Friday 29 February 2008

Back in the Day - Ladies Chess

A couple of weeks ago I had a post about old chess magazines ( Back in the Day ) and someone asked me whether any games played by women were published in "The Chess Bulletin" in 1951. Without knowing the background I find this an odd question, but sufficiently odd to break my own rule about not replying to anonymous posters.
In the November 1951 edition there was a game played by a Miss G. Kaye in the NSWCA B Reserve Competition. There was brief introduction to the game stating that she had "learnt the moves only fairly recently" but as a sign of the times ended with the following comment. "We hope she will refrain from using rolling-pins when in Zugzwang"

Here is the game concerned, with my annotations replacing the brief notes that were given when the game was originally published.

Kaye,G - N.N [D20]
B Reserve, 1951

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nc3 e6 4.e4 Nf6 5.Bxc4 Bb4 6.Nge2? White blunders (sacrifices?) the e pawn. 6...Nxe4 7.Qd3 f5?! 8.0-0 Nd6 9.Bb3 0-0 10.Nf4 Qe7 (D)
11.a3 [ 11.Ncd5!! was missed by both the players, and the annotator. 11...exd5 12.Nxd5 Qh4 ( 12...Qd8 13.Ne7+ Kh8 14.Ng6+! hxg6 15.Qh3+ Qh4 16.Qxh4#) 13.Nxc7+ Kh8 14.Nxa8+-] 11...Ba5 12.Re1 Kh8 13.Nxe6 At this point the annotator tartly remarks "Somehow or other White has achieved a winning position" 13...Re8 14.Bg5 Qd7 [ 14...Qf7 15.Nxc7! Rxe1+ 16.Rxe1 Qxb3 17.Nxa8 favours white, although both players could still go wrong here.] 15.Nc5 Rxe1+ 16.Rxe1 Qc6 17.Re7! h6 18.Qh3 [ 18.Bxh6 gxh6 19.Qg3 also mates.] 18...f4 19.Qxh6+!! gxh6 20.Bf6# 1-0

Thursday 28 February 2008

Doeberl Cup meets Facebook

Following on from the Closet Grandmasters post on chess applications for Facebook, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and signed up. Now I still can't see what the fuss is all about, but it does have some useful features.
One is the "Events" calendar where you can add upcoming events and invite people to attend. To test this feature I've added the Doeberl Cup. So if your a Facebook user, invite yourself (and others) along, and feel free to leave messages, pictures or video from this years event.

And speaking of the Doeberl Cup the total entries are over the 160 player mark, with GM Zhong Zhang the new top seed, and the total number of GM's increasing to 11 (with 13 IM's, 2 WGM's and 3 WIM's)

Wednesday 27 February 2008

A long night at the chess club

Almost all the stories I tell on this blog concerning chess organisation are tales of misery and woe. However the ANU Chess Club is an exception to this state of affairs, and 2008 sees it going great guns. In fact we are having difficulty in fitting in all the players who currently play at the club, and we may need to find extra room to accommodate new players. But I would rather have this problem than not have it.
Of course extra players does mean some extra work, and my own game this evening got off to a late start as I had to replace batteries in the DGT's at the club as 3 of them decided to not to work (despite me checking them the week before). Fortunately it didn't affect my play to badly and I scored a nice win over Alan Setiabudi, in part to my use of the TMI* System.

Press,S - Setiabudi,A [B44]
ANU Summer 2008 Canberra, 27.02.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.N1c3 a6 9.Na3 b5 10.Nd5 Rb8 11.Bg5 Be7 12.Nxe7 Qxe7 13.c3 Be6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Qf3 b4 16.cxb4 Nd4 17.Qd3 d5 18.exd5 Bf5 19.Qd2 Rg8 20.Rc1 Rxb4 21.Nc4 Bh3 22.Qc3 Bxg2 23.Bxg2 Rxg2 24.Qh3 Rb8 25.Qxg2 Qb4+ 26.Kf1 Rc8 27.Nd6+ Kd7 28.Qh3+ 1-0

*But what is the TMI System? All will be revealed in a future post!

Tuesday 26 February 2008

You'll just have to show me

One of the more frustrating things I found when learning chess was that sometimes annotators would pass over a move without looking at obvious alternatives. Well, obvious to me at least. Often I would be left scratching my head after seeing a player not swap queens (for example) and then get mated, by the enemy queen, 6 moves later, with the annotator failing to mention QxQ as an alternative.
I like to be shown things, especially if it isn't obvious what would have happened next. Now one example of this has always stuck in my mind ever since I started playing chess seriously. One of my favourite opening books is "The Italian Game" by Harding and Botterill. The chapter on the Wilkes-Barre has long since been covered in the stains of my grubby thumb prints, but there was one line (and lack of analysis) that always irritated me. So finally I put the game into Fritz to try and discover what had been left unsaid by the authors. (The comments are mine btw)

Jentzch - Nosotta [C57]
cr cr, 1956

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Ke3 While this move looks suicidal, it is considered by some as the best chance of refuting the Traxler. 7...Qh4 8.Qf3 Now this move 'looks' sensible. 8...Nf6!! (D)
The !! were given by Harding and Botterill followed by 0-1. Annoyingly there was no explanation for this assement, and in pre-computer days I found it very hard to find a clear cut win for Black. 9.Ke2 As this just loses quickly why not grab the rook instead. [ 9.Nxh8 Nd4 10.Qd1 ( 10.Qf1 Ng4+ 11.Kd3 Nf2+ 12.Kc3 Ne4+ 13.Kd3 Nc5+ 14.Ke3 ( 14.Kc3 Nb5+ 15.Kb4 a5+ 16.Kxb5 ( 16.Kxc5 d6+ 17.Kxb5 Bd7#) 16...c6+ 17.Kb6 Qd8+ 18.Kxc5 d6#; 14...Nxc2+ 15.Ke2 ( 15.Kf3 Qf4+ 16.Ke2 Qxc4+) 15...Qxc4+-+ although only on 'points'; 10...Qf4+ 11.Kd3 Qf5+ 12.Kc3 ( 12.Ke3 Ng4+ 13.Qxg4 Nxc2+ 14.Ke2 Qxg4+) 12...Ne4+ 13.Kb4 ( 13.Kd3 Nf2+) 13...a5+ 14.Ka4 b5+ 15.Bxb5 Nc5+ 16.Ka3 Nxb5#;
or move the bishop 9.Bb3 Rf8 10.Qg3 ( 10.g3 Qd4+ 11.Ke2 d5 with too many threats.) 10...Qe4+ 11.Kf2 Ng4+ 12.Kg1 Qd4+ 13.Kf1 d5 winning back the piece and leaving Black on top;
9.d3 Nd4 10.Qf1 Rf8 with d5 and Rxf7 to follow.] 9...Qxc4+ 10.Kd1 Nd4 0-1

Monday 25 February 2008

Woodwork Squeaks*

Last year I reported on the story that notorious net identity Sam Sloan was suing the USCF (and others) over posts made on usenet. Now there is further news on this issue, where another party is suing the USCF (and others) plus Sam Sloan, arguing that the original case is actually a conspiracy between the parties concerned to destroy the USCF and profit from its demise, (and no I'm not making this up). I can't wait to see where this all goes.

*Out come the freaks

Sunday 24 February 2008

More female chess players?

Today I went to the Canberra Show. It was great!. I went on the rides, ate Fairy Floss, brought showbags, and saw the Circus. It was like being a child again.
Before I went, I looked at the online catalogue of showbags. The very first showbag I saw was the "Ab-Fab" Showbag. This showbag included an Ab-Fab Hat, a tube of scrunchies, non-piercing jewellery, and a tapestry bag. Also included amongst this group of products was "A Chess Set".
At this stage I'm not sure what it all means, but there may soon be an influx of players from the Fashion/PR Industry.

Birthday Number One

Today is the first birthday of this blog. I would like to thank all the regular readers of ChessExpress, and a special thanks to those who contributed, either by sending me interesting chess news and links, or simply contributed comments to the posts I made.
Hopefully I'll still have the enthusiasm to keep the blog going on a regular (and daily) basis, so there should be plenty of birthdays to come.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Linares-Morelia First Lap

After 6 rounds of the Linares-Morelia event a curious symmetry has emerged. There have been 24 games played, with 12 decisive results and 12 draws. The 12 decisive results have also been split evenly, with 6 wins for White, and 6 wins for Black. Also every player has lost at least 1 game.
However the points haven't been distributed as evenly with Anand leading with 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss (4.0). Aronian is second (3.5) and third is shared by Shirov, Topalov, and Radjabov (3.0).

Anand,V (2799) - Aronian,L (2739) [C89]
XXV SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (2), 16.02.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.Re1 Bd6 13.g3 Re8 14.d4 Rxe1+ 15.Qxe1 Ra7 16.Be3 Re7 17.Nd2 Qe8 18.Nf1 h5 19.a4 Be6 20.Bd1 h4 21.axb5 axb5 22.Bf3 Bh3 23.Bxd5 cxd5 24.Qd1 f5 25.Bg5 Re4 26.Bxh4 Qg6 27.Bd8 f4 28.Qd3 Qh5 29.Nd2 Re2 30.Nf3 (D)
30. ... Re3 31.fxe3 Qxf3 32.Qc2 fxg3 33.hxg3 Qxg3+ 34.Kh1 Bf5 0-1

Friday 22 February 2008

Channels of Comunications

2008 is an Olympiad year, which means that the ACF goes through the motions of organising an Olympiad Appeal. Before that however, they appoint an Olympiad Appeal Coordinator. This year the thankless job has fallen to CAQ stalwart, Ian Murray.
But what interested me most about this piece of information is how the ACF communicated it to its membership. One of the criticisms of the ACF (from both myself and others) is that it does a very poor job of informing the Australian chess playing public of decisions made at it's own council meetings. I suspect the "official" channels are the ACF Email Newsletter (which comes out every fortnight) and the ACF's own website (which still lists Brett Tindall as the Olympiad Appeal Coordinator). So how did I (and others) find out about this news? While the news of the appointment hasn't been "officially" released, at least 2 ACF officials were happy to use the news to "have a go" at other chess players, as part of some ongoing disagreements.
I don't know what others might think, but I regard this as unprofessional, especially as the ACF closely guards its own internal communications, both restricting who has access to them, and trying to restrict their publication on external forums.

*BTW the PNG Olympiad team seems to have less difficulty with its Olympiad appeal. Basically the selected players donate about $3,000 each and that seems to cover our airfares and expenses.

Thursday 21 February 2008

My rating is inaccurate!

Oooh, ratings fight! A post at the Closet Grandmasters blog has provoked the usual back and forth about the accuracy/problems with the rating system used in Australia (Glicko2). While I'm firmly on the side of statistical accuracy (as opposed to the "this looks wrong but I can't tell you why" side of the argument) a number of years ago I did come up with an alternative system which should make everyone happy.

New Ratings System Proposal

Premise: A rating system should be easy to understand, transparent, and reflect the perceived strength of the participants.

Rule 1: When I beat someone rated above me my rating should go up
Rule 2: When I beat someone rated way above me my rating should go up heaps
Rule 3: When I lose to someone rated below me my rating should only drop a little as they were probably lucky or I was off form, and anyway they shouldn't be beating me, otherwise they would be rated above me.
Rule 4: When I lose to someone rated way below me they are clearly an underrated player and the system is at fault so I shouldn't lose any ratings points, and indeed should get a couple of extra for the embarrassment and inconvenience.
Rule 5:If I have a good tournament where I perform above my rating, then this tournament reflects my true strength and my rating should be adjusted accordingly.
Rule 6:If I have a couple of bad tournaments these results should be discounted as they don't reflect my true strength (see rule 5) and to include them would make a mockery of the ratings system.
Rule 7: It is an historical fact that players in my state of "insert name here" are underrated compared to all the other states and an adjustment factor is required for each list

Some proposed values
Rule 1: +10 points
Rule 2: +50 points
Rule 3: -1 point
Rule 4: +5 points
Rule 5: Players performance rating
Rule 6: 0 points
Rule 7:+100 points

A simple system, easy to understand.
Comments invited.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Studying Chess Today

The most recent issue of Chess Today contained an endgame study which has a very practical application for tournament players. Without giving too much of the answer away, the study (White to play and draw - Prokes 1939), shows a clever defensive idea when your opponent has a Queen on the c (or f) file and their king is nearer to the edge of the board (eg on the a or b file). This is particularly applicable in a Rook v Pawns ending (as this study shows) as you can allow you opponent to queen and yet still escape with a draw.
For those who can't work it out themselves, the answer is in the comments section.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

2008 O2C Doeberl Cup Premier - Full

The 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup Premier has hit the 80 player mark, which means that no more guaranteed spots are available. If you desperately want to play in the Premier, but left submitting your entry until too late you have 2 choices. Either you become an IM or GM between now and Easter or put your name on the waiting list and hope someone drops out. But just as in the main list, the waiting list operates on a first registered first in basis.
Some statistics of the 80 player field. There will be 10 GM's, 1 WGM, 11 IM's, 3 WIM's, 6 FM's, and 1 WFM. (There is also 1 CM, but that title doesn't count for 'title norm" purposes). The median rating of the field is 2153.
Of course there are other events to play in (if you rating or age allows). The Seniors is open to all players 50 years or older (on the first day of the tournament), regardless of rating. The Major (Under 2000)still has plenty of places (only 14 entries so far), and is offering a first prize equal to the 2008 Australian Championship! The Minor (Under 1600) is always popular and already has 25 entries. And don't forget, if you are rated Under 1200 you have a tournament to yourselves for the first time.

(Standard disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Monday 18 February 2008

Happy Birthday Kit Walker

Happy birthday to Mr Walker*
Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of the first publication of The Phantom. As he has always been my favourite action hero I thought it worthy of mention. Sadly I haven't see a chess themed Phantom story, although "The Phantom and the Secret of Morphy's Gold" would make a good title.

*The Ghost Who Walks

Sunday 17 February 2008


The Category 21 (Avg Rating 2756) Linares-Morelia tournament is under way, and the organisers are happily sending out daily updates to chess bloggers and journalists. But getting information about the tournament isn't restricted just to us, as the tournament bulletins are available from the website. Although the bulletins are in Spanish (which I cannot read, but I'm sure more educated readers can) there is still plenty of information, including crosstables and game scores. Issue 3, which covered the first round, ran to 50 pages, covering not just the main event, but the large number of subsidiary round robins and swisses that have been organised alongside.
As to the actual play, Rd 1 saw something of a suprise with 75% (3 out of 4) games finishing decisively. Round 2 was only slight more peaceful with 2 games drawn out of the 4.
Current FIDE Champion Viswanathan Anand won in 30 moves first up against Alexi Shirov, but then came unstuck against Lev Aronian in Rd 2. Here is his Rd 1 win.

SHIROV,A (2755) - ANAND,V (2799)
XXV Torneo de Ciudad Morelia y Linares (1.1), 15.02.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 b5 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.Rhe1 Qb6 12.Nb3 Rc8 13.Qh3 (D)
13. ... Rxc3 14.bxc3 Qc7 15.Kb1 Be7 16.e5 dxe5 17.f5 Nd5 18.Bxe7 Kxe7 19.fxe6 fxe6 20.Qg3 g6 21.Rd2 Rc8 22.Qg5+ Ke8 23.Qg4 Nxc3+ 24.Ka1 Bd5 25.Re3 Nf6 26.Qh4 Qe7 27.Bf1 Bxb3 28.cxb3 Nce4 29.Rb2 Rc1+ 30.Rb1 Qc5 0-1

Saturday 16 February 2008

How do you improve?

Endre Ambrus is a 2370+ Romanian player who moved to Canberra a couple of months ago. Already he is a regular at Street Chess, and a welcome addition to the membership of the ANU Chess Club. The other night we had an interesting conversation.

Endre: "This club only meets on 1 night a week?"
Shaun: "Yes, just on Wednesday nights"
E: "Not on other nights?"
S: "No. Our tournaments are 1 night a week"
E: "But on other nights you could get together and work on openings, positions"
S: "Clubs don't really do that in Australia. We just organise tournaments for our members"
E: "Then how do you improve?"

And that is a very good question. And this leads to one of my own. "Is this something Australian chess is missing?"

Friday 15 February 2008

Further adventures in Wizards Chess

Previously I wrote about "Harry Potter Chess", which is a multi-part chess learning magazine and collectible. I've now come across a new "Potter" related chess product in the shape of the "Order of the Phoenix" game for the PS2. (No, it's not my game, it's my children's. Honestly).
In the game you have the chance to play the Griffyndor Champion, who for some reason isn't Ron Weasley. The only problem is that he isn't very good. I'm sure the game designers didn't feel the need to put a version of Rybka into the game, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If the aim is to encourage kids to play chess by giving them a chance to win then they have succeeded admirably. The following game shows you how it works

Me v Griffyndor Trainee Wizard

1.e4 h6 2.Bc4 Rh7 3.Qh5 c5 4.Bxf7#

I assume that any kid winning like that will figure that chess isn't that hard after all, and stick with the game.
Having said that the program may get stronger as you find new opponents. After defeating the Griffyndor Champion he suggested I play the Slytherin Champion next. My son reports that the Slytherin Champion is about as good as him, so I wonder how good the Hufflepuf Champion is.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Back in the Day

Due to another kind donation I received a number of Australian chess magazines from the 50's and 60's. Included was a bound set of "The Chess Bulletin" from 1951. This was the official organ of the NSW Chess Association, and although it was published at the same time as Chess World, was probably too slim (8 pages an issue) to be considered a competitor.
Nonetheless in the 8 pages, there was plenty of coverage of City and Country chess (32 Sydney clubs alone!) plus tournament reports and games. There was even a section called "Opening Traps" which had the following game

Bailey,J - Broun,M [C80]
Australian Junior Championship, 1951

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 Nc5 7.Nc3 Nxa4 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.Rxe5+ Be7 10.Nd5 0-0 11.Nxe7+ Kh8 12.Qh5 d6 13.Qxh7+ 1-0

Another item of interest was that annual subs for the Correspondence Chess League of Australia were 10 schillings per anum, which at an annual inflation rate of 2% (which I just plucked out of the air), would result in the subs being $31 today. As they are only $25 modern players are slightly better off than ancient ones.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Long Distance Traveller

For the last couple of Australian Opens, one of the most welcome entrants has been Henrik Mortensen, from Denmark. While it is expected that GM's might make the trip down under to play (if given the right conditions), Henrik is happy to spend his time and money escaping the Danish winter, for some sunny chess in Australia.
But what happens when the Australian Open isn't on? He heads to sunny Gibraltar instead!

Marks,I (1919) - Mortensen,H (2035) [B33]
6th Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar ENG (7), 28.01.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.c4 Be7 10.Bd3 0-0 11.0-0 f5 12.f3 Nd7 13.Be3 b6 14.b4 a6 15.Nc3 Nf6 16.Qb3 Kh8 17.Rac1 Nh5 18.Rfd1 Bg5 19.Bxg5 Qxg5 20.Bf1 (D)
20. ... Qe3+ 21.Kh1 Ng3+ 22.hxg3 Rf6 0-1

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Who needs hard work?

When you can become a Chess Expert through Subliminal Messaging!
At least that is the claim I saw from a product being sold on EBay. This wonderful product will help you concerntrate for longer and even allow you to "Develop the ability to be able to strategize and plan your game several moves in advance without making mistakes."
The genius* of this product is through it's delivery method. You get three 10 minute tracks of relaxing ocean/waterfall sounds and a 4th track of complete silence. Embedded in those tracks are subliminal messages that will make you a chess expert.
(* The genius is that there is no way of verifying what the subliminal messages actually are)

If you want to find out more about this product go to ebay and search for "CHESS Expert" or subliminal. But no, I'm not providing a direct link because I think it's a load of horse manure.
In fact it reminds of an old soccer joke where a player is concussed just before half time in an English Division 2 game. "He doesn't even know who he is" says the trainer. "Good" says the manager,"tell him he's George Best and get him back out there".

Monday 11 February 2008

Official Rules of Chess - 2009 Revision

The Rules and Tournament Regulation Committee (RTRC) of FIDE is carrying out a revision to the Official Rules of Chess. This revision is intended to come into force on the 1st of July 2009, although the review is to be completed before the 2008 FIDE Congress in Dresden, so the Rule changes can be approved (or rejected).
Already some suggestions have been made (including reducing the forfeit time from 1 hour to 15 minutes), but suggestions can be made to (and by) committee members (including myself), or the committee chair Geurt Gijssen, before the 15th of April 2008.
A sub-committee will then prepare a draft by 15th of May 2008, after which the full RTRC will consider proposed changes, before preparing the completed document by the 1st September 2008.
This will be the document voted upon by the FIDE General Assembly in Dresden, and if approved, will come into effect on the 1st of July 2009.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Spirit of the Game - Redux

A follow up to an earlier post.

I watched the India v Australia One day match today and now I'm in a dilemma. How do I, as an Australian fan, react to Gilchrist being given out after edging it into his pads, and Tendulkar not walking after clearly nicking it to the keeper. As I don't wish to appear to be a whinger (or god forbid a cry-baby), what is the appropriate form of comment? Can anyone help me, please?

Saturday 9 February 2008

An early Doeberl Cup Game

A game from the 1966 Doeberl Cup

Shaw,T - Purdy,J [C01]
Doeberl Cup Canberra (4), 1966

IM Terry Shaw was a multiple Olympiad representative for Australia, while John Purdy was twice Australian Champion (1955, 1963). John Purdy was also the first winner of the Doeberl Cup (1963) while Terry Shaw won the Cup in 1970 (shared) and 1971. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 While this line is considered drawish, White often generates good attacking chances on the kingside. 3...exd5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Bd3 Eyeing off the h7 square. 6...0-0 7.h3 Re8 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Bf4 Nf8 10.Re1 c6 11.Qd2 Ne6 12.Bg3 Nh5 13.Be5 Bf6 14.Ne2! White has no problems with the exchange on e5, as the Bishop will be replaced by another attacking piece, while Black will have removed one of his defenders. 14...g6 15.g4 Nhg7 16.Ng3 Bg5 17.Nxg5 Nxg5 18.Kg2 Avoiding the fork on f3! 18...f6 19.Bf4 N5e6 20.Be3 Bd7 21.f4 c5 Black meets the attack on the kingside with a counterthrust in the centre. 22.f5 Instead of grabbing a pawn, White offers one. [ 22.dxc5 Qc7 23.Qf2 gains a pawn, but allows Black to dictate the play eg 23...d4 24.Bxd4 Nxf4+ 25.Kh2 Nge6 Objectively White has a clear advantage, but Black now has some counterplay.] 22...cxd4 23.Bf2 Nf8? [ 23...gxf5 24.gxf5 Nc5 25.Bxd4±] 24.Bxd4+- White has a number of advantages in this position in the shape of the two bishops, control of the e file (due to the weak f pawn), and extra space on the kingside. Blacks pieces are sill to emerge from the back of the board and the d pawn is a big weakness. 24...g5 25.Qb4 White begins a strategy of targeting the weak points in Black's position. 25...Bc6 26.Rxe8 Nxe8 27.Nh5 Kf7 28.Re1 Nd7 29.Re6 a6 30.Qe1 Rc8 31.h4! Having tied Black down, White now breaks into the enemies position. 31...h6 [ 31...gxh4 32.Qxh4 Bb5 33.Bxb5 axb5 34.c3 b4 35.Nf4 doesn't save Black, as his King is too exposed.] 32.hxg5 hxg5 33.Qe3 Rc7(D)
34.Nxf6! The culmination of White's play. 34...Nexf6 35.Qxg5 Now Qg6 is threatened. 35...Qg8 The only move that doesn't result in immediate loss. 36.Bxf6 Qxg5 37.Bxg5 The result of the temporary sacrifice on f6 is the gain of two pawns. 37...Nc5 38.Rh6 Kg7 39.f6+ Kg8 40.Rg6+ Kh8 41.Rh6+ Kg8 42.Rg6+ White repeats the position to move closer to the next time control 42...Kh8 43.f7 Of course Rh6?? would be a threefold repetition after Kg8 43...Rxf7 44.Bf6+ 1-0

The annotations for this game first appeared in the 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup Newsletter. If you wish to get a copy of the newsletter just go to and click on the "Subscribe to the Newsletter" button in the bottom right corner. Best of all, it's free!

Friday 8 February 2008

Designing your Website

When the layout of your online store goes wrong

(NB This site has a soundtrack so have your headphones on)

Thursday 7 February 2008

Australian Championship/Open Issues (Pt 2)

For reasons to do with geography the Australian Championship is held every 2 years. Since 1971 the Australian Open has been held in intervening years, but of late has been in a steady decline. So much so that I think the ACF should dispense with it.
The major reason why I think it is finished is that it no longer serves a purpose. Indeed the "Australian Open" as a title only served to add some gravitas to what is essentially a big multi-day swiss that attracts some overseas titled players. If there hadn't been a Lidums tournament in 1971, then I suspect the title would not have existed.
These days the "big international swiss" events are the Sydney International Open and the Doeberl Cup. They now successfully cater to the market that the Australian Open used to have, leaving the Australian Open without a purpose. The two things the Australian Open still has in it's favour are (a) continuity and (b) a rotating venue. The importance of (a) (in theory at least) is that as long as there is an ACF there should be an Australian Open. However I think that is a tenuous claim at best, as the ACF have always had a hands off approach to organising it, instead relying on others to do the work instead. As for (b) while this provides the opportunity for different states/cities to host an international event (rather than just Sydney/Canberra with the SIO/Doeberl), again recent practice has shown an unwillingness for states to bid for this event (eg most bids have come from non state association organisers rather than the state associations themselves).
So once you strip away the more historical justifications for such an event, then there seems little reason for holding it.
The Australian Championship on the other hand still fulfills an important roll. However (and this may be heresy to some) it isn't to determine the "Champion" player of Australia. Instead it is probably the only restricted swiss in the country that brings some (but not all) of the leading players together, while providing a springboard for the next group down (sub 2300) to make their mark. Of course having the tournament billed as the "Australian Championship" is essential for this to work, as it provides inducement for the top players to play. Of course this state of affairs isn't a bad thing, although it would be nice if more of the top players decided to play (see Pt 1).

This leads me to a suggestion regarding the Championship and Open. (1) Drop the Open completely (2) Make the championship an annual event (finally) by (a) keeping the championship format the same for the years it is currently held and (b) institute a 10 player RR every other year.
Of course one obvious objection to 2b is funding. If sponsorship attempts are unsuccessful (as they normally are), running an Open along side it seems to be an obvious alternative. The question then becomes one of budgeting ie would an Open/Reserves generate enough income to support a Championship.
The other objection is who gets to play in a RR, but frankly, any chess administrator who thinks such a problem is too difficult to solve clearly isn't interested in finding a solution in the first place.
So is such a suggestion practical. Well the canning of the Open wouldn't take much work (as indeed there are no bidders for the 2009 edition anyway), but would an organiser be able to set up a decent replacement. Frankly I'm not sure. There are some organisers who could do it once but for such a solution to work properly the ACF (yes this is the ACF's issue) needs to have in-house expertise to do this year after year. Does the ACF currently have this expertise? No. Will it have it in the future? It very well may depend on the outcome of their review into the Championship/Open

** Note: Some comments to this post contain language that you may find unacceptable. Whether you choose to read it is up to you.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Australian Championship/Open Issues (Pt 1)

"If you lower your expectations far enough, then anything can be a success"

I am tempted to attach the above quote to the current state of Championship events in Australia. Over the last two years we have seen a poorly attended Australian Open (yes I was an organiser of this event) and a better attended Australian Championship. Some might even go so far to say that this indicates that the Open was a failure but the Championship was a success.
I would disagree, as I don't believe numbers are everything. Indeed I would argue that the "success" of the 2008 Australian Championship is in fact a troubling sign for future Championship events. An increase in numbers from the Open disguised the fact that the number of titled participants did not. In Canberra (so far away, no where to stay) there were 4 titled Australian players (GM's Rogers and Johansen, IM's Zhao and Rujevic). In Sydney (4,000,000 people) that number stayed the same (GM Johansen, IM's Solomon, Lane and Xie). What is more troubling is that while the previous couple of opens (Mt Buller, Canberra) have been poorly attended, they have at least provided reasonable prize pools. Of course this resulted in both tournaments running at a loss. The 2008 Australian Championship avoided this trap by reducing the prize money (by almost 50%) but this left first prize for the Championship at $1500. To put this into perspective, this is also the first prize in the O2C Doeberl Cup Under 2000 section. So if Kasparov's argument about prizemoney determining championship status is to be believed, then there is some undervaluing of the Australian Championship going on here.
And this gets me to the core of my argument. There seems to be an acceptance that the Australian Championship can be devalued in some ways (prize money, format) as long as the thing is held. Of course this then becomes a slippery slope where the current format becomes the norm, until it become imperative to lower the bar further.

So to remedy the situation, I think we need to have a look at the whole Championship/Open format .... (To be continued in Pt 2)

Tuesday 5 February 2008

What is a pawn worth?

Apart from the obvious "A pawn is a pawn is a pawn", what is a pawn really worth?
For many years Belconnen Chess Club used to run a "Handicap Allegro". The ratings difference between two opponents determined the material handicap the stronger player had to give up. This could be anything from a pawn up to a queen. The material to rating ratio varied between 100 and 150 points per pawn, without a definite value ever being agreed upon. Even at the lower end (every 100 points equalled a pawn) it was usually one of the higher rated players who won the tournament.
However a study of games played between computer program tends to fix the value at the 100 point mark. The study looked at 400,000 games played between programs and calculated a winning percentage as a function of material advantage. It turned out that the advantage of a pawn resulted in a 64% winning score for the side with the extra material. This is the equivalent of the predicted result of a match between 2 players with a rating difference of 100 points.
Now while I think this relationship is reasonable for a pawn difference, I don't know how valid it is for larger material amounts. I certainly wouldn't feel confident giving Rook odds to a player rated 500 points below me, while I would fancy my chances if the position was reversed.
However in a game between 2 human players other factors come in to play. Indeed IM David Smerdon spent his time between rounds at Street Chess last Saturday giving Emma Guo (last years Australian Girls Champion) Rook odds and beating her easily. The pressure of having the extra material seemed to worry her and she kept dropping material (usually via Bc8-b7xg2 style tricks from Smerdon). It was only when he spotted her 2 rooks that she finally won a game, and even then only by liquidating into a K+P ending (albeit 3 passed pawns up).

Monday 4 February 2008

Miniature of the Month - January

A nice first round win by Pia Cramling at the recently completed Gibraltar Masters.

Cramling,P (2524) - Thomassen,J (2308) [D30]
6th Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar ENG (1), 22.01.2008

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 e6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Nbd2 c5 8.e3 b6 9.Ne4 Bb7 10.Bxf6 gxf6 [ 10...Nxf6?? 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.Qa4+ Kd8 13.Ne5 Qe7 14.dxc5+-] 11.dxc5 bxc5 12.0-0-0 Qb6(D)
13.Rxd7! Kxd7 14.Nxf6+ Kc7 15.Ne5 Bd6?
[ 15...Be7 16.Qf4+=] 16.Nxf7 Rhf8 17.Qxe6+- Rad8 18.Nxd8 Rxd8 19.Bc4 1-0

Canberra Chess season kicks off

With the summer holidays over, chess clubs in Canberra start for the new year (although Belconnen Chess Club started last Friday). The Tuggeranong Chess Club starts tonight (Monday) while the ANU Chess Club begins with a lightning event this Wednesday. Details can be found in the "Canberra Chess Calendar" link on the left of this page.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Mysterious Books

Over the summer I extended my chess library by quite a bit (50 books or so). Over the last week I also reorganised my library, although this was due to having the carpets cleaned and all the bookcases had to be emptied and moved. However this gave me an opportunity to look at some books that had been squirreled away.
One book I found was "Sicilian Defence - Main Line Najdorf" by Jimmy Adams. Now it I don't know whether it is a great book or not (as I haven't read it in depth), but it is a mysterious book. The reason why it is a mysterious book is how it came into my possession.
A number of years ago I opened the front door to my house and there it was, sitting on the porch. It wasn't on its own either, as it came with a couple of other (similar) books. There was no note (or identifying marks) so I have no idea who gave them to me. The only clue is that they were previously part of the University of Sydney's Fisher Library, but they may have passed through many hands since then.
So however you are that gifted me these books, you have my thanks. Although if you (or anyone else) are planning to leave any more books, please note I have changed addresses since, but just drop me a line.

Saturday 2 February 2008

US Tournament Rules

Once your email address gets onto the internet, you end up on a lot of (chess) mailing lists. Usually I "spam list" most of them, but I still look at them occasionally. One email that arrived recently advertised the $10,000 Nashville Open. Now I'm not suggesting anyone from Australia plays in this event (although feel free to do so), but I found some of the tournament regulations interesting.
While the prize pool is $10,000 only $5,000 is guaranteed (as per USCF prize rules). The prize pool is based on 200 entries, and if there is a shortfall, the prize list can be reduced by the proportion of the shortfall (down to $5,000). Of course if there is more than 200 entries, the organisers keep the profit as a reward for running a good tournament.
Free entry is offered for IM's and GM's, but the entry fee they should have paid ($79) is deducted from any prize money they win. The tournament is run in 5 sections, with a $1400 1st Prize in the top section. Interestingly unrated players can either play in the Open section or the U/1600 - Unrated section. If they play in the open they pay full entry and are eligible for full prizes. If they play in the unrated section they pay $49 entry but are only eligible for half the amount of any advertised prize (ie instead of $800 for first they win $400).
And finally each tournament is a 5 round swiss, although they offer 2 day and 3 day schedules. The 3 day schedule is 1 round Friday, 2 rounds Saturday, 2 Rounds Sunday with a time limit of G/120. If you choose the 2 day schedule, then you play 3 rounds on the Saturday with a time limit of G/75 for rounds 1&2 before joining the 3 day tournament in round 3.
Now these are pretty standard tournament rules for the US, but unusual for Australia. While I don't think there are the numbers in Australian chess to support 3 day/2 day split schedules I think that the rules for unrated players are worth trying, and parsimonious tournament organisers may also find the rules about entry fees for titles players appealing.

Friday 1 February 2008

Chessvibes interviews Zong Yuan Zhao

Chessvibes do a lot of video of coverage of various events, including Gibraltar. Here is an interview with Zong Yuan Zhao (and Ian Rogers) just after Zhao finished his Round 9 game.

Chessbase covers the Doeberl Cup

A very nice story covering the O2C Doeberl Cup (and the Sydney International Open and Bangkok Open) is currently on the front page of Edwin Lam, the author, extols the virtues of each of the events, and throws down the challenge to overseas players to become only the 4th non-Australian winner in the 45 year history of the tournament.
If you are planning to enter the Doeberl Cup Premier you better do so fast, with only 20 places in the 80 player field left. For players under 2000 (or over 55) there are other events to play in (Major or Seniors), but if you are neither then you run the risk of missing out on one of the strongest Open events in Australian chess history.
And for those planning to play in the other events, there is only 7 weeks to go before the tournament starts. As entries for all tournament (except the Under 1200) will not be accepted on the day, you should register your entry now to guarantee your spot in the field.