Thursday 31 July 2008

A nice endgame trick

The diagrammed position came from a game at last weekends ANU Open. White had been winning for much of the game, although Black had recovered somewhat after White had lost the exchange to a skewer. This piece of good fortune had impressed Black so much he celebrated it with a double fist pump, although the game was still in progress.
Nonetheless the game eventually ended in a draw, although it shouldn't have. It is White to play in this position. What should he play? (but didn't)

Wednesday 30 July 2008

British Championships

The 2008 British Championships has started in Liverpool. Top seed for the event is GM Gawain Jones, a recent and popular visit to these shores. While missing the absolute top of British Chess the event is still pretty solid with the top 10 seeds rated above 2500 and the next ten above 2400.
The whole event is quite an extravaganza, with 26 separate events being held over the 2 week periods, including events based on rating and age, as well as weekend events and single week events.
Full coverage of the event, including live games, can be found on the Britchess08 website.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

More chess gifts

As I've said in the past, chess players are hard to buy for. The obvious gift of a chess set often doesn't work as anything other than a standard tournament set can be annoying. Chess books are tricky as the ones you find in regular bookshops are pretty basic, and buying from a chess retailer runs the risk of duplicating a previous purchase.
However my wife cam across something that might be suitable, in that it is chess themed, without having real utility. Chess Candles. The ones she showed me were about 30cm tall and you could choose either a King or a Queen. The only drawback is the price (around $100 per piece) so I suggest you avoid trying to buy a whole set.
(NB The link given above is one I've pulled at random. There may be other and better sellers of chess candles in Australia. Just do a search on "Chess Candles" if you wish to find more)

Monday 28 July 2008

ANU Open - Notable performances

There were a number of notable performances at the 2008 ANU Open, especially in regards to the Australian Womens Olympiad Team. The Open attracted quite a strong group of female players with WIM Arianne Caoili, WIM Heather Richards and WIM Narelle Szuveges outnumbering their male counterparts, IM's Smerdon and Toth.
However the best performed Women player was Giang Nguyen (Board 3 for Australia) who finished in 3rd place overall with 5/7. She score 3/4 on the first day and 2/3 on the second with her last round win over FM Brian Jones putting her into the prizes.
Also notable was the performance of Luthien Russell. After her first round win over Dizdarevic she also defeated Leon Kempen and WIM Heather Richards to reach 3.5/5 and a chair at Board 3 in round 6. Two tough defeats in rounds 6 & 7 left her on a score that didn't reflect her performance.
As was to be expected the play of WIM Arianne Caoili attracted a lot of interest. It was her game against Milan Grcic that was a real talking point of the event. Going into a rook and pawn ending 2 pawns up, she made it 3 pawns when Grcic blundered his last pawn during the 10s per move stage of the game. But the pawns were a h pawn and doubled f pawns, and there are positions with R+f+h v R which are drawn. And by the time the game reached the diagrammed position this game was one of them. By pushing the Black king into the corner, Caoili allowed Grcic a stalemate trick based on offering the rook. Caoili refused the offer, but the following occurred.
1...Re6+ 2.Kf4 Re4+ 3.Kg5 Rg4+ 4.Kf6 Rg6+ At this point Arianne tried one last idea to win the game, but it turned the draw into a loss. 5.Ke7?? Rg7+ 6.Ke8 Rxb7 7.f6 Kxh7 8.f7 Rb8+ 9.Ke7 Kg7 0-1

WIM Heather Richards finished alongside on Arianne with 4/7. She started the tournament strongly (including taking the only half point off Smerdon) but a couple of mid tournament losses slowed her down. Hopefully we'll see a lot more of Heather on the Australian tournament scene, as she hopes to be here for the next 4 years while completing an Engineering degree.

Sunday 27 July 2008

2008 ANU Open - Round 7

The 2008 ANU Open has been won by local Canberra player, IM David Smerdon. After ending day 1 with 3.5/4 Smerdon defeated IM Andras Toth, FM Igor Bjelobrk and Ian Rout to finish on 6.5/7. Outright second was taken by another Canberran IM Andras Toth, after he draw his final round game with Endre Ambrus. Toth's 5.5 left him half a point ahead of 5 players on 5. They were FM Igor Bjelobrk (NSW), Endre Ambrus( ACT), Giang Nguyen, Michael Dunn (NSW), and Sam Grigg (QLD). Dunn picked up the prize for bets player rated between 1800-1999 and Sam Grigg won the best Under 1800 prize.
In the Minor Canberra Junior Satya Chitturi also scored 6.5/7 to win this Under 1600 tournament. In outright second on 6 points was the ever popular Phil Bourke, while Sophie Eustace, Alana Chibnall and Andrew Farley finished equal 3rd on 5.5.
The very badly formatted cross tables can be found in the comments section (hint: Copy and paste into an editor and change it to a fixed sized font for better reading).

2008 ANU Open - Round 6

IM David Smerdon won a complicated game against FM Igor Bjelobrk to reach 5.5 points after the 6th round of the 2008 ANU Open. This result left a somewhat fragmented group at the top of the tournament with IM Andras Toth on 5 and Endre Ambrus and Milan Grcic on 4.5. Last round pairings are
  • Smerdon v Rout
  • Ambrus v Toth
  • Grcic v Bjelobrk
  • Sales v Dunn
In the Minor the top board clash between Sophie Eustace and Sathya Chitturi ended in a draw, leaving them in the share of the lead on 5.5/6 Eustace now plays Phil Bourke(5) and Chitturi plays Erik Jochimsen (5) in the final round to determine the destination of the big prizes.

2008 ANU Open - Round 5

One thing that is great about this years event is the players are very committed to the tournament. We've only had 1 "no-show" at the start, and only 1 withdrawal. This commitment was tested this morning with Round 5 starting at 9:30am (although 1 complaint about the start time came from someone who lives 200m from the venue).
Almost every one trooped in on time, which was pretty good considering the late night attractions of the Tour de France and the Canberra party scene.
As for the chess IM David Smerdon took over the "Yellow" by defeating IM Andras Toth on Board 1. Ian Rout's colours were lowered for the first time, losing the FM Igor Bjelobrk on the next board. Further down FM Brian Jones made it two losses in a row for Junta Ikeda, while WIM Arianne Caoili went from winning, to drawing, to tragically losing to Milan Grcic. Luthien Russell scored yet another upser, this time over WIM Heather Richards to move onto the top boards for Round 6.
In the Minor Sophie Eustace and Sathya Chitturi (juniors both) share the lead on 5/5 and their 6th round game may decide that tournament.

Saturday 26 July 2008

2008 ANU Open - Round 4

We've reached the end of a gruelling 4 round day, and IM Andras Toth is the sole leader of the 2008 ANU Open with 4/4. He defeated joint leader from Round 3 FM Igor Bjelobrk to finish half a point ahead of IM David Smerdon and Ian Rout.
Rout's win over Junta Ikeda in Round 4 completed a dream day where he defeated Tamzin Oliver, Arianne Caoili, Junta Ikeda and drew with Endre Ambrus for a performance rating of 2395!
However the big clash was on board 2 with Ambrus getting the better of the opening against Smerdon, and then showing he meant business by knocking back Smerdon's draw offer. The game became incredibly complicated with both sides having multiple passed pawns before Smerdon managed to queen first and win shortly afterwards.
In the Minor Sophie Eustace, Phil Bourke and Sathya Chitturi lead the 57 player field with 4/4.
Crosstables and *provisional* draws for Round 5 can be found in the comments section.

2008 ANU Open - Round 3

After this exciting round there are only 2 players on perfect scores. Ian Rout continued his good form by holding Endre Ambrus to a draw, leaving them both on 2.5/3. Here they were joind by IM David Smerdon and WIM Heather Richards who drew their Round 3 game after Smerdon sacked a piece for 3 pawns, then the exchange (investing a whole rook), but had to bail out with a draw by perpetual. This leaves IM Andras Toth and FM Igor Bjelobrk on 3/3 and playing each other in Round 4.

Smerdon, D (2463) - Richards, H (2150)
2008 ANU Open Round 3, Board 1 26/07/2008

1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.d4 Nc6 6.Bb5 c4 7.Ne5 Nge7 8.Bg5 Qd6 9.Bf4 Qe6 10.0–0 f6 11.Re1 fxe5 12.Rxe5 Qf7 13.Nxd5 Kd8 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bxe7+ Nxe7 16.Bxc4 Be6 17.Qe1 Bxd5 18.Qa5+ b6 19.Bxd5 Nxd5 20.Rxd5+ Kc7 21.Qc3+ Kb7 22.Qb3 Re8 23.a4 Bb4 24.a5 Rhf8 25.f3 Rd8 26.a6+ Kc7 27.Qc4+ Bc5 28.Rxc5+ bxc5 29.Qxc5+ Kb8 30.Qb5+ Kc7 31.Ra5 Rd7 32.Qe5+ Kd8 33.Rb5 Rc7 34.Rb8+ Kd7 35.Qb5+ Ke6 36.Qe5+ Kd7 37.Qb5+ Ke6 38.Qe5+ Kd7 39.Qb5+ ½–½

2008 ANU Open - Round 2

The second round of the ANU Open saw a number of exciting games, and an increased number of upsets. While the biggest upset was Andrew Brown's defeat of Jesse Sales, the most interesting one was the win by ACF Olympiad selector Ian Rout over Olympiad selectee Arianne Caoili. In a rook and pawn ending Ian showed exemplary technique to exchange off the pawns to reach the well known Lucena Position, which he converted without difficulty.
Most of the other top seeds escaped unscathed, although Junta Ikeda was held to a draw by Andrey Bliznyuk.
In the Minor 13 players reached 2/2. Crosstables for both events can be found in the comments section (NB The formatting there is pretty terrible!)

2008 ANU Open - Round 1

The first round of the Open has been completed with 1 upset, 1 semi upset and 1 forfeit. All the top seeds survived unscathed, although the winner of last weeks Geelong Open, Mehmet Dizdarevic, was defeated by Canberra junior Luthien Russell. The minor (with 57 players) also saw most of the top seeds triumphant, although there were a couple of upsets on the lower boards.

Smerdon,D - Grcic,M [C02]
ANU Open, 26.07.2008

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Bd3 Bd7 7.0-0 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nxd4 9.Nbd2 Ne7 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qb6 12.Ng5 g6 13.Qf3 Nf5 14.g4 Nh6 15.Qf6 Rg8 16.Nxh7 Qd4 (D)
17.Nxf8 Qxg4+ 18.Kh1 Nf5 19.f3 Qh3 20.Nxd7 Rh8 21.Rf2 Ng3+ 22.Kg1 Kxd7 23.Qxf7+ Kc6 24.Rc2+ 1-0

2008 ANU Open - Round 0

The 2008 ANU Open is underway, with a surprisingly large field of 95 players. This is the second largest field in the tournaments history (after the even 100 who played in 2000), and is an increase of 32(!) players over last year.
The Open section has 38 players with the top seeds being IM David Smerdon, IM Andras Toth, FM Igor Bjelobrk, and Endre Ambrus. A trio of WIM's are also taking part, Arianne Caoili, Heather Richards and Narelle Szuveges. Caoili and Szuveges were actually paired together in the first round.
More updates and photos as the day progresses (and time permits).

Friday 25 July 2008

2008 ANU Chess Festival Simul

IM David Smerdon kicked off the 2008 ANU Chess Festival with a simul in the centre of Canberra today. Taking on 17 pretty serious opponents Smerdon scored 15 wins and only conceded 2 draws. The two drawing players were Ian Hosking and junior player Emma Guo. Both of those players received prizes from the event sponsor, the ANU Co-Op Bookshop.
The simul attracted quite a crowd, with David even bringing along a cheer squad from his work (although as the event was held outside a pub, they may been there anyway!). The simul was not just a test of intelligence, but also a test of stamina, as the temperature was positively Arctic, with worm warm clothes being almost as important as strong moves.
Apart from the picture to the right, more photos from the simul can be seen at

Thursday 24 July 2008

Time to slow down?

(WARNING: This one goes on a bit)

When I began playing chess Australian players with FIDE ratings were very small. This made getting one a real status symbol and I knew a few players who went to extraordinary lengths to get one. Although FIDE have made it much easier to earn a FIDE rating, and large numbers of players now have them, there is still a sense of importance attached to them. It is this sense of importance that is leading some event organisers to make the deliberate decision to have FIDE rated weekenders, even if this reduces the number of rounds etc
This may result in Australian chess coming full circle, in terms of the format of weekend events. To explain ....
Until the 1990's most Australian weekenders had time controls of 40 moves in 90 minutes (or 40 in 100) which meant that 5 rounds were normally the maximum number of rounds that could be held over 2 days. At an Albury Weekender in the early 90's(?) Darryl Johansen remarked in his winners speech that he liked the tournament but it was a shame there weren't more rounds. Subsequently myself (and then others) began to organise tournaments with time controls of G/60 minutes (with analog clocks), and G/60+10s per move (when DGT clocks arrived). This meant that an event could have 6 or 7 rounds over a 2 day weekend. However the clear drawback with this time control is that the quality of chess suffers. And I suspect that the higher rated players would prefer longer time controls.
So this feeds back into the idea of FIDE Rating weekenders. As the fastest time control for a FIDE rated tournament is 90m+30s per move, the top end of the tournament gets both a reasonable time control, and the importance of FIDE rating points. Of course for 2 day events we are back to the problem of having enough rounds.
One solution is to hold a 2 day tournament over 3 days! A FIDE rated top section with 6 rounds could have a Friday night round, 3 rounds on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Indeed this is a common format in the UK, and probably elsewhere. Unfortunately Australia isn't the size of a postage stamp (like England) and having to travel 300km or more on a Friday afternoon may not appeal. Therefore the organisers should offer byes for the Friday night game. Again there may be a problem in that such byes are usually half point byes and giving up half a point may not appeal to someone who has ambitions of fnishing in the prize list.
So my final format suggestion is to choose an arbitrary cut off (say 2000) and anyone who takes a first round bye with a rating above that gets a full point bye, while below that is a half point bye. The question is would everyone above 2000 just take a full point bye and not make the effort to travel early, or even if they could play on Friday, decide to pocket the point.
So to summarise ...
FIDE Rated Weekender
  • Time Control: 90m+30s per move
  • Schedule: 1 round Friday, 3 Rounds Saturday, 2 Rounds Sunday
  • Requested Byes: First Round - Full point for players over 2000, half point for everyone else. Half point byes only for all other rounds

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Computer generated annotations

When chess programs became stronger, and "cleverer", there was a mania for Computer Generated Annotations (CGA). Using the "Annotate Game" feature of Fritz, Hiarcs etc, you could get the program to annotate a game, using such cheerful expressions as "this doesn't get the bull off the ice". I haven't heard about it so much in recent years, although there was a session devoted to CGA at the 2006 Computer Chess conference held alongside the Turin Olympiad. Talking to David Levy at the tournament he said the real problem was deciding when to say something, and when to say nothing.
One early example of CGA was the "Fritzification" of Fischer's 60 Memorable Games. I found a copy of it on the net, and as it doesn't contain any of Fischer's notes, I would be surprised if anyone tried to assert copyright over it. This version was done with Fritz 5 (thinking time of 90s per move) and is probably an example of why the fad died out. Here is the famous Byrne-Fischer game from the 1963 US Championship, with all the brilliance and elan sucked right out of it.

Byrne,R - Fischer,R
ch-USA, 1963
[Fritz 5.00 (90s)]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Nc3 out of book 6...Bg7 7.e3 0-0 8.Nge2 Nc6 9.0-0 b6 10.b3 Ba6 11.Ba3 Re8 12.Qd2 e5 13.dxe5 d5 draws heavy fire 13...Nxe5 14.Rfd1 Increasing the pressure on the isolated pawn on d5 14...Nd3 15.Qc2 -/+ [ 15.Nd4!?= should be investigated more closely] 15...Nxf2! retaining the advantage 16.Kxf2 Ng4+ 17.Kg1 Nxe3 18.Qd2 Nxg2 19.Kxg2 d4 20.Nxd4 Bb7+ 21.Kf1 Qd7 Threatening mate: Qh3[ 21...Qd7 22.Kg1 Bxd4+ 23.Qxd4 Re1+ 24.Kf2 Qxd4+ 25.Rxd4 Rxa1-+] 0-1

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Open Source Openings

It is fair to say that long before Open Source Software came along, chess embraced the open source philosophy. As there was (and is) no copyright over chess games, anyone was free to use the ideas of other players, once they had been made public. Of course players develop new moves in openings, and keep them secret, but they have to be played at some point, at which they become the property of everyone.
Just the other day I was lamenting the fact that I think one of the key lines of the Traxler may well be busted. The line in question is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kf1 Qe7 7.Nxh8 d5 8.exd5 Bg4 (This is an alternative to 8. ... Nd4 and is considered just as good) 9.Be2 Bxe2+ 10.Qxe2 Nd4 and now 11.Qd3 seems hard to meet. This occurred in a game I played recently. To my horror I couldn't find a convincing reply, and ideas like 11. ... Qf8 are met by 12.Qa3! So I "rolled the dice" with 11. ... e4 and fortunately my opponent failed to find the follow up and I won fairly quickly. The person I was discussing this with suggested I keep 11.Qd3 a secret, in the hope that no-one else would find it.
There are 2 problems with this. Firstly, every time I played this line I would live in fear that this would be the game where I get found out. And more importantly, maybe someone else has found this move, and the correct follow up for Black. And I guess that is what I am hoping for. Is there any analysis out there on 11.Qd3 and is the variation still playable for Black?

Monday 21 July 2008

One of these things is not like the other

On the right are two positions. In both cases it is White to play and win. Of course the first thing that stands out is how similar they are. And this may lead you to think that the same idea works on both problems. Now maybe it does and maybe it doesn't (I'm not saying).
What I am also interested in with these positions is the effect that solving one has on solving the other. The second position was included in a recent issue of ChessToday and was composed by Philip Stamma in 1792. I had seen the first position previously (it may well have also been a Stamma composition) and used by knowledge of it to try and solve the second one.
However it was clear to me that solving the first position affected my attempts to solve the second one. So the survey question is Did solving the first position make it easier or harder to solve the second position?

Sunday 20 July 2008

1 Week to ANU Open

Only a week to go to the ANU Open, and the field will certainly bigger than last year. The deadline for discounted entries saw 62 players entered for both events (Open and Under 1600), and as last years tournament had 63 players I am safe in assuming more the 1 player will enter during the next week.
At the moment the size of the respective fields are almost identical to last years event, with almost twice as many players in the Minor (Under 1600) as in the Open. What is worth mentioning though, is that last years open was exceptionally strong with 9 titled players in the field of 26, and the top 5 seeds all rated above 2400! With the influx of strong players to Canberra in the last couple of years there will be a number of locals contributing to the top half of this years field.
The Chess Festival kicks off on Friday, with IM David Smerdon conducting a Simul in City Walk, Canberra City. The simul starts at 12:15pm and anyone who defeats or draws with David will win a book voucher from the ANU Co-Op Bookshop.

Saturday 19 July 2008

3,2,1,0 Lift-Off

From the fertile mind of Stewart Reuben comes a report of a different scoring system used in a recent Romanian tournament. Instead of 1, 1/2, 0 it awarded 3 points for a win and 0 points for a loss. In the case of a drawn game "Armageddon Blitz" was used. White had 5 minutes while Black had 4 minutes. If White won they would get 2 points (and Black 1) while if Black won or drew, they would receive the 2 points (and White 1).
In his report Stewart remarked that the system worked without controversy or complaint. There were a couple of organisational issues with it (such as finding a separate area for the blitz replays) and the role of the arbiter in managing Blitz games.
This latter comment is interesting in that the role of the arbiter is somewhat reduced in blitz chess, bot by custom and by rule. The principal of letting the players sort it out themselves is usually followed, and only the most egregious rule breaches result in arbiter intervention. However in the case of the tournament being discussed, games of blitz don't exist as a separate entity but impact on the results and standings of a "proper" tournament. This has lead Stuart to observe "It is clear to me the FIDE Laws for blitz are inadequate for an event where there is adequate supervision and the games are important". He goes on to state the the laws of blitz should be amended to include the following: "Where there is adequate supervision of a blitz game, the arbiter shall intervene if he believes commonsense suggests an irregularity should be corrected."
I can already hear the howls of outrage from legions of blitz "specialists" but given the drive towards introducing Armageddon playoffs maybe such a rule change becomes necessary.

Friday 18 July 2008


As a child I had a catholic education, although I have recovered from it now. As part of this education we were read lots of parables, memories of which I long ago suppressed. But one parable I did remember was the Parable of the Workers in the Field. The basic gist of it is a vineyard owner goes out in the morning to higher some workers for the day. They agree to a price and the workers get to work. Later in the day he hires some more workers (at the same price), and even later hires some more. At the end of the day everyone gets paid the same (agreed) amount, even though some worked longer than others. Much moaning is heard from all day workers, but to no avail as a deal is a deal. Indeed the vineyard owner twists the knife a little bit by stating "Are you envious because I am generous?"
I often think of this parable when I see the interaction between chess players and tournament organisers. Any perceived unequal treatment usually results in somone from the "have-nots" having a whinge about how unfair it all is. One example was the provision of tea/coffee for titled players at this years Doeberl Cup. I suspect if everyone had to pay for coffee then their would have been no complaints, but by providing free coffee to a small group of players (as part of their overall tournament conditions) was somehow a slap in the face of the hard working chess players of this country.
So is there such things as bad incentives to play in a chess tournament? Is something more than a basic prize fund and a good venue somehow damaging to the success of a tournament? Because based on comments to me and comments I've read elsewhere there is a group of players who probably think so.
Oh for the chessplayer who wants to play for the simple enjoyment of the game!

Thursday 17 July 2008


The heading to this post stands for "It's A Game Of Chess Out There" and was a popular topic in the Chess Addict column in Chess Monthly. It is kind of like trainspotting for chess players, in that every time you hear a commentator covering another sport use that expression (or something like it) you score yourself a point.
Well after watching the Tour de France every night for the last week and a half I scored my point yesterday evening. Phil Liggett remarked "It is a like a chess game. Evans has to watch every move made by his rivals. And then try and put them in check". Certainly colourful, and even reasonably applicable.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

A Tragedy in 3 Acts

The first round of a swiss tournament usually involves the top half demonstrating to the bottom half why they are in the bottom half. Of course there are a couple of upsets just to give people something to talk about, but the above script is normally followed.
But the first round of the ANU Winter Swiss definitely didn't follow the script. There were a number of upsets, and the results of a number of games were decided by single (bad) moves.
The Bronze Medal went to the game where in a drawn position one player missed the only threat his opponent had by allowing his Queen to be pinned against his King.
The Silver Medal was earned when excellent play saw the lower rated player emerge an exchange up with nothing left on the board except RvB (plus pawns for both sides). All that was left was to clean up a few stray pawns, but unfortunately the first move in the plan placed his Rook on the same diagonal as his King allowing a Bishop fork.
But the Gold went to the game shown in the diagram. White had been doing all the attacking, and triumphantly concluded the game by playing Rf8+. Black looked at the board, looked at the opponent, and then reached out his hand to .... Resign! "Can't stop that" he remarked. Watching the game I was also caught up in the mass delusion as it took me 30 seconds to realise (and point out) that Rxf8 just wins a Rook for Black.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

But tactics is easier

The attached (constructed) position came up during my weekly chess study group. The author of the position had shown it to a group of junior Canberra players and coaches and asked them what was the correct reply after white plays 1.h3 He was surprised that the most popular choice by far was simply to play 1. ... gxh3 He wasn't sure whether they had missed 2.Kh2 or that they simply hadn't conceived that by keeping the King and Knight trapped in the corner they were effectively a piece ahead.
Attempting to explain this kind of tactical 'group-think' I suggested that most of the kids had been coached to look at tactics first, and positional play later. The reasoning for this is that the outcome of tactics is easy to quantify (even for 6 year olds) while positional compensation is a far more abstract concept. While he agreed with the explanation he still felt that this means that Australian chessplayers may reach a certain level through tactical ability, but won't go beyond it due to a lack of a deeper chess "understanding".

Monday 14 July 2008

Chess in Port Moresby

The Papua New Guinea Chess Federation organised a successful one-day event in Port Moresby on the weekend. The tournament attracted more than 40 players, and even made the sport section of the local papers (Click here for the story).
This tournament (and future events) is part of a strategy to increase playing numbers in the South Pacific. Working with the Asian Confederation, officials like Stuart Fancy and Gary Bekker, are organising the distribution of sets to schools, clubs and federations in Oceania, as well as receiving Confederation funds to support tournaments (such as the Fiji Zonal).
BTW If you happen to be in Port Moresby and are looking for a game, there is a regular chess group that meets at the Round House Restaurant in Boroko, from 1:30pm on Saturday afternoons.

Sunday 13 July 2008

An interesting prison

While kibitzing at Street Chess yesterday I spied the following position. With White to move (as it was) the bishop is helpless against the advance of the b pawn. And so it turned out. White pushed the pawn and eventually the bishop has to sacrifice itself. Oddly enough Black waited for this by shuffling his king between f8 and g8, so when the Black captured the pawn on b7, the king was on g8, resulting in the knight returning to d6 before the King could escape via e8.
I'm not sure that this was deliberate, as when White executed the second part of the winning plan (by marching the king to e7), Black had exchanged the h pawns, and set a couple of stalemate tricks (eg King on h7 when White could promote on f8 (f8(Q) or f8(R) would stalemate). However White kept his head and wasted a move so that f8(Q) was a check, soon followed by mate.

Saturday 12 July 2008

A free pairing program

Looking for a free pairing program to handle small (less than 30 player) tournaments. Today a friend of mine told me about one such program. Called Vega, it is free to download and use, and runs under both windows and Linux.
The fact that it runs under Linux has two benefits. Firstly, it runs under Linux, and secondly, the 30 player restriction doesn't apply to the Linux version. This is because the development environment is free and therefore developers do not incur purchasing costs. I've seen this pricing model used for other software as well (eg If I have to buy Microsoft Visual Studio to write my software I will charge the end user, while developing for Linux will result in no such cost), and I'm all for it.
As for the software itself it looks pretty good (based on 20 minutes of use). A nice GUI interface makes entering details of players pretty easy, and producing the draw is just a single click. Modifying pairings is fairly straight forward, although a little more round-about than swiss perfect.
It seems to be developed in Italy, meaning it is tailored to the Italian Chess Federation but it does support FIDE/USCF reporting. Also it uses the Dubov system by default, and supports the Lim System (which was the system prior to current Dutch System).
As I've just discovered it I won't make this review a 'recommendation', especially as I'm trying to get the 'late entry of players' functionality to work properly, but I'm sure this can be solved by me reading the downloadable user manual.

Friday 11 July 2008

How much is too much?

For my first couple of years as editor of the Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly, I didn't actually play any CC. I'd played previously, but having taken on editing duties, I suddenly found myself without the practical experience that should go with the job. So recently I got back into 'Net' chess, as previously described on this blog.
Now my tournaments of choice are Thematic events, where the game starts with a set position. I enjoy this as it allows me to work on openings I think are important, or fun. So the other day I signed up for two such events. Now these events start when the field is full, and I figured that they may start a week apart, so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. However my calculations were a little out and I woke up this morning to find I had 24 new games requiring my attention. Too be honest I think this is a little much!
However I did choose the tournaments based on the openings so I may be able to cope. The first is the Ryder Gambit in the Blackmar-Diemer (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3) Personally I feel it is unsound for White (After 5. ... Qxd4 6.Be3 Qg4 I'm not seeing the compensation), but to be a sport I haven't chosen that line in all my Black games.
The other tournament is a Traxler (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5!!) which I'm on record as stating is "a forced win for Black". So here my dilemma is that to win the tournament I need to win some games with White, which then contradicts my previous statement. Of course if I look at it from a "glass half full" point of view, I can regard any losses with the White pieces as destiny, rather than any shortcomings on my part!

Thursday 10 July 2008

The Worlds Strongest Amateur

I was discussing the future chess career of GM Zong Yuan Zhao with a couple of fellow players last week, and suggested he very well may become the worlds strongest amateur. By that I mean a player who makes his main living not from chess (or chess related activities such as writing or coaching), but still plays at 2600+
In reply IM Andras Toth stated that that title had already been taken, suggesting Hungarian GM Peter Acs as the most likely claimant. Mathew Sadler was another named mentioned in conversation, although G. Kasparov was not.
Any other suggestions? And does the criteria I have given above adequately describe an "amateur" but not necessarily a "player"?

Here is a game from 2002 when Peter Acs was still a professional player, and carried the reputation of a "drunken machine-gunner"

Van Wely,L (2681) - Acs,P (2591) [E48]
Essent Crown Hoogeveen NED (6), 19.10.2002

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nge2 Re8 8.0-0 Bd6 9.a3 Ng4 10.h3 Nh2!(D)
11.Re1 Nf3+!! 12.gxf3 Qg5+ 13.Kh1 Qh4 14.Nf4 Bxh3 15.Ncxd5 Re6 16.Nxe6 Bf5+ 17.Kg1 Qh2+ 18.Kf1 Bg3!! 0-1

Wednesday 9 July 2008

The Unmoveable King

Here is a little problem to fill in some spare minutes (hours?). Can White force checkmate?
Easy you say. However there is one stipulation. The White King cannot be moved (ie it must remain on c3). So now it becomes harder. If the answer to the question is "Yes, White can still force checkmate" then how do you do it?

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Successful Olympiad Fundraiser

The ACT Junior Chess League ran a very successful Olympiad Fundraiser today, with over $1100 being raised for the 2008 Australian Olympiad team. 105 players took part in a 10 round allegro tournament (G/15), with lucky door prizes and the ever popular pizza lunch on offer.
The tournament was won by top seed Edward Xing who won all 10 of his games. Yijun Zhang finished 2nd on 8.5 and Sathya Chitturi was third on 8.
I spectated the early rounds and got to witness a couple of interesting stalemates (as you do in these events). And apart from a couple of spectators who thought it was OK to provide advice to other players, it seemed that everyone was (a) well behaved and (b) quite confident in using chess clocks and following the rules. So hopefully these kind of events aren't just about raising funds for the current Olympiad team, but will also create a chess "culture" that will see future teams adequately supported as well.

Monday 7 July 2008

Smerdon cleans up in Adelaide

International Master David Smerdon was the comprehensive victor of the 2008 Freytag Open held in Adelaide over the weekend. Smerdon started with 6 wins before drawing his final game with fellow Canberran IM Andras Toth. In what is a good sign for the upcoming Olympiad, Smerdon defeated IM's Sandler, Rujevic, and GM Darryl Johansen.
In equal second were GM's Dejan Antic and Johansen, as well as IM Toth. Antic defeated IM George Xie in the final round to reach 5.5/7, with Johansen defeating Rujevic in Round 7 to do likewise.
The win by Smerdon will no doubt be a confidence booster, as only last week he confessed that he had "gone off chess a little bit", although this can probably be attributed to the hectic social whirl of Canberra living.

Sunday 6 July 2008

Chess Jokes

I was asked the other day whether there were any jokes about chess. "Sure" I replied, "but I'm not sure that they're that funny". The only one I did recall is the notorious "chess nuts" joke, but my friend did at least find it amusing. So I did a quick search for "chess jokes" and as I expected, I didn't find that many. But here they are anyway (just click on the links)

Saturday 5 July 2008

2008 ANU Open Entry Forms

Entry forms for the 2008 ANU Open are now available online. The web page with all the tournament information is here, or you can download the entry form directly.

Friday 4 July 2008

Did I invent something new?

Following on from the post concerning playing while sick, here is the second game played last Wednesday evening. It was against former Australian Girls Champion Emma Guo, and this is at least the third game between us that I've posted to this blog. I suspect this is because we have very similar playing styles, and a fairly similar opening repertoire so the games tend to be exciting (although often drawn).
The game started off with my usual transposition tricks (Sicilian Grand Prix until I switched back to the Open at move 5), but on move 7 I decided to try something different. This I guess is one of the side-effects of playing when ill, as Malcom Tredinnick presciently observed in a comment to the last post. Indeed I can remember thinking "What the heck" before moving my g pawn 2 squares. The game then went up, down and all-around as I won a pawn, dropped the exchange, launched a mating attack, and finally drew by perpetual. What was the most amazing thing however, was when I fed it into Chessbase it told me that 7.g4 was a novelty! Whether it is a good novelty might be for others to say, but certainly Fritz didn't find an outright refutation. So unless someone can point to an earlier game with 7.g4 I'm claiming precedence.

Press,S - Guo,E [B47]
ANU Winter Rapid Canberra, 02.07.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.f4 a6 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Qc7(D)
[ RR 7.a3 d6 ( RR 7...b5 8.Be3 Bb7 9.Be2 Na5 10.0-0 Nc4 11.Bxc4 Qxc4 12.Nb3 Qc6 13.Bd4 Nf6 14.Be5 Qb6+ 15.Bd4 Qc7 16.Be5 Qb6+ ½-½ O'Kelly de Galway,A-Filip,M/Vienna 1961/EXT 98 (16)) 8.Nb3 Nf6 9.Bd3 Be7 10.Qf3 Nd7 11.0-0 Bf6 12.Bd2 Nd4 13.Nxd4 Bxd4+ 14.Kh1 Nc5 15.Rac1 0-0 16.b4 Nxd3 17.cxd3 Qd8 18.Ne2 Bb6 19.f5 e5 20.Qh5 f6 21.Rf3 Qe8 Kortschnoi,V-Averbakh,Y/Tbilisi 1959/URS-ch/0-1 (43);
RR 7.Nxe6 dxe6 8.Bd3 b5 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Bd2 Be7 11.a3 Rc8 12.0-0 Nf6 13.e5 Nd5 14.Ne4 f5 15.exf6 Nxf6 16.Ng5 0-0 17.Kh1 Bc5 18.Rae1 Bd4 19.Bc1 Rce8 20.c3 Ba7 21.Qc2 h6 Adams,M-Stefansson,H/Istanbul 2000/EXT 2001/1-0 (27);
RR 7.Nb3 d6 8.Bd3 ( RR 8.a4 b6 9.Be3 Nf6 10.g4 h6 11.Bg2 Bb7 12.Qe2 Nb4 13.0-0-0 Rc8 14.Rhe1 Be7 15.Rd2 Nd7 16.Red1 g5 17.Bd4 Rg8 18.f5 Ne5 19.Bxe5 dxe5 20.Qf3 h5 21.Rf2 Qc6 22.Qg3 Bf6 Walther,E-Matulovic,M/Zuerich 1961/MCD/1-0 (37)) 8...Nf6 9.0-0 Be7 10.Qf3 0-0 11.Bd2 Nb4 12.Kh1 Nxd3 13.cxd3 Bd7 14.Rac1 Bc6 15.Nd4 Qb6 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.b3 Rac8 18.f5 exf5 19.Qxf5 Qd4 20.Bg5 Qe5 21.Na4 Qxf5 Nevednichy,V-Pavlovic,G/Zlatibor SRB 2007/The Week in Chess 668/1-0 (37)] 7...Nf6 8.g5 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 [ 9.gxf6 Qc5] 9...Nh5 10.Qf2 [ 10.Qc4!] 10...Bc5 11.Qh4 g6 12.Be2 b5 13.Bxh5 gxh5 14.Qxh5 Bb7 15.Qe2 b4 16.Nd1 d5 17.exd5? [ 17.e5] 17...Bxd5 18.Rf1 Bc4! I didn't see this coming! 19.Qe4 Rd8 20.Be3 Bxf1 21.Kxf1 Bxe3 An unnecessary exchange. Now my knight quickly heads for the weak squares around the Black king. 22.Nxe3 0-0? Now I go close to forcing mate! 23.Ng4 f5 24.gxf6 [ 24.Qxe6+ Kh8 25.Ne5 Qxc2 is a complicated line that probably draws.] 24...Qd7?! [ 24...Kh8! 25.Re1 h5 beats off the attack.] 25.f7+! Kg7 Only move [ 25...Kxf7 26.Ne5+;
25...Rxf7 26.Nh6+ Kg7 27.Nxf7 Qxf7±] 26.Qe5+ Kxf7 [ 26...Kg6 27.Qf6+ Kh5 28.Qg5#] 27.Nh6+ Ke8 28.Qh5+ Ke7 29.Qg5+ Ke8 30.Qh5+ ½-½

Thursday 3 July 2008

Playing while sick

"I've never beaten a healthy opponent" is an old,old joke. On the other hand I feel I've been lucky with my health, as I very rarely play chess while sick. Unfortunately that healthy streak came to an end this week as I came down with a case of the flu, for the first time in my life. However, in an effort to confirm my wife's belief in where my priorities really lie, I dragged myself off the the chess club to play the final two rounds of the ANU Winter Rapid.
Treating the experience as some kind of experiment I discovered a couple of interesting facts
  1. Calculating width seems to suffer more than calculation depth (ie I could see single track lines, but not wider alternatives)
  2. I was only seeing my ideas, but not my opponents.
  3. Remembering opening theory is a whole lot harder.
  4. It's easy to rush headlong to your doom
Here is the first game I played last night. I thought I was doing OK until about move 20, but then the game got away from me, and towards the end I was proving point 4 quite effectively, even missing a drawing line and getting mated instead.

Mathews,P - Press,S [C55]
ANU Winter Rapid Canberra, 02.07.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qf5 11.Nce4 Bf8 12.Nxe6 fxe6(D)
13.f7+ Kxf7 14.Ng5+ Kg8 15.Nxe6 Bb4 16.Bd2 Bd6 17.c3 d3 18.b3 Ne5 19.Nd4 Qf7 20.bxc4 Qxc4 21.Qh5 g6 22.Qg5 Nf7 23.Qf6 Bf8 24.Ne6 Re8 25.Re3 Nd6 26.Rae1 Nf5 27.Rf3 Bg7 28.Nxg7 Nxg7 29.Rxe8+ Nxe8 30.Qf8# 1-0

Wednesday 2 July 2008

ANU Go Club

While in the circles I move Chess is the No. 1 game, apparently there are other games that people like to play. One such game is Go, and if you live in Canberra, the place to play is at the ANU Go Club. The ANU Go Club has recently moved venue, and now plays alongside the ANU Chess Club on Wednesday nights. Both clubs meet on the 4th floor of the Asian Studies Building at the Australian National University (just go to google maps and type 'ANU Chess Club' to get directions). The Go club meets at 6:30pm to 10:00 pm, while the Chess Club starts at 7:30pm. They welcome players of all standards and are especially keen to introduce new players to the game.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

ACTCA concern grows

The current state of the ACT Chess Association is becoming an increasing concern within the ACT chess community. The unclear legal status of the current committee (and by extension the Association itself) is impacting on other chess activities in Canberra. For a number of years the ACTCA has been successful in receiving regular government funding, which has been used to fund both senior and junior activities. Unfortunately this source of funds has dried up as either the ACTCA hasn't applied for funding, or failed to acquit the funds received in previous years. This shortage of funds has particularly affected the ACT Junior Chess League, who has used government funding to subsidise training programs and to assist ACT players selected to represent Australia. Due to government requirements, funding applications must come from the parent body within the Territory, meaning that the ACTJCL depends upon a functioning ACTCA.
The ACTJCL has now written to the ACTCA asking it to clarify it's own legal status, and to indicate when an Annual General Meeting is likely to be held. I'm not sure when a reply will be received as previous attempts to get answers from the ACTCA President have been met with silence.
*For those who came in late (as they say in The Phantom) it is worth reading this post I made after last years ACTCA AGM, including the comments posted after it.