Sunday 31 August 2008

The most awesome chess book ever

This morning my wife finished reading her latest Mills&Boon, and at the back she discovered a blurb for their next awesome blockbuster. She insisted on sharing it with me.

74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber
Teri Polgar is living a life she couldn't have dreamed of a few years ago. But she fears her famous chess champion husband Bobby, is hiding something - he says he is "protecting his queen" though she knows it's not the chess he's talking about, but her.

Just for shear kitsch value I am going to hunt this book down (probably at the checkout of my local supermarket) and add it to my collection of chess books. Will I read it? Probably not but people have dared me to do dumber things.

(*Disclaimer: I have no connection with the Mills&Boon publishing company. Believe me, absolutely no connection at all *)

The circular argument of the day

"You only criticise me because you don't like me"
"What evidence do you have to support that?"
"Because if you liked me, you wouldn't criticise me"

Saturday 30 August 2008

The virtue of castling

One of the overlooked observations of the late CJS Purdy was that one aim of the opening was to create open files for you rooks. Obviously part of this strategy is to castle ('Castle early, castle often'). And when you don't castle, bad things can happen!

Friday 29 August 2008

A couple of new websites

Over the last 6 months I've registered on so many chess related websites that I've begun to lose track of which ones they are. Some are sites I intend to use frequently (eg, some infrequently ( and some hardly at all (
Here are 2 more websites, which you can check out at your leisure.
The first is For a long time this site barely did justice to its prime net position, but over the last year it underwent a revamp. It is a hybrid game/information site, and at this stage I tend to use the latter service. You search on chess services (clubs, coaches, tournaments) that are near you, and it also has a calendar of events, which I've used to publicise Street Chess. It supports both turn based chess (think CC) as well as 'live' chess (think FICS), although the latter is buggy and comes with a health warning. Click on the button to visit.

Play Chess Online!
The second site that I've just discovered is It advertises itself as the first web 2.0 chess portal. At this stage I've checked out the front page, which looks nice, but have yet to register. When I do I'll bring you more news.

Thursday 28 August 2008

ACT Chess Championship completed

A couple of months ago I posted about "A surprise ACT Championship" Well not only was the start of the tournament a surprise to some, the finish has been a surprise also. In fact the event was completed 3 weeks ago, but the results were not widely disseminated. Although a couple of people had mentioned to me that they thought if finished in a 4 way tie, there was no official release of the results from the organisers. I only found out yesterday what the full results were, when someone said that one of the players had passed them on to Ian Rout, who had placed them here.
So a belated congratulation to Allen Setiabudi, Mos Ali, Justin Chow and Bill Sargent, who finished equal first on the 2008 ACT Championship.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Is it acceptable to beat your children?

Both my children are occasional chess players, so I was surprised when my daughter insisted we play a game. Of course this request was timed to conflict with me having to do something else, in this case, cook dinner. So as to carry out both tasks at the same time, I offered to play blindfold, ie she would call out the moves she played and I would call out the replies. Sadly for her the game was pretty short.

1.f4 A mistake already 1...e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.Nf3 dxe5 4.Nxe5 Bd6 5.Ng4 Bxg4 6.h3 Bg3# 0-1
I did feel a little guilty in winning so quickly, although she was happy to play another game, but she asked we not play "shout out" chess. In the second game, with me having sight of the board, she even reached a middlegame that was slightly better for her, although she became bored with it all and resigned.
As for the dinner, it wasn't quite up to my usual standard, so maybe chess and cooking don't quite go together.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Fear and Loathing

The conflict between the Australian Chess Federation and the ACT Junior Chess League that I referenced here, has been resolved. Through sensible negotiation, through the willingness to see both sides of the story, or even through simple organisational competence? Sadly, no. It was resolved by the personal payment by former ACT Junior Chess League President Libby Smith, of the outstanding moneys. She certainly did not have to do this, but I suspect it was done because she didn't want the flourishing ACT junior chess scene hobbled by the ACF's willingness to use threats against the participation of ACT junior players in national and international events. That she would cough up almost $2000 of her own money, and that the ACF is happy to use junior players as a bargaining chip, says a lot about both parties.
Interestingly enough I had quite a long conversation a couple of days ago with an (unnamed) ACF council member on this very issue. The conversation was off the record, so no names or direct quotes (and to protect the person concerned). Nonetheless I drew a couple of interesting conclusions from the conversation.
Probably the clearest one is that members of the ACF council seem quite afraid to release information. In the case of this issue, the ACTJCL had requested past information of the Schools levy, in order to put forward their case. The ACF refused to provide any information, even down to the people who voted for or against various motions on this matter. (Apparently the ACTJCL was told "privacy concerns"). Various other communications from the ACF have included such caveats concerning whether the issue can be discussed as there hasn't been ACF "permission" to talk about it.
(Indeed to sidetrack slightly, my own questions concerning this remained unanswered, although a lively discussion did begin on the identity of various anon posters. My own identity was clearly hidden in plain sight).
It is not clear why the ACF wishes to hide away as much information as possible, but my own theory (based on my conversation with anon ACF official) is that are scared about who actually will get the information, and what they will do with it.
The other conclusion from the conversation I drew (and from this whole affair) is one of basic managerial competence. Is it possible that the ACF can say "We have managed this issue in the best possible way"? To me clearly not. One of the points of contention was that the ACTJCL submitted a letter to the ACF on the 25 April 2006, and received no official response until just recently. However it apparently was discussed by ACF officials soon after it was received, although there was no communication with the ACTJCL.
Nonetheless there apparently was a willingness on the ACF's part to negotiate this, although it was revealed to me the process was simply to ask the ACTJCL to present a figure (which was rejected) and then ask for another figure (which was again rejected). At no stage did the ACF attempt to offer a compromise above and beyond "Give us the money or your junior players get punished".
The other concern in this area is that of ACF finances and auditing. As this is an outstanding payment I would have assumed that the auditor would have queried the treasurer about the debt recovery process. Organisations just can't keep debts like this on their balance sheets, without making an effort to collect them. And yet it took a couple of years before the ACF got around to making any effort to receive payment. The problem with the finances from Mt Buller was another example of lax financial management of the ACF.
So the ACF has received their money from a process that a former ACF President described as "not thought through" and "full of loopholes". A process that in part came about through the desire of some at the 2001 ACF National Conference to minimise the amount of money that the Schools levy would provide to the ACF.
And somehow I think this sums up the issue. Those who wished to do as little as possible for the growth of Australian chess ended up punishing those who tried to do as much as possible.

(* Disclaimer: I am paid by the ACT Junior Chess League for coaching services *)

Monday 25 August 2008

2008 Dato Arthur Tan Malaysian Chess Festival - Final Results

Chinese GM Chao Li has won this event with 9/11. GM Zhang Zong (SIN) finished second on 8.5, ahead of a group of players on 8. Of the large Australian contingent, FM Igor Goldenberg was the best scorer with 6.5. A full crosstable is here.

Zhao leads in Brazil

Australian GM Zong Yuan Zhao is currently leading the 2nd Euwe Stimulans Tournament in Brazil, with 2 wins in the first 2 rounds. Zhao is the 2nd seed for the event, behind GM Gilberto Milos (BRA), and the field contains players from every continent, with the exception of Africa. Originally IM Robert Gwaze from Zimbabwe was to also play, but visa difficulties forced his last minute withdrawal. Click on this link for the tournament crosstable.

Sunday 24 August 2008

The Mythology of Games

Here is a little experiment. Ask other chess players about the famous "Byrne v Fischer" game, and then collate which one they think of. It would not surprise me that the higher the rating the more likely they will think of Robert Byrne v Fischer from the 1963/64 US Championship, rather than the Donald Byrne v Fischer game from 1956.
For the average club player I'm sure the 1956 game is vastly more entertaining, with a Queen sac followed by a king hunt. It is also a more "obvious" game where it is pretty clear what the plans are going to be. The 1963 game is far more subtle, and more importantly, has a degree of gravitas built up around it. Probably the most popular story attached to it, is the claim that GM Rossolimo declared Fischer "lost", only to be surprised by Byrne's resignation. Combine it with the fact it was played in the event where Fischer scored 11/11, and the speed of his victory, and I can see why players are attracted to the "genius" of the game.
Anyway here is the 1963 game in all it's glory.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Spain v Anzacs

A combined Australia/New Zealand team is currently playing a match against Spain. The match is an official ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) friendly and is being played over 36 boards. As the match is being played on the ICCF webserver you can follow the action by clicking this link.
To see the actual games just click on the result (for completed games) or the little dots between the players names (for games still in progress). While the ANZ team contains a few familiar CC players, I am especially interested in the appearance of Mike Woodhams, who was an Australian Olympiad player (OTB) in the 1970's.

Friday 22 August 2008

A long distance chess game

Courtesy of Robert Jacobs, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Affairs, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (see I do have friends in high places!) comes news of an ongoing match between NASA Astronaut Greg Chamitoff (currently orbiting in the International Space Station) and Mission control back here on earth.
The game has been in progress since Chamitoff reached the ISS in June and it looks like a win for the player in outer space, which may make Chamitoff the Chess Champion of everywhere else but the Earth.
A full report (including the game score) can be found here.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Morozevich - New No. 1?

While a lot of recent focus has been on Magnus Carlsen and his attempt to become the number 1 player on the ratings list, Alexander Morozevich has been on a bit of a tear. Currently playing in the Tal Memorial (no link as the English website is out of date), Morozevich leads with 2.5/3 after beating a struggling Vladimir Kramnik in the over night round. For local players this game has some interest as the variation used by Morozevich had previously been used by Ian Rout to defeat Ken Telfer in an ACT Championship some years ago, a game that was included in Peter Wells' book on the Slav.

Experiments with interactive games

Up until now I haven't tried to get interactive games up on this blog (ie games you can play through on your screen). I've just cut and pasted from Chessbase, and inserted diagrams by hand. Thanks to a tip from Nick Beare I'll try and add this functionality to the blog. There is no guarantee it will work (at least to my satisfaction) so be prepared for some weird results over the next few days!

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Another save in the Traxler

(NB These comments and annotations first appeared on

As the Traxler involves such a heavy material investment for Black, possible refutations always seem just around the corner for White. In this game White grabs almost all that Black offers, and then tries to give some of it back to achieve a simplified but winning position.

Jose Gener - shaunpress server game , 2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kf1 Qe7 7.Nxh8 d5 8.exd5 Nd4 (8. ... Bg4 9.Be2 Bxe2+ 10.Qxe2 Nd4 I'd played this variation in a couple of other games in this tournament (and won). But 11.Qd3 came up in one of the games, and I found it impossible to crack. Not to say that there isn't a line for Black, but I decided to avoid it in this game. ) 9.d6 This move (and the next one for White) is another refutation attempt of the Traxler. If it works then the whole Nd4 line is under a cloud. 9...cxd6 (I ignored 9. ... Qxd6 as I wasn't prepared for White's next move. However I may well play it next time I reach this position ) 10.Kxf2 This is a new-ish move (within the last decade or so) but apart from an article in Chessmail I haven't found much on it. 10...d5 When I played this move I at least saw White's next move and overall idea. Black is down a rook and a piece so White can afford to return some material to stop back's mating attack. 11.Bxd5 So here it is decision time. Black needs to find something to keep the attack going. 11... Bg4 (D)
After 4 days thought I decided the game move was the best try. (The obvious 11. ... Nxd5 can be met by 12.Qh5+ g6 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.Qxg6+ when Black is running out of pieces to mate with. A sample continuation leaves White in front after 14. ... Kd8 15.Qg8+ Kc7 16.Qxd5 Nxc2 17.Na3 Nxa1 and White will pick up the knight in the corner and remain a piece and a few pawns ahead) 12.Bf3? After this move Black is winning. White has to move the Queen instead (probably to f1) although blacks attack becomes very strong. 12...Ne4+! This is the move that makes the whole line work. Of course white can give up the queen for the material already captured, but with the White King still exposed and a lack of development, Black will be able to pick up loose pieces. 13.Ke3 The three retreats also lose. (13.Kf1 Nxf3 14.gxf3 Qh4! 15.Qe2 Bh3+ 16.Kg1 Qg5+ 17.Qg2 Qxg2+ is one of the many mates that can occur) (13.Kg1 Qc5! wins) (13.Ke1 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qh4+ mates) 13...Qg5+ This leads to a forced mate 14.Kxe4 Qf4+ 15.Kd3 Bf5+ 16.Kc4 Rc8+ And White overstepped the time limit here. (17.Kb4 Nxc2+ followed by Qb4 mate) (17.Kd5 Be6+ 18.Kd6 e4+ is another way to get mated.) 0-1

Tuesday 19 August 2008

OK, who owns what?

Probably the most successful attempt by the Australian Chess Federation to build an internet presence is the chesschat bulletin board. Except that the chesschat bulletin board isn't the official ACF discussion board, chesschat has no legal connection to the ACF, and the chesschat moderators who are also ACF council members maintain that their shared roles are quite distinct from one another.
This all came about due to the ACF's concern of being legally liable for things posted on an ACF owned bulletin board. Previously the ACF did have a bulletin board which was managed by Paul Broekhuyse with software installation and management handled by myself. While it worked well, the ACF council (and Paul) Paul eventually decided to pass it over to a private operator (Netlogitics) (Netlogistics), removing the ACF from any legal entanglements.
A few months ago there was an attempt to divert traffic from the website to a different bulletin board, using a new domain, and some posts on chesschat claiming that the site was changing domain names. The perpetrators were rumbled pretty quick, and it is fair to say they only succeeded in alienating a number of people over the whole issue.
Indeed, to prevent this from happening again, the domain name (and ) now redirect to All in all a fairly sensible strategy from the crew at netlogistics.
Except here is the confusing bit. Although isn't connected with the ACF, and is an entirely private concern, if you go to and look up the details on it lists the Registrant as the "AUSTRALIAN CHESS FEDERATION INCORPORATED". So does anyone know why the ACF is registering domains to direct traffic to a site it has no legal connection to, and why isn't it directing traffic to its own official website?*

*Of course this could just be another cunning "false flag" operation, and if it is, more fool me for falling for it.

Monday 18 August 2008

Malaysian Chess Festival

The Malaysian Chess Festival begins today, with the first round of the DATMO (Dato Tan Chin Nam Malaysian Open). A number of Australian players are taking part as well as players from The Phillipines, Indonesia and the host country. Top seed is GM Zhang Zong who played at the O2C Doeberl Cup and the SIO earlier this year.
Pairings (and I assume results) can be found here.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics

I've been meaning to buy a copy of "Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics" for a while, and last week I finally succumbed to the urge. For those that are unaware of this superb book, it is a collection of over 1000 endgame positions (from real games), that have tricky, spectacular and always educational solutions.
Now this isn't intended to be a book review (but I do recommend the book) but an exposition of a remarkable fact. Not all king and pawn endings are a forced win for IM Stephen Solomon. Of course almost all K+P endings are winning for Solomon but VPET has an ending from the 1985-86 Australian Championship where Aleks Wohl gets the better of him.
Wohl is white and quickly forces Solomon to resign, using the d pawn to try and bring the Black king to the centre, and then creating an outside passed pawn, which cannot be stopped. The variation after 1. ... Kd6 is particularly nice.

1.d5! [ 1.dxe5? Ke6 2.f4 Kd5 3.Ke3 Kc4=] 1...e4 [ 1...Kd6 2.g4 fxg4 3.fxg4 Kxd5 4.gxh5 Ke6 5.h6 Kf6 6.h5!] 2.g4! 1-0

Saturday 16 August 2008

The Organisers Metric

Through chess, how many people do you come in contact with on a weekly basis? The people at your local club? Friends you meet for a social game?
It occurred to me the other day (for no reason at all) that this might be a good measure of your involvement in chess. The more people you see, the more "involved" you are. And the obvious extension to this is what I've christened as "The Organisers Metric"
This is the number of people who you come in contact with on a weekly (or monthly/yearly) basis, through chess activities you organise or help organise. I guess you could treat this a measure of how many people you help get involved in the game.
Clearly the numbers may vary, as much on circumstance as definition. Chess coaches would have fairly high numbers based on the number of students they might see each week. Tournament organisers might see lots of players, although it may only be once or twice a year (with obvious exceptions such as Laszlo "First Saturday" Nagy). And tournament arbiters shouldn't be discounted either.
And what is a "good number"? For me I'd probably see between 40 and 70 players a week (through club,coaching and tournaments), but I'm sure that there are those who see plenty more. Of course bigger isn't always better (eg you may not speak to half the players in a tournament ) but having said that, the more activities organised, the bigger the game gets.

Friday 15 August 2008

Aronian wins Sochi GP

Lev Aronian has won the second FIDE GP event of the year, by defeating Alexander Grischuk in the final round of the tournament in Sochi. He finished half a point ahead of Radjabov, who also won his final round game.
My tips for this tournament, Grischuk and Gelfand, finished in 10th and 12th places respectively!

Aronian,L (2737) - Grischuk,A (2728) [D47]
2nd FIDE GP Sochi RUS (13), 14.08.2008

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.0-0 b4 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 Bd6 12.a3 bxa3 13.b3 Nf6 14.Nd2 Qc7 15.Bf3 Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Bd6 17.Nc4 Be7 18.Bxa3 0-0 19.Bc5 Rfd8 20.b4 Bxc5 21.bxc5 a5 22.Re1 Ba6 23.Nb6 Rab8 24.Rxa5 Bb5 25.Qa1 Nd5 26.Ra7 Rb7 27.Rxb7 Qxb7 28.Qa5 Qe7 29.Ra1 Qg5 30.Nxd5 exd5 31.Qc7 g6 32.Ra7 Qf6 (D)
33.Bg4 Re8 34.Kg1 Kg7 35.Bd7 Re7 36.Qd8 h5 37.Ra8 Kh6 38.Rc8 Kh7 39.Bxc6 Bxc6 40.Rxc6 Qxc6 41.Qxe7 Kg7 42.Kh2 1-0

Thursday 14 August 2008

2008 Blayney Open

The 2008 Blayney Open is on again, this year on the weekend of the 6 & 7 of September. Last years tournament attracted 34 players, and I am sure that there will be a bigger field this year. A number of Canberra players have expressed an interest in playing, as it is only a short 2 and half hour drive from nations capital.
The tournament has a pretty generous prize structure (for an event of its size) with $400 for first, and a number of good ratings prizes. You can even enter online by clicking the "entry form" link on the tournament web page.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

World Junior Championships

I've been remiss in covering this World Junior Championships, especially as the Australian representative in the Open is Gareth Oliver, from the ACT. In fact 10 rounds have already been played, with GM Maxim Rodshtein (ISR) leading on 8 points. In fact there are 24 GM's taking part in the tournament, and the lead has changed a number of times over the previous rounds.
Gareth sits mid field on 4.5 (+4=1-5) and seems to be having the "bounce" tournament, beating players seeded below him then losing to players seeded above him. He did however interrupt this run with a draw against FM Sokhib Djuraev rated 2324.
In the Girls Championship Sarah Anton is the Australian rep, and is 3/10, which places her 62nd, just one place below her seeding number.

Oliver,G (2196) - Gokcek,E [E97]
WCh-Junior Gaziantep TUR (5), 06.08.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.Re1 f5 11.Ng5 Nf6 12.f3 c6 13.Be3 f4 14.Bf2 h6 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.dxe6 b6 17.Qd2 d5 18.cxd5 cxd5 19.exd5 Nfxd5 20.Nxd5 Nxd5 21.Bc4 Ne7 22.Rad1 Kh8 23.Qc2 Qc8 24.Rd7 Re8 25.Qe4 h5 26.Red1 Bf6 27.g3 g5 28.Bd3 1-0

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Chess in the Olympics

This is a topic that comes up every 4 years or so, coinciding with the Summer Olympic games. Usually the debate starts out with the simple question "Why isn't chess in the Olympics?" and ends with "If Synchronised Swimming is there, why not chess?"
The agenda behind this debate (for certain countries) is that being an Olympic sport would mean that chess would receive recognition (and funding) as a sport. This is especially important in countries where chess is not recognised as a sport, and for cultural reasons, will probably never be recognised as a sport.
My own position on this topic has changed over the years. At one point I strongly pushed the line that chess was a sport, even lobbying (unsuccessfully) the Australian Sport Commission on behalf of the Australian Chess Federation. I even briefly discussed the matter with the then Sports Minister Graeme Richardson, who promised a further meeting, although none came about.
These days I'm more of the position that chess isn't a sport in the same way as swimming or athletics, but it is "something else". While I haven't quite decided what that "something else" is, in a practical sense it may not be important. Instead what is important is where it fits in with other sports.
I'm convinced that it will never be a part of the Summer Olympics, for the practical reason that there are already too many sports and the IOC isn't looking for more. I suspect the only sport that may be keen to see chess added is Synchronised Swimming, on the grounds that they wish someone else would be the butt of everyone's jokes. There was talk of having it part of the Winter Games (along with a number of other indoor sports) but this was only talk.
The model that I would like to see adopted is that there are 4 Olympic Games, 1 every year, and each type of Games held every 4 years. The Summer and Winter Olympics would remain of course, and the other 2 games would be Mind Sports (including Chess, Go, Bridge, Scrabble etc), and Extreme Games (Mountain Biking, Skateboarding, Nude Bungee Jumping etc).
Of course this would require the IOC to find 2 extra hosts cities, and obviously it isn't guaranteed that they would be flooded with bidders. And secondly, I suspect that this wouldn't solve the issue of chess as a sport , as National Olympic Councils would just tighten their membership to include only Summer and Winter Olympic Sports.

Monday 11 August 2008

The Stuart Conquest

(A headline I'm sure has been used by others)

GM Stuart Conquest is the winner of this years British Championship. He defeated GM Keith Arkell in the playoff match 1.5-0.5 after they were tied on 7.5/11. This is the first championship for Conquest, although it would have been the first championship for anyone who finished first, as there were no former champions in the field!
Conquest is also a previous winner of the ANU Open (in 1999) and in 2004 kindly helped me during the early stages of my Olympiad drug test refusal by being the Spanish to English interpreter for myself and Cathy Rogers.
The player that I hoped would win, Gawain Jones, unfortunately lost his last round the Keith Arkell. Now I'm not sure whether this hindered him or helped, but he still found time between the rounds to issue a daily challenge to me in Facebook Premier League soccer. He thrashed me in every game.
Full coverage can be found at

Conquest,S (2536) - Haslinger,S (2511) [D10]
British Championship (10.3), 07.08.2008

1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 c6 3.Bf4 d5 4.e3 a6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qa5 9.Qb3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.0-0 0-0 12.Bg3 b5 13.Bd3 Qxc3 14.Qb1 Qa5 15.Bxh7+ Kh8 16.Bd6 Rd8 17.Ne5 f5 18.Bg6 Rxd6 19.Nf7+ Kg8 20.Nxd6 Qd8 21.Nxc8 Qxc8 22.e4 Nc3 23.Qb3 Ne2+ 24.Kh1 Nf4 25.exf5 Ra7 26.Rae1 Re7 27.Qf3 Nxg6 28.fxg6 Nd7 29.Rxe6 1-0

Sunday 10 August 2008

The Shoplifting Dilemma

"As shops factor in the cost of shoplifting into the price of items they sell, by not shoplifting you are simply subsidising those that do"

(** Disclaimer: I am paid by the ACT Junior Chess League(ACTJCL) for chess coaching services **)

In 1999 the ACF began to charge the states a levy on all the teams participating in their junior teams events. Actually, to be more correct, it was a levy on teams that were playing in competitions that could qualify that team for the Australian Schools Teams Championship. It was part of developing new income streams for the ACF, but I was of the opinion then, as well as now, that it was strange that they chose to take money from a group of people who were fairly distant from the ACF (school children), while not looking at ways to charge chess players much closer to the ACF (via a membership scheme).
Well it did succeed in generating more money for the ACF, although who carries the burden threw up some unusual figures. The ACT (population 300,000) was being asked to pay around $1,000 a year in the period 2004-2006. Multiply that by the population of Australia and the ACF should have been generating about $70,000 a year from the levy alone. Of course this wasn't nearly the case as how the levy was calculated turned out to be problematical.
In the case of the ACTJCL they ran a schools championship for each geographical zone (eg Amaroo Primary won the Gungahlin Zone this year). The ACTJCL then invited schools from each zone to play in the ACT Schools Championship (the number of teams from each zone depended upon the strength and numbers of the teams in each zone). They did this for the Primary, High School, Girls Primary, and Girls High Schools competitions. When the ACF asked them to report on the number of teams participating they included teams that had played in the zones (but who didn't play in the finals), assuming this was both the intent and the practice of the ACF levy. However, they discovered that this certainly wasn't the practice of other states, with the exception of Queensland. Astonishingly, states with a far greater population that the ACT were reporting team numbers a half or a quarter of the ACTJCL numbers. Some of this could be explained by the lack of a viable schools chess competition in that state, but in some cases it was the structure of the competition that allowed the states to exclude teams.
Realising that this was a problem, both for the ACTJCL (if the returns were below ACF budgeted predictions next year might see a fee rise, increasing the disproportionate burden on ACT teams) and the ACF (a reduced revenue stream), a letter was sent to the ACF Secretary (Jey Hoole) on the 25 April 2006, from the ACTJCL, laying out their concerns and asking the ACF to reassess the ACTJCL contribution, in light of the payments being made by the other states.
At the time the ACTJCL received no response to this letter.

It was only last week that the ACTJCL did in fact receive a response from the ACF. It reads

The ACF Council considered your response, and passed the following Motion in relation to this issue.

"That the ACF advise the ACTJCL of the following:
1) The ACTJCL in its letter of April 2006 notes that it has not paid the
ACF school levies for 2004 and 2005 and those levies are currently still
2) The ACTJCL has not provided the ACF with figures for 2006 so the ACF
is within its rights to base the 2006 levy on the 2004/2005 levies.
3) The ACF reduced the levy effective 2007. This reduction was not
retrospective. The original levy structure for 2004-2006 remains.
4) The levies for 2007 and 2008 are outstanding.
5) That if the ACTJCL does not pay the outstanding $3020 covering the
2004-2007 school levies by 31st August 2008 then as from 1st September
2008 the following sanctions will apply:
a) No ACT teams will be permitted to play in any ASTC event
including the 2008 event.
b) No ACT junior will be eligible for selection for overseas events
and as such will not be endorsed for overseas events and no grants paid.
(Juniors currently selected are not effected.)
c) No ACT junior will be accepted into future ERGAS training
d) No ACT Junior is eligible to win any ACF Junior title.
6) The above sanctions will be lifted once the ACF Treasurer confirms
the $3020 from the ACTJCL has been paid into the ACF account".

Kind Regards

Jey Hoole
ACF Secretary

Saturday 9 August 2008

Could you run a tournament (if you had to)?

There are a lot of good things going on in the Canberra chess scene these days. The O2C Doeberl Cup attracted record numbers, and the ANU Open had a 50% increase over last years entries. ACT Juniors continue to excel, with the last two Australian Junior Champions coming from Canberra. The ACT Junior Chess League even contributed over $1000 to the ACF Olympiad appeal, attracting 100+ players to a fund raising event. A number of strong players have moved to the city in the past year enabling Street Chess (and some clubs) to attract a number of 2100+ players to their tournaments. And the efforts of the ANU Chess Club and Street Chess have even managed to bring a number of players in the 20-40 year age group into the game, which had been a previous concern. The only big cloud is the inability of the ACTCA to do something as fundamental as organising their own AGM (which may depress some), but otherwise ACT Chess is doing quite well.
However this growth in participation isn't matched by a growth in arbiters! Today at Street Chess I ran into a problem (basically of my own making). A couple of the regular tournament managers (Shervin Rafizadeh and Stephen Mugford) were away, which I knew in advance. But I failed to check if anyone else would do it, assuming that someone else would step in, if they had to.
At 11:15 am (15 minutes past the starting time) I get a phone call saying that the tournament had plenty of players, but no one to run it! At the time I was engaged with my regular Saturday morning coaching group (which normally finishes around 11:30), so making my apologies, and leaving in the most capable hands of Peter Simpson, I sped off towards the city.
By the time I got there (11:40am) the players had organised themselves and had just begun the first round. Fortunately for me, Mario Palma had stepped into the breach, at least to get the first round started, although he wasn't sure if he knew enough to run the rest. More fortunately for me (and the tournament) this was the weekend that Andrew Greenwood (who had previously been an arbiter at the 1999-2000 Australian Champions plus various ACT events), decided to fly in from Chicago (where he now lives) to play. As I had a prior engagement in the afternoon, I was able to get the two of them to look after the event, which I assume then ran without a hitch.
This long introduction leads to my question. While I'm sure most chessplayers want nothing more than to play chess, and not be burdened with the expectation of running a tournament, should players have an understanding of the rules sufficient to organise a small tournament (in an emergency)?
Or to put it another way, is being a 'chessplayer' just about knowing the rules of the game or should it be more than that?
(NB I'm not criticising the players who took part in today's event, as they had a reasonable expectation that an event organiser would be present)

Friday 8 August 2008

A Fiendish Puzzle

Here is a problem that you can work on while watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony. In fact this one is so difficult you may still be working on it while watching the Olympic Closing Ceremony.
It was sent to me by regular blog reader Mario Palma and it is White to Play and Draw.
(Here is an anti-hint: Don't try and get your computer to solve it, they simply have no idea)

Thursday 7 August 2008

Theft of Screen-Estate

As you can see, I've added yet another gimmick to this blog. Pushing the CCLA Membership buttons and the Google Advertisements further down the right hand side of the page are my "Twitter" updates. For those unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a short messaging system designed to provide information on the subject of "What are you doing right now?"
Fortunately I'm not planning to use it entirely for that (sighs of relief all round), but as a kind of mini-blog where I can provide short updates on things that may not require a full post. I also intend to use it for up to the minute coverage of chess events (when I have the chance), kind of like The Closet Grandmasters popular "live blogging".

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Moves that cannot be played

One of the difficulties in sacrificing material is that it cuts out some of your options. Normally when you are material down you don't want to exchange off pieces, and this can make the defensive task for your opponent that much easier.
Here is a practical example from a game I played in a Ryder Gambit Thematic recently. In the Ryder Gambit White gives up one pawn and also offers a second. As I said previously, I don't think it is sound, and this game reveals some of the difficulties you can face. My opponent declined the offer of the second pawn, happy to be a single pawn up. Around move 10 I began to drift, and my opponent forced a couple of exchanges. However the big blunder occurred at move 15. Objectively the best move is 15.Nf5, preventing f5 (for the moment), but I felt this was I move I "couldn't" play, as it would allow yet another exchange. Instead I chose a second best move, and followed it up with an even worse move, dropping a piece.

Press,S - Kraakhoofd [D00]
BDG Thematic, 07.2008

1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.Be3 Bb4 7.Bc4 Nc6 8.Nge2 0-0 9.0-0 e5 10.Ne4 Nxe4 11.Qxe4 Qe7 12.d5 Na5 13.Ng3 Nxc4 14.Qxc4 Bd6 (D)
15.Rae1 f5 16.Bd4 Qh4 0-1

Nonetheless, White can still do well with the gambit (in a practical sense) as Kraakhoofd won the event with 13.5/14 (6.5/7 with White), his only draw being in our second game (colours reversed), where even then he had a slight edge.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Making a Draw

It used to be easy to make a draw in the old days. Play a Semi-Slav, keep the position symmetrical, shake hands after 20 moves, and avoid the accusing glares from the spectators. But the advent of the "Sofia", "Gibraltar" or "Corsica" rules on draw offers has made it much harder to reached the agreed result. But chess players can be inventive when they choose, and the last couple of FIDE Grand Prix events have seen a number of new "theoretical" draws enter the books.
These new kind of draws all seem to come from much sharper openings than the Slav, usually involve the investment of material for one side or the other, and normally end in some sort of perpetual/repetition. The most recent example comes from last nights round of the GP tournament in Sochi. Grischuk and Svidler go down a very sharp line of the Sicilian, with Grischuk playing two thematic Sicilian sacrifices, the knight on e6 followed by the bishop on b5. Svilder looks as though he is in trouble, until he liberates a rook and forces a perpetual. While it might have looked scary over the board, the only player who was really worried may well have been Yuferov, who played this identical game as black against Vitolins back in 1972. It has been played at least 5 times since, including one game between Nisipeanu and Shirov in 1999.

Grischuk,A (2728) - Svidler,P (2738) [B96]
Grand Prix Sochi 2008 Sochi (5), 04.08.2008

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.e5 Bb7 11.Qh3 dxe5 12.Nxe6 fxe6 13.Qxe6+ Be7 14.Bxb5 axb5 15.Nxb5 Qc6 16.Nd6+ Kd8 17.fxe5 Kc7 18.Qxe7 Rxa2 19.exf6 Ra1+ 20.Kd2 Qd5+ 21.Kc3 Qa5+ 22.Kd3 Qd5+ 23.Kc3 Qa5+ 24.Kd3N Qd5+ ½-½

Of course players with good memories for games now have an extra way of agreeing to "short" draws with a willing opponent. As you sit down at the board simply state that you have been studying "Grischuk v Svidler from Sochi" (or some other well known perpetual) as part of your prep, and see where that leads.

Monday 4 August 2008

A tricky Rook and Pawn Ending

One of the games at Street Chess on Saturday reached the diagrammed position. White realised that if he could move the rook and give a safe check to the Black king, then he would be able to promote. Black also new this, but then found the other way to lose (by moving the rook off the c file). The post-mortem then turned to whether this position was winning for White, with the in-expert consensus that it was.
But in trying to confirm this conclusion I found that it is probably drawn after all. Here are some simple (but direct) variations I came up with and although White has some wins if Black goes wrong (including a clever trick after the wrong 12tm move), correct play seems to hold. Nonetheless, feel free to correct me.

1.g4+ Kh4 2.Kg2 Rc4 3.Kf3 Kh3 [ 3...Rxg4?? 4.Rd8 is what happened in the game.] 4.Ke3 Kg3 5.Kd3 Rc1 6.Kd4 Kf3 7.Kd5 Kf4 8.Kd6 Rd1+ 9.Ke6 Rc1 10.Kxf6 And it looks as though White is easily winning. But what happens if the Black king continues to hide? 10...Rc3 11.Kg6 [ 11.Ke7 Kg3 12.Kd7 Rd3+ 13.Kc6 Rc3+ 14.Kd6 Rd3+ 15.Ke5 Rc3 16.Kd5 Rc2 also seems drawn, as the Black rook just checks to drive the king away from d6 or d7] 11...Kxg4 12.Kxh6 Rc6+ [ 12...Kh4?? 13.Kg6 Kg4 14.Kf6 Kf4 15.Ke6 Ke4 16.Re8!!+-] 13.Kg7 Kg5 14.Kf7 Kf5 15.Ke7 Ke5 16.Kd7 Rd6+ =

Sunday 3 August 2008

Sochi Grand Prix 2008

I've been so busy with my own chess activities over the last fortnight that I failed to notice the the Sochi Grand Prix event has started. The first FIDE GP event in Baku was an undoubted success, and hopefully this one will sustain the same level of interest in the chess world.
After 3 rounds Ivan Cheperinov leads with 2.5, but given that everyone in the 14 player tournament has at least a point, it would take a brave blogger to predict the likely winner.
But I am that blogger and I predict a tie between Gelfand and Grischuk at the end of 13 rounds, with Gashimov as my "roughie"
The website for the event is and live games can be seen at

Saturday 2 August 2008

World Record Attempt

Planning is under way for an attempt to break the record for the most number of games of chess played by a single player in a single sitting. It is envisaged that this attempt will take place in Canberra early next year (2009). At the moment I am being deliberately vague with the details (although I am involved in the planning) as the planning team are still getting the specifics together and issues such as venue and sponsorship are still to be decided.
Nonetheless I am sure that most of the important details will be available soon (such as who is actually planning to break the record) either via the usual channels of gossip in the Australian chess scene, or simply by reading this blog!

Friday 1 August 2008

ANU Chess Festival Wrap

Today was the last day of the 2008 ANU Chess Festival. The ANU Primary Schools Championship was won by Radford Primary, on countback from Kaleen Red after both teams scored 22.5/28. Just half a point behind them in third place was Curtin Zhao on 22. (Curtin named their teams after current Australian Olympiad players!).
Yesterday was the High Schools/Colleges Championship and Canberra Grammar won for the first time ever, with the imaginatively named Canberra High Chess-T Pawn Stars in second, with Radford Chess Chicks edging Alfred Deakin Asparagus for third on countback.

This years chess festival was one of the most successful held, with numbers well up for the ANU Open, the simul attracting plenty of interest and the Schools events attracting 55 teams over the 2 days. Credit to all those who took part, and especially all those who assisted, but rather than risk trying to name everyone, and leaving someone out, I will simply say that it wouldn't have happened without the hard work of Festival Director, Shun Ikeda. So thanks to him, and through him, to all those involved.