Ford Memorial Tournament held at the North Sydney Chess Club attracted a field of 65 players. Therefore a question that should be asked is "Why is the NSW Championship held on Weekends?".
Indeed, is there any sense in holding multiple week events on weekends? I could see the point of team events being held on weekends (for team travel reasons), although NSWCA Grade Matches are held on weeknights!. For individual events this makes less sense.
The ACT has always held its championship on weeknights, with the event usually rotated between the various chess clubs in Canberra. Of course the ACT is much smaller than NSW, making travel easier, but the NSW Championship is hardly ever flooded with players from outside Sydney.
The benefit of having the championship at a weeknight club is twofold. Firstly you save money on hire costs (assuming a friendly chess club is hosting) and you already have a pool of players ready to enter the tournament. A NSW Championship at St George or North Sydney would attract 50 to 60 players, even before non club members were considered.
Of course I haven't considered the problems with such an idea, such as inconveniencing players from outside/edge of Sydney or whether Sydney clubs are interested in such an idea. But overall I'd assume that players are more likely to sacrifice one evening a week, rather than one day a weekend.

Live Video Chess from Amsterdam

The organisers of the NH Chess Tournament are broadcasting each of the games from this event live across the internet. Each round starts at 1:30pm CET which translates into 9:30pm AEST.
The link for the video coverage is while the tournament website is

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Hacking the Slav

The Russia v China match is taking place as I post this, and I have been receiving updates courtesy of Chess Today. In yesterdays issue they featured the following game, where Evgeny Alekseev cleaned up Zhang Pengxiang in 17 moves.

Alekseev,E (2689) - Zhang Pengxiang (2649) [D25]
IV RUS-CHN Match Nizhniy Novgorod RUS (6), 26.08.2007

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 Be6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Ng5 Qc8 7.a4 a5 8.e4 h6 9.Nxe6 Qxe6 10.e5 Nbd7 11.Be2 Nd5 12.0-0 N7b6 13.Bg4 Qg6 14.e6 Nf6 15.Bh3 Qd3 16.Qe1 0-0-0 17.Qe5 1-0

The key manoeuvre was 14.e6! which reminded me of a game where I hacked into a Slav, with similar results. It was played at a time when I gauged the success of a tournament by the number of pieces I sacrificed, rather than the score I ended up on.

Press,S - OBrien,R [D15]
ACT-ch Canberra, 1993

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.Be2 Bg4 8.Ne4 Nd7 9.Nfg5 Bxe2 10.Qxe2 h6 (D)
11.e6 hxg5 12.exf7+ Kxf7 13.Nxg5+ Ke8 14.Qe6 Qb6 15.Qf7+ Kd8 16.Ne6+ Kc8 17.Qe8+ Kb7 18.Qxd7+ Ka6 19.Nc5+ Ka5 20.Bd2+ b4 21.a3 Kb5 22.axb4 Nxb4 23.Bxb4 Kxb4 24.Ra4+ Kb5 25.Ra6 Qxa6 26.Nxa6 Kxa6 27.Qxc6+ Ka5 28.Qxa8 1-0

Monday 27 August 2007

Some Free Opening Theory

If you like to keep up with opening theory. You can purchase the latest Informator, or you can shell out on the New In Chess yearbooks. If you want your analysis unfiltered, then downloading the latest TWIC files is another method.
And of course there are some online sites. One that I know exists, but haven't taken much notice of is (groan, not another review). The main reason I haven't bothered with it is because I struggle with the little opening theory I know now, and I don't want to be swamped with more information than I need. But while looking for some information on the Kalashnikov I discovered something interesting. Although you have to sign up to (with real money) they also have a Opening Bulleting Board, which is free to read. Although only signed up members can post, you can pick up some free analysis there.
The address is
But let the usual warnings apply. With anything that is free, you get what you pay for.

Sunday 26 August 2007

Robot Video Test

The last few days have been busy, with Australian National University Open Day being held on Saturday 25th. Usually I show off some of the robots I've been working on, although this year I had one working robot and one very sick robot. In the end the sick robot remained in my office, while the other robot (the Questacon Robot) had to impress the visitors.
I've also noticed that blogger now allows you to upload video. So as a test I'm adding a video that the robot took of me while conduction some face tracking experiments. After the initialisation stage finished the robot camera will stay fixed on me as I move around. Hopefully the video isn't too large (it is about 2 Megs in size), too slow, or chews up too much bandwith.

Bathroom Reading

The smallest room in the house is often a good place to park the odd chess book or two. I usually have at least one book within easy reach at all times, supplemented by a couple of chess magazines. The books vary, although I tend to favour ones I can read without having to concentrate too hard. Usually that rules out opening books, although books on tactics are fine.
At the moment "The Mammoth Book of The Worlds Greatest Chess Games" is the book of choice. Although over 600 pages in length, it is very easy to just read about a single game in the time you have available. Also the notes are very "chatty" and there are plenty of diagrams. Worth getting for your bathroom, but even if you don't here is one of the more memorable games in the collection (albeit without the notes from the book).

Lasker,E - Napier,W [B72]
Cambridge Springs Cambridge Springs (3), 1904

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.h3 Nf6 8.g4 0-0 9.g5 Ne8 10.h4 Nc7 11.f4 e5 12.Nde2 (D)
12. ... d5 13.exd5 Nd4 14.Nxd4 Nxd5 15.Nf5 Nxc3
16.Qxd8 Rxd8 17.Ne7+ Kh8 18.h5 Re8 19.Bc5 gxh5 20.Bc4 exf4 21.Bxf7 Ne4 22.Bxe8 Bxb2 23.Rb1 Bc3+ 24.Kf1 Bg4 25.Bxh5 Bxh5 26.Rxh5 Ng3+ 27.Kg2 Nxh5 28.Rxb7 a5 29.Rb3 Bg7 30.Rh3 Ng3 31.Kf3 Ra6 32.Kxf4 Ne2+ 33.Kf5 Nc3 34.a3 Na4 35.Be3 1-0

(btw the best reading collection in a bathroom I ever saw was in the house of Dr Richard Brent. Above the toilet was the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica, and on top of that was a large trophy he won in qualifying for the Asian Zonal in the 1960's).

Saturday 25 August 2007

Topic of the Day

"[In Australia] Because Chess is on the fringe, it attracts the fringe"
Feel free to discuss.

Friday 24 August 2007

Moves versus Position

Tipped off by the Chessbase article on blindfold chess (thanks Ashley), I attempted the challenge that the author set. I managed to follow most of the game, with a great deal of concentration, but even then I managed to forget about the White knight on a5 and the Black knight on e5. And I haven't been able to work out the combination, even after seeing the board.
But the exercise also got me thinking about how different players visualise and calculate. A while ago I realised that to me, chess is a series of moves. eg To me the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O is exactly what it says, the pawn moves from e2 to e4, the knight moves from g1 to f3 etc. But to others chess may be a series of positions, eg after the first move there is a pawn on e4, after the second the knight on f3 is attacking e5 etc
What this means in practice is I have great difficulty in imagining a position 4 or 5 moves ahead. I generally can work out the "I go here, you go there" sequences but not whether the resultant position is good or bad.
Of course I blame my upbringing. Too much opening memorisation (learning moves, not ideas) and a heavy bias towards tactics (1001 Sacs and Combies anyone?). And never any square visualisation exercises (as found for example in Comprehensive Chess Course).

(btw I suspect the really, really good players don't see chess as a either a sequence of moves, or a sequence of positions. They probably see it as a sequence of ideas)

Thursday 23 August 2007

Chinook Seminar - Review

It was an entertaining seminar by Dr Jonathan Schaeffer this afternoon, although it did have its fair share of hyperbole. The majority of the talk was about the journey from the start of Chinook (his checkers playing program) until it defeated Dr Marion Tinsley for the World Man-Machine Checkers Championship.
There were a couple of things in the talk that stood out to me as a chess player. Firstly, Chinook was started the day after his chess program "crashed and burned" in the 1989 World Computer Chess Championship. I guess like a lot of chess players, losing can create a "fight or flight" response in computer chess developers. Secondly I disagreed with his reasoning behind why a lot of effort was put into computer chess and not computer checkers (He cited publicity surrounding the 1963 Samuels Checker Program as the cause, I just think computer chess was more of a challenge). And thirdly, one of his slides concerning the 1994 Man v Machine Checkers Match had a picture with GM Raymond Keene in the background, but this went unremarked by the presenter.
What was really interesting was his motivation for "solving" checkers. The final match between Chinook and Tinsley ended with the first 6 games drawn, before Tinsley resigned for health reasons. The health reasons turned out to be pancreatic cancer and Tinsley died before another match could be organised. But just as in chess, players often become stronger after they die, and a number of checker players claimed that Chinook wouldn't have beaten Tinsley in his prime. Short of building a time machine the only way to disprove that claim was get Chinook to a point where it could provably not lose. Which he then did.
At the end of the talk I asked a question about whether it was a "strong" solution or a "weak" solution. It turned out the solution is a "weak" solution. In a "strong" solution, it is possible to assess every position as a win,loss or draw. What Chinook did was start with a specific opening move and assess every position leading from that. They did this successfully, finding that if Chinook played a specific first move then by best play the opponent could only draw. They then checked all the other openings but only established that the positions leading from the other openings were either draws or losses, with best play. The reasoning was simply that as they already had a winning/drawing first move, Chinook wasn't going to play anything else as its first move. But if Chinook played second and the opponent chose a different first move, they only needed to establish that opponent couldn't win with that move. They didn't go as far as to establish the best play value for the other first moves (which may have indeed been a loss for the first player), as this was unnecessary for the overall proof.

Chinook Seminar

Just a quick reminder about this.

CSL Seminar Series -
Jonathan Schaeffer - "One Jump Ahead: Challenging Human Supremacy at Checkers
Thursday, 23 August, 2007 - 15:00:00 - 16:00:00 - RSISE Seminar Room, ...

Hopefully I'll be able to post more about this after the seminar.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Coaching Resources

If you click on the Gungahlin Junior Chess Club link on the side of this page who will find a link there titled Coaching Resources. Following this link gives you a list of handouts I have prepared this year for the GJCC. As you can see the list is incomplete (although up to date) as I tend to leave it till the last minute to write a sheet. Each sheet covers a single topic and is aimed at players who know the rules, but not a lot more than that.
Although the sheets are directed at students, I intend them to be a coaching resource. Basically they are designed as a 20 minute lesson, where a coach stands up in front of a group of students and waves their arms around. What is important is that while the text may describe an idea or technique it is the coach who explains the concept.
But while I've written them, I'm happy for any chess coach to use them. So if you are looking for a topic to teach a group of chess players, or a blank page in your club newsletter, feel free to take whatever you need.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Structure Your Play 2

This is the title of an article which I have just written for the latest issue of ACCQ. Unfortunately, due to space considerations a couple of example games didn't make it into the final version. While they may turn up in a latter article (Structure Your Play 2.5?) I'll publish one of them here.
The article discusses Pawn Rams & Levers, and the game is annotated from this point of view.

Stahlberg,G - Wade,R [E95]
Staunton mem Birmingham (10), 1951

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.e4 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 The game has now reached a standard Kings Indian position. In his book "Teach Yourself Better Chess", Bill Hartston looks at this position in the chapter titled "Pawn takes Pawn". In terms of the pawn lever, he says there are 3 choices. White can swap on e5, push to d5, or let Black swap on d4. Each choice leads to a different game, with plusses and minuses for both sides.
If Black captures on d4 he gives up pawn play in the centre for an active bishop and the use of e5 and c5 for his knights.
If White swaps on e5 he hands control of d4 to Black but can look at expanding on the queenside with b4 & c5.
And if he pushes to d5, he can again expand on the queenside, but Black can hit back at the static centre by trying for f5. 8.Re1 When this game was played this was a new move. The idea is to "wait and see" what Black does. The rook turns out to be useful here as it will overprotect e4 in case Black exchanges on d4. 8...Re8 9.Bf1 c6 10.d5 c5 And now we have reached the "Benoni Major" pawn structure. 11.a3 h6 [ 11...Rf8! might well be the best move here. White had pushed to d5 after the rook had gone to e8, assuming that the f push was now not on. But with the centre blocked, Black has time to undo his last couple of moves, and organise the f5 push anyway. The question is "Who tricked who?"] 12.h3 Nf8 Criticised by Kmoch who believes that the f5 lever is vital for Black. 13.g3 g5? Now nothing can support the f pawn if it managed to make it to f5 anyway. 14.h4 N6h7 [ 14...g4 15.Nh2 was Blacks best hope of holding on.] 15.hxg5 hxg5 Now White can activate the bishop on f1, with the idea of eliminating it's counterpart. Without the f5 pawn break the remaining Black bishop is doomed to passivity. 16.Nh2 Qf6 17.Be2 Qh6 18.Bg4 Nd7 [ 18...Bxg4 19.Qxg4 leaves White with all the attacking play along the opened h file.] 19.Nf3 Nb6 20.Bxc8 Rexc8 21.Qb3 Bf6 [ 21...Qg6 was better.] (D) 22.Nh4! Qf8 23.Nf5 With the unassailable Knight, and no hope of Black counterplay, White has a huge advantage. 23...Be7 24.Kg2 Rc7 25.Nb5 Rd7 26.Rh1 Nc8 27.Qd1 Black could safely resign in this position. 27...Bd8 28.Rxh7! Kxh7 29.Qh5+ Kg8 30.Bxg5 f6 31.Bh6 Qf7 32.Qg4+ 1-0

Monday 20 August 2007

NSW Championship - gurgle, gurgle

If you haven't seen these already, have a look at these posts from The Chess Nut and the Closet Grandmaster on the 2007 Championship, here and here. The event started yesterday and even had a sponsor, Integra. Unfortunately only 32 players turned up (for all 3 sections) with a couple of players moved up into the championship section, just to make it viable.
Of course there will be the predictable gnashing of teeth over the poor turnout, followed by a lot of finger pointing at the organisers, and the floating of a number of ill thought ideas about what would fix the problem. Just as there was the year before, and the year before that.
The truth of the matter is that "traditional" tournaments, with long time controls and a multi-week format, are on the way out. Just as "traditional" tournaments with long time controls and a multi day format are also on the way out. And soon events that take up the whole of a persons weekend will also be on the way out, followed by events that take up the whole of persons day etc etc
But all is not lost. There is that massive pipeline of junior players which has been operating for the last 15 years, which Australia has been hoping will flood the adult chess scene. Any year now.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Predict the bad move

IM Gary Lane has a new book out, Improve Your Chess In 7 Days. And a couple of chess magazines I subscribe to already have articles on the book, although they are also written by Gary Lane!
One tip he mentions in the book is predict-a-move. This where you try an predict what your opponent is going to do next, and play a move that sets a trap. In the past I've occasionally done this, and occasionally it has even worked.
But looking back on years of coaching I've realised that most new chess players employ this method, just that they do it in a far worse way than Gary suspects. Instead of predict-a-move, they go for hope-for-a-move or even pray-for-a-move. In this method you choose a move that relies upon your opponent playing the worst possible response for it to work. And I don't mean overlooking a hidden threat. I mean failing to move the Queen to safety after it is attacked by a pawn.
Of course as we improve we move beyond that. But only to what I call (and too often use), ignore-a-move. In this method you choose a move that looks good, but only if you ignore the best reply by your opponent. If you are lucky, you opponent will also ignore their best reply, thereby justifying this strategy.
Here is an example from a game I played last week (I was White).

1.Nc3 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e4 Nf6 The position now reached is a Classical French Defence, although I played the first 3 moves from "left-to-right" rather than the other way around. 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4 Bxg5 7.hxg5 Qxg5 8.Nh3 Qe7 9.Qg4 9.Nf4 is usual, although I can transpose to main lines if I choose. g6 10.0-0-0 Qb4N This artificial move sets a small trap, but one that is easily met. Now the Queen is out of position on this square. 11.f4 c5 (D) Now here is where ignore-a-move kicks in. Realising that the bishop on c8 was undefended I calculated that 12. ... Nxc5 allows me to play 13.Nxd5 winning a pawn. And at this point I stopped thinking and played 12.dxc5. But there are two problems here. Firstly, 12.Nb5 is far stronger than capturing on c5, and secondly, the threat that I prevented with f4, now works again after 12.dxc5 , and Black could play 12. ... Nxe5! But the joint hypnosis that often affects chess players came to my rescue. 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Nxd5 Qa5 With the knight landing on f6 it is all over. 14.Nf6+ Ke7 15.Qh4 Kf8 16.Nxh7+ Kg7 17.Qf6+ Kg8 18.Rd8+ Qxd8 19.Qxd8+ Kxh7 20.Ng5+ 1-0

Saturday 18 August 2007

Tired of being *ucked around

If you, like me, hate being made to wait for service, then there are two places in Canberra to avoid. The first is the Interchange Newsagency at the City bus interchange. Now you would think that a newsagency next to where people catch buses would pride itself on quick service, lest they cause people to miss the bus they have been waiting for. Not in this case. I suspect there is an internal pool being run on who can inconvenience the most number of commuters with slow service. Of course it could just be me that it happens to, and no one else gets the "sorry I've hit the wrong button on the cash register serving the previous customer, and I have to get the manager to ring the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia to correct the error" kind of excuse that is all to common when I go there.
The other place to feel my wrath is Just Cuts at the Gungahlin Town Centre. Now Just Cuts prides itself on the fact that "there is no need for an appointment". What that means in practice is that you go in and ask for a haircut at say 12:45pm and they say "we're booked up to 3:00 pm", and get you to make an appointment for 3:00pm. When you go back at 3pm they say "it will be another 10 minutes" which translates into 25 minutes in real peoples time. And when you reply to the question " Doing anything special today?" with "Yes, waiting 3 hours for a haircut", suddenly it's the silent treatment for you.

(btw *=M in my alphabet, and I assume it means the same in yours)

Friday 17 August 2007

Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly - August 2007

The August 2007 issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly has just been posted and should be in the hands of subscribers today. (Note: I am the editor of this magazine).
The current issue contains an article by David Flude called "Don't Get Slimed" as well as part 2 of the Structure Your Chess series. It also contains the most comprehensive games section of any Australian chess magazine, with a full 20 pages of coverage and analysis of the latest Australian correspondence games.
To subscribe simply join the Correspondence Chess League of Australia. There is a link on the left hand side of this page, or you can join via paypal (button at the top right).

Lazy Chess Blogging

One way of filling up this blog (usually when I've run out of things to say), is to go to Google news and search on 'chess'. There are usually plenty of stories although I normally gloss over most of them. However one recent story just jumped off the page.

Tissir masters 42 in stimulation chess

Intrigued by the concept of stimulation chess I clicked on the link. But as the Canberra Times might print in its daily corrections section "In a recent report the word "stimulation" was used. The correct word was "simultaneous". This was a reporters error."

Thursday 16 August 2007

Under 16 Olympiad - Silver for Junta

The World Youth Under 16 Chess Olympiad finished in Singapore last week, with India narrowly finishing first, ahead of Hungary. The Australia 1 team finished a very impressive 5th, with Junta Ikeda picking up a Silver Medal for his performance on Board 2. Games and bulletins can be found on the Singapore CF website, while standings can be found here.
No doubt Junta will be asked (required?) to show off his medal at the next Belconnen High School assembly, as the school is very proud of having 2 Australian representatives in the tournament (Alana Chibnall was the other). Well that's what a friend of mine who teaches at Belconnen High told me.
Here are two games, one each from the Belconnen High School players.

Ikeda,J - Tran Ngoc,L [D45]
World U/16 Olympiad, 08.2007

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Be7 7.g4 Nxg4 8.Rg1 f5 9.h3 Ngf6 10.Rxg7 Ne4 11.Bd2 Ng5 12.Nxg5 Bxg5 13.cxd5 Qf6 14.Rxg5 Qxg5 15.e4 Qf6 16.e5 Nxe5 17.dxe5 Qxe5+ 18.Ne2 Qxd5 19.0-0-0 Qxa2 20.Bc3 Rg8 21.Qd3 Kf7 (D)
22.Qd4 e5 23.Qxe5 Be6 24.Nf4 Qa1+ 25.Kd2 Rad8+ 26.Bd3 Rxd3+ 27.Nxd3 Qa2 28.Qc7+ Ke8 29.Bb4 1-0

Keonhee,K - Chibnall,A [C50]
World U/16 Olympiad, 08.2007

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 d6 5.h3 Nge7 6.c3 0-0 7.d4 exd4 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.d5 Ne5 10.Nxe5 dxe5 11.Re1 Ng6 12.Nc3 f5 13.exf5 Bxf5 14.Qf3 Bd7 15.Qd3 Bxf2+ 16.Kf1 Bxe1+ 17.Kxe1 Qh4+ 18.Kd1 Nf4 19.Qe4 Nxg2 20.Qxg2 Qxc4 21.Bh6 Qf1+ 22.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 23.Kc2 Bf5+ 24.Kb3 Rxa1 25.Bd2 Bxh3 26.Nb5 c6 27.Nc7 Rc8 28.Ne6 Bxe6 29.dxe6 Re8 30.Be3 a5 0-1

Kasparov v Deep Blue - 10 years after

A regular reader sent me a link to an article concerning the Kasparov v Deep Blue match, and what the match really meant.
The article is here.

(Thanks to Jonathon for this link)

Wednesday 15 August 2007

One Jump Ahead

Dr Jonathan Schaeffer, the creator of the Checkers paying program Chinook, will be giving a seminar at the Australian National University Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering Building, on Thursday 23rd August. The seminar will be from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. In it he will be explaining the development of Chinook, and how it eventually solved checkers.
More detail can be found here.
These seminars are open to members of the public, although the venue is quite small, so arrive just before 3 to get a seat. I'm not sure if this seminar will be video taped (although most seminars are), but if it is, hopefully it can be accessed online.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

South Pacific Schools Chess

Three news stories turned up yesterday and today concerning junior and schools chess in 3 different South Pacific countries (including Australia).
The most significant one is a push to have chess included on the school curriculum in Victorian schools. The obvious objection is what would it replace in the currently crowded time table. My vote would be for the right-wing revisionist history classes soon to be introduced. Full story in The Age.
Second story is from Fiji, where the FMF Chess Games is being used to promote chess in Fiji Schools. The Fiji Chess Federation is a very hard working federation, shown by its holding of the most recent Zonal, and I hope there hard work pays off.
And a final story from New Zealand, where the Papatoetoe Central School won the South Auckland Zone and are off to the NZ Schools Chess Finals.

Monday 13 August 2007

Australian Championship 2008 - Website

The website for the 2008 Australian Chess Championship is now up and can be viewed at
In comparing this event to the 2006-07 Australian Open it is clear that the organisers have accepted the reality of potentially smaller fields and have budgeted accordingly.
The entry fees are pretty much the same for the Championship ($170 v $180 for the open) although the fees for the subsidiary events are significantly different ($130 v $70 at the Open). Even the recommended accommodation choices are equivalent with $145 full board per night in Parramatta v $135 full board per night in Canberra.
One area where I expect the Championship to do well is in the strength of the field. The Australian Open attracted 4 GM's and 2 IM's to play, but the strength dropped away pretty quickly after that. While the Championship probably won't draw the same number of GM's, Australian IM's seem to be willing to contest the Championship, as opposed to ignoring the Open.
The smart thing that the Championship organisers have done is to be more realistic about the prize money. The overall prize pool for the Australian Open was $16,000, with $12,000 in the open, and $2,000 each in the Major and Minor. For this years championship there is a total prize pool of $8,150, with $4,500 in the championship, $2,150 in the Major and $1,500 in the Minor.
For those that may bemoan the drop in prize money just have to realise that big prize tournaments are not sustainable in Australia unless it is clear that a significant number of players support them. Until that time we just have to be used to smaller returns on our chess investments.

Sunday 12 August 2007

The Dreaded Team Clock Simul

The ACT Junior Chess League runs a development squad for motivated players each year. The squad isn't just for the GM's of tomorrow, but also for kids who want to work on their chess, with the expectation of learning more.
The squad consists of small groups (4 or 5 players) working with a coach. There is a morning session, an all you can eat pizza lunch, followed by a short afternoon session, with a practical chess activity to finish off the day.
The chess activity changes for each development squad meeting, with lightning tournaments, team events, and handicap knock outs as part of the mix. But the activity that fills the coaches with dread is the Team Clock Simul.
I'd first read about the team clock simul in Gary Kasparov's Fighting Chess. Each Soviet Republic sent a team of junior players (usually 6) and a coach (usually a GM) to the simul. In a match between republics, each coach would play a clock simul against the junior players in the other team. The points earned by both the coach and the players counted towards the final total.
Apparently it was all very civilized, with a long time control used for the matches.
Unfortunately for the ACTJCL coaches we adopted a far more brutal time control. Although the matches were played over 4 boards (rather than 6), each game was played with a time control of G/15, which meant that each coach had 3m 45 s per game. Over the years some coaches have manage to cope with this, while others have collapsed into blubbering heaps. Nonetheless the kids enjoy it, as this is their best chance to get one over their coaches.
In this years tournament a number of interesting results occurred. The two strongest coaches, Michael Wei (current Australian Junior Champion) and Gareth Oliver (1 IM norm under his belt) managed to win every game, proving that it isn't impossible to do well under this system. The second interesting thing was the position shown in the diagram. I'll leave the identity of the unfortunate coach who had this done to them a secret, understanding that strange things happen when you're short of time!

Saturday 11 August 2007

Jacob Aagaard wins British Championship

Jacob Aagaard is the new British Champion, after his win over Glen Flear in a dramatic last round, played last night. Tied for first with IM Stephen Gordon going into Round 11, he took outright first after Gordon could only draw with GM Tony Kosten. Three time winner Jonathan Rowson finished in a tie for second with Gordon after winning his last round game against GM Nick Pert. The win by Aagaard is an interesting one as the until recently the British Championship admitted players from countries in the British Commonwealth, but the rule was dropped as too many well funded overseas players (mainly from India) were walking off with the title. I wonder what they'll do now that a Danish player has won, albeit one who has transferred across to Scotland.
Two other asides. Jacob has promised to buy me a beer next time we meet, as a reward for some IT help I gave him at the Turin Olympiad, and, I believe that Henrik Mortensen, some time visitor to Australia, was Jacob's first chess coach.

Flear,G (2479) - Aagaard,J (2467) [E32]
94th ch-GBR Great Yarmouth ENG (11), 10.08.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7 8.e3 d6 9.Ne2 Nbd7 10.Qd3 Re8 11.Nc3 Qe7 12.Be2 h6 13.Bh4 Bxg2 14.Rg1 Bb7 15.0-0-0 Nf8 16.f4 e5 17.fxe5 dxe5 18.Rdf1 N8h7 19.d5 e4 20.Qd4 Kh8 21.Nb5 Rad8 22.Bg3 c5 23.Qc3 Bxd5 24.Nc7 Bc6 25.Nxe8 Nxe8 26.Rd1 Ra8 27.Bf4 f6 28.Bh5 Nf8 29.Bxe8 Bxe8 30.Rd6 Ne6 31.Bg3 Ng5 32.h4 Nf7 33.Rd2 Bd7 34.Bf4 h5 35.Rd5 Bg4 36.Rg2 Kg8 37.b4 cxb4 38.axb4 Qe8 39.Kb2 Rc8 40.c5 a5 41.Qd4 bxc5 42.bxc5 Qb5+ 43.Kc3 Qf1 44.Rb2 Be6 45.Qxe4 Qc1+ 46.Rc2 Qa3+ 47.Kd2 Bxd5 48.Qxd5 Rd8 49.Bd6 Qb4+ 50.Kd3 a4 51.Rc3 Qxh4 52.e4 Qg4 53.Kd4 h4 54.Ra3 h3 55.Qa2 Re8 56.Qd5 Qg1+ 57.Kc4 h2 58.Bxh2 Qxh2 59.Rxa4 Qc2+ 60.Kb5 Rb8+(D) 0-1

Friday 10 August 2007

Someone else's tournament

The Under 16 Olympiad, and a couple of comments concerning it, got me thinking about the motivation for playing is such events. Obviously for events like the Olympiad (the big one), where selection is competitive and the places restricted, being considered one of your countries best players is motivation enough. But for other events (such as the World Age Championships) there must be other reasons.
For me there are a number of reasons why I play Olympiad chess. Being able to is a good reason, as is representing the country of my birth (even if it isn't the country of my citizenship). But one of the big reasons is simply to play in a high quality event organised by someone else. Over the last 25 years I'm pretty sure I've organised/directed more Australian weekend tournaments than I've actually played in. Of course that is the choice I make, but it has got to the stage where playing a chess tournament seems unusual to me.
So one of the reasons why playing in the Olympiad is so enjoyable is that I don't have the worries an organiser has. I simply travel half way around the world, arrive semi-conscious at the registration desk, and spend 3 weeks playing chess. Indeed, when Andrew Greenwood and Lee Forace (both young event organisers) were part of the Australian National University team that played in an event in Singapore a few years back I said to them "just enjoy playing in someone else's tournament".
Of course in the case of a Chess Olympiad there is the feeling that you are treading the same stage as the chess greats of history. So much so that in one of those work-newsletter interviews that everyone does at some stage or another I listed my proudest achievement as playing 1.e4 in my first Olympiad game in 2000. This to the annoyance of my wife who wondered where our marriage or the birth of our 2 children were ranked.

Press,S - Bagheri,A (2409) [B16]
Istanbul ol (Men) Istanbul (1), 28.10.2000

1.e4 The proudest moment of my life! 1. ... c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Be3 Nd7 9.Qe2 Nb6 10.Bb3 a5 11.c3 a4 12.Bc2 Qd5 13.Bxf5 Qxf5 14.h3 Rg8 15.g4 Qd5 16.Rg1 Nc4 17.g5 fxg5 18.Rxg5 Rxg5 19.Bxg5 h6 20.Bh4 Nd6 21.a3 Be7 22.Bxe7 Kxe7 23.0-0-0 Rg8 24.Ne5 Qe4 25.Re1 Qxe2 26.Rxe2 Rg1+ 27.Kc2 Nf5 28.Nd3 Rh1 29.Nf4 Kf6 30.Kd3 Kg5 31.Ke4 Nd6+ 32.Kf3 Nc4 33.Kg2 Rd1 34.Kg3 Kf5 35.Ng2 Rb1 36.Ne3+ Nxe3 37.fxe3 Ke4 38.Kg4 f5+ 39.Kh5 Rh1 40.Kxh6 Kf3 41.Rc2 Rxh3+ 42.Kg6 Kxe3 43.Kf6 f4 44.c4 f3 0-1

Thursday 9 August 2007

Strategy v Tactics

A number of years ago I had a discussion on this topic (strategy v tactics) with Dr Alan Beveridge. In those days Alan was spending a couple of years in Canberra (at the Australian National University) before returning the the UK. Alan was pretty much the top player in Canberra at the time, and when he went back to the UK, played in the (closed) Scottish Championship. So he knew a thing or two about chess.
My position was that positional play was a short cut for tactics. Ideas like "rooks on the 7th" or "isolated pawns are weak" came about to head players in a tactical direction, and if we could calculate deep enough, then we wouldn't need those rules, as it would all be tactics.
Doc Beveridge took the view that tactics only happen due to a positional defect in a players game, and if you played positionally "correct" then tactics wouldn't work.
Now it may seem that we are both arguing for the same conclusion , but clearly there is some way to go before we can play "perfect" chess.
Interestingly enough this debate is also happening in the world of computer chess. For a long time the "tactical monsters" have held sway. Programs that searched deeper simply defeated other programs by winning material through seeing more. But the developers of Rybka, which won this years World Computer Championship with 10/11 argue that positional knowledge is far more important than most programmers give it credit for.
As evidence they refer to the following win by Rybka over Diep in this years championship. While the opening, and the whole game is tactically based, it is Rybka's 22nd and 27th moves that are the key to victory.

Rybka (Computer) - Diep (Computer) [B43]
15th World Computer Chess Championship Amsterdam, The Netherlands (9), 17.06.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 b5 6.Bd3 d6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bb7 9.f4 Nbd7 10.a3 Qc7 11.Qf3 Be7 12.Rae1 Nc5 13.Bf2 d5 14.e5 Nfe4 15.f5 Nd2 16.Qg4 g6 17.fxe6 fxe6 18.Ncxb5 Qd7 19.Nd6+ Bxd6 20.exd6 0-0 21.Bxg6 hxg6 (D) 22.Nf3 Nxf1 23.Bxc5 Bc8 24.Ne5 Qg7 25.d7 Bxd7 26.Nxd7 Qxd7 27.Bd4 Rf7 28.Qxg6+ Rg7 29.Bxg7 Qxg7 1-0

An annotated copy of this game, with comments from the Rybka development team can be found in the article on

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Nelson Chess Open (NZ)

One of the most successful regional events in recent years was the 2006 Queenstown International. For those who are wondering when the next one is, it has been announced for January 2009. For those who want to play chess in New Zealand but can't wait that long, then the Nelson Chess Open might be what you need.

The Nelson Open is being held from Wednesday 3rd October to Saturday 7th October in Nelson, NZ. Nelson is a city of 60,000 located at the north end of New Zeland's South Island. The tournament is a 9 round FIDE rated swiss with a prize fund of over $5,000(NZ). At the moment the tournament already has 4 GMs taking part (including Murray Chandler, Stuart Conquest, and Darryl Johansen) as well as several IM's. The organisers are looking at a field of about 80 players, and already have half that in confirmed entries. According to tournament organiser Hilton Bennett, there are already a number of Australian players taking part.

You can find full details of the event at

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Under 16 Olympiad

The Under 16 Chess Olympiad is up and running in Singapore, and Australia is well represented with 4 teams. Currently Australia 1 (Ly, Ikeda, Wilson Lin, Song, and Illingworth) are on 8.5/12 (+6=5-1), and lie in =6th. Surprisingly the second best Australian team is Australia 3, who recovered from a 4-0 loss in Rd 1 to Uzbekistan, to be on 6/12. Australia 4 are on 5/12, while Australia 2 are having a rough time of it on 3. Full results for this tournament are available from the always excellent
A number of Canberra players are taking part in this event (Junta Ikeda, Emma Guo, Tamzin Oliver, Andrew Brown, Alana Chibnall, Satya Chitturi) and you can see their individual performances by clicking on the team names.

Monday 6 August 2007

Brain Training

I've spent some of the weekend doing "Brain Training". Any one who owns one of the hand held game consoles is probably familiar with the idea of "Brain Training", as there are a number of games that fall into this category. What I discovered was that I have good memorisation skills, but my computing ability is fairly poor. So I guess my chess is OK, as long as I remember what I am doing!
I also spent some of the weekend doing "Chess Training". Surprisingly I found that there wasn't a big difference between the two activities. In both I tried to perform simple drills, and then gauged my success. Just as in brain training I was good at some things and bad at others.
The tool I used for my chess training activities was Chessmaster 10. I've mentioned this before but having used it for training (as opposed to practice/analysis) I've even more convinced that it is worth adding to your software library. At the moment it is available for $20 in most computer shops (Dick Smith, EB Games etc), so if you see it, grab it.
One of the drills I worked through was the dreaded Bishop & Knight Checkmate. Now most of us have a vague idea of what to do, but until you actually try it, you probably don't realise how difficult it is. It took me about 10 tries before I got it right, and only then was I able to do it by following some instructions in Bruce Pandolfini's "The ABC's of Chess". Having done it once, it then took me another 5 tries before I could do it again. Eventually I managed to grasp some essential patterns before being fully confident that I could do it again.
One of the most interesting patterns is shown in the diagram. The arrangement of Bishop and Knight actually imprisons the Black King in the corner, regardless of where the White King is. Then it is a matter of squeezing the king into the corner and mating.
So my recommendation for those who want to improve is to take a leaf out of any sports coaching manual and drill, drill, drill!

(For those that are interested the game might finish 1.Kc2 Kf1 2.Kd2 Kg1 3.Ke2 Kg2 4.Ke1 Kg1 5.Bh3! Kh2 6.Bf1 Kg1 7.Ke2 Kh2 8.Kf2 Kh1 9.Nf6 Kh2 10.Ng4+ Kh1 11.Bg2#)

Sunday 5 August 2007

Quick Ratings Revisited

Earlier this year I made a post about the Quick and Dirty Ratings System, and promised to report back on any findings.
Well the system I described has been in operation for last two terms at my local junior chess club, which is probably sufficient time to make some sort of judgement.

The first observation is that it is popular with the kids. No surprises there, as chess wouldn't be Chess without a ranking system. Of course it is more popular with the kids at the top of the list, although I try and mitigate the effects of overt boasting by making the list 'semi-private' ie you can check your own rating on request.
Secondly, the existent of ratings does have an effect on who you play. Last term I grouped players into round-robins based on rating but found that that wasn't the best way to do things. (eg the bottom player in any group often scored 0/5 and went home feeling bad). So this term I allowed players to choose their opponents. What has happened is that players at the top will usually play each other anyway, as they have worked out that playing lower rated opponents doesn't help their own ratings (even if they win). I'm not convinced this is a good thing (especially for the lower rated players) but it has had the effect of players being able to change their potential field, especially if they have got of to a bad (or exceptional) start.

In terms of numbers there are some other observations. As every new player starts with a rating of 500, and the ratings calculation are zero sum, then the mean of the pool is always 500 (no deflation!). Over the last 20 weeks 37 players have played at the club. Although the mean is 500, the median rating (ie the rating of the player in the middle) is 473. In terms of distribution there are 15 players rated above 500, with 22 players rated below. In fact 15 players are rated between 400 and 500.
The majority of these players were "short termers" ie players who came for a couple of weeks before dropping out. My belief is that like most activities, interest is driven by enjoyment/success and they discovered that losing wasn't that much fun. If they had stuck at it maybe they would have turned that around, but we are talking about primary school kids, not noted for their long term planning.
Overall the system has worked well, with my initial observations about the volatility of the system now being tempered by the use of a different tournament structure. It certainly has ranked the players at the club fairly well in terms of results/abilities and has done a good job of rewarding the players for actually playing. (eg kids who have won a few games are keen to play some more, to "get more rating points")
So after 20 weeks of use, I would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a simple internal club rating system, whether it is for juniors or adults.

Saturday 4 August 2007

2008 Australian Championship Weirdness

The Australian Chess Federation has made a decision on the venue for the 2008 Australian Championship, and already the issue has taken another weird turn. The 2008 Australian Championship will be held in Parramatta, NSW, assuming nothing changes between now and the official announcement. However this wasn't the "winning" bid, but was the lucky loser, after the bid ranked first (from Peter Parr), fell through after the decision was made, due to the non-availability of the proposed venue. In the meantime Chess Victoria is proposing to hold the Victorian Close(sic) Championship, possibly on dates that clash with the Australian Championship.
Clearly Chess Victoria feels that this is a popular time to hold a chess tournament, as they held a weekend event earlier this year, which clashed with the Australian Open Championship. Of course a number of other people think that it is stupid to hold an event which clashes with the national championship, but I suspect as those people are not Victorian, then their opinions don't really count.
Such an idea does raise an important question. What is more important? A national championship or a run of the mill chess tournament in your own backyard? And as this years Canterbury Open had a bigger turn out than the 2006-07 Australian Open, I guess the answer is the backyard chess tournament.

Friday 3 August 2007

Congrats to David Smerdon

By now it is old news (almost a week since it happened!) but congratulations to IM David Smerdon for scoring his 3rd GM norm in Paraduce, Czech Republic. The Chessvibes website has a big story on the tournament as well as Smerdon's play, which you can read here.
Although David has scored the required norms, he still needs to get his rating over 2500 to be awarded the title. His first attempt at doing this is in the Paks Cup GM Tournament, which starts tomorrow evening.
Good luck David!

Thursday 2 August 2007

Bliss is Ignorance

One of the problems I have when I play is that I am usually pessimistic about my position. I have no trouble spotting my own positional weaknesses, and the good moves for my opponents, while any weakness I spot in my opponents position can be usually defended. So I spend most of the game thinking I am losing. However, when I put the game through Fritz etc it usually turns out that my position was far better than I thought, and my "losing" position is often slightly plus for me.
Over the last two weeks I played 2 games where I thought I had begun to kick the habit. In both games I felt the position was OK and that I was in fact doing well. That was until Fritz put me straight.

The diagrammed position was reached after my opponent had earlier sacrificed a knight for 2 pawns, and chances of a kingside attack. I avoided the worst of it and just assumed I was playing the effortless, defend-swap, defend-swap game where my extra piece would be enough. So I played the obvious
27 ... Rh4 Now this turns out to be a horrible move, for very simple tactical reasons. 28.Rxf6! exploits the position of the rook and knight and leaves White ahead after 28 ... Nxf6 29.Bg5 Rh5 30.Bxf6+ Kg8 31.Be7 Fortunately for me my opponent was probably thinking along the same lines as myself and allowed the game to finish "normally" by
28.Bd7 Rxh6 29.Bxh6 Bg5 30.Bxg5 Nxg5 31.h4 Nh7 32.Kf2 Nf6 33.Bb5 Nxb5 34.axb5 Ra5 35.Kf3 Rxb5 36.Re2 Rb3+ 37.Kf2 Ng4+ 38.Kg1 Rd3 0-1

In my second game a similar thing happened. I had spent most of the game defending, but was pleased after my opponent chose a line where I thought I had everything covered.
I had just grabbed the pawn on a4, in part because I had seen that Rf7 shouldn't cause me any troubles, or so I thought.
30.Rf7 Rxf7 31.Qxf7 As both players were under 5 minutes for the game I played my next straight away, and in doing so should have lost the game. To be honest I didn't consider any other reply, which meant I missed the far stronger 31 ... Qh6! And so the game continued "normally"
31 ... Qf8 32.Qc7 Qf6 33.Rf5 Qg7 34.Rf7 Qh6 35.Qxe5+ Kg8 36.Rf4 Re8 37.Rg4+ At this point my opponent offered me a draw, which I gratefully accepted. ½-½

Now in both games I thought I was doing OK and 1.5/2 would be a score that reflected that. But clearly this wasn't the case. So what is the lesson (at least for me)? That scores tend to match what I "believe" the result will be, not what the result should be? Maybe. And if so I might be better off actually knowing less about chess, rather than more!

Wednesday 1 August 2007

British Championships

The 94th British Championship has kicked off in Great Yarmouth, with Jonathan Rowson looking to extend his winning run to 4 championships in a row. However he was tripped up in Round 2 by Glean Flear, although Rowson has come back to win after early losses in previous championships.
One of the tournament leaders is young GM Nick Pert who defeated Stewart Haslinger in this round 2 game

Pert,N (2536) - Haslinger,S (2468) [D11]
94th ch-GBR Great Yarmouth ENG (2), 31.07.2007

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Nbd2 Bf5 6.Qb3 Qc7 7.Bd3 Bg6 8.0-0 e6 9.Re1 Be7 10.e4 0-0 11.e5 Nfd7 12.Bxg6 hxg6 13.Nf1 Re8 14.Bg5 Bf8 15.Rac1 Qb6 16.Qc2 dxc4 17.Ne3 c5 18.d5 exd5 19.Nxd5 Qc6 20.Nf4 a5 21.e6 fxe6 22.Qxg6 Na6 23.Bd8! e5 24.Qxe8 Nc7 25.Qh5 exf4 26.Ng5 1-0

Full coverage of the event can be found at