Tuesday 31 March 2009


One of the most useful websites for fans of Olympiad chess is www.olimpbase.org It contains all the results from the chess olympiads, including individual player records, and even games (where available). It has just recently been updated to include the results from Dresden.
For a stat-head such as myself it is interesting to trawl through it looking for interesting records and statistics. For example Lajos Portisch has scored the most points in a career with 176.5 (from 20 Olympiads), while Bill Hook in 6th place (140 points) is the only non-GM in the top 20.
I clock in at =692nd place with 30 points, although I discovered that ties me with Lajos Steiner, although he only took 49 games to reach this mark (as opposed to my 61). And he played a higher level of opposition as well, as this game shows.

Fine,R - Steiner,L [B40]
Warsaw ol (Men) Warsaw, 1935

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nde2 0-0 8.0-0 Ne5 9.h3 a6 10.Bf4 Qc7 11.Kh1 d6 12.Bh2 Bd7 13.f4 Nxd3 14.Qxd3 Bc6 15.a3 Bc5 16.Ng3 Rfd8 17.Rad1 b5 18.Qe2 b4 19.axb4 Bxb4 20.Rd3 Qb7 21.e5 Ne8 22.f5 dxe5 23.fxe6 f6 24.Nf5 Rxd3 25.cxd3 Kh8 26.d4 g6 27.dxe5 gxf5(D)
28.exf6 Nxf6 29.Rxf5 Rg8 30.Rf2 Rg6 31.Be5 Be7 32.Qd2 Kg8 33.Kh2 Ne8 34.Qf4 Bf6 35.e7 Qxe7 36.Qc4+ Qf7 37.Qxc6 Bxe5+ 0-1

Monday 30 March 2009

Another interesting scoring system

If you use Google News to look for up to date chess stories, then you will find plenty of coverage of the "Battle of GM's" chess tournament currently running in the Philippines. While most of the coverage focuses on Wesley So's march to victory, it also reveals the use of an interesting scoring system. Instead of the normal 1.0,0.5,0 system, the tournament is awarding 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. No surprises so far, except in the case of draw by stalemate. If this happens the stalemated player gets 0.5 points but the player forcing the stalemate (ie the player who played the last move) gets 1.5 points.
While this may seem odd, it opens up a some new endgame stratagems. While KNN v K is normally not worth playing out, under this system the stronger player can at least score 1.5 points by forcing a stalemate. And K+PvK endings can now be played to the end. Indeed at Dubbo if this system was being used Fritz Van Der Waal may have taken 3rd place outright as he could have stalemated Tony Weller in their tense final round draw.
The other interesting feature of this tournament is their treatment of the 'No agreed draws in under 30 moves' rule. So and Rogelio Antonio breached this rule by agreeing to a draw in 16 moves in their Round 6 game. The NCFP (National Chess Federation of the Philippines) simply ordered the players to play the game again, which they will do tomorrow.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Dubbo Weekender - Day 2

2nd seed David Castor is the 2009 Dubbo Open Champion, finishing the event with 5.5/6. After finishing Day 1 with 3/3 Castor scored a win in round 4 over top seed Raul Samar, after Samar suffered a 'mobile phone loss'. Castor then won a long rook and pawn ending against Emma Guo, before a 4 move draw against Angelito Camer rounded out the event.
Camer finished in second place on 5 points, with a 5 way tie for third. In this group on 4.5 were Tony Weller, Emma Guo, Alan Setiabudi, Fritz Van Der Waal, and myself. After my horrible start yesterday (0.5/2) I strung together 4 wins, although none of my opponents was rated above 1300, and I clearly had the worst tie-break of the third place getters.
Various Canberra players finished in the prizes including Alana Chibnall and Megan Setiabudi (Under 1600), Joshua Bishop and Glen Ingham (Under 1200), and Jo Mason (best Under 800) and Jamie-Lee Guo (2nd Under 800)

Saturday 28 March 2009

Dubbo Weekender - Day 1

An excellent field of 43 players turned up for the 2009 Dubbo Open. Top seed is Raul Samar, while tournament regular David Castor seeded second. The Canberra contingent is also there in force, with 20 players from the nation's capital making the 4 hour trip north.
In the second round there was an interesting, and amusing incident on board 3. Jamie Davidson (white) and Angelito Camer had reached the diagrammed position after 2 hours of play. Davidson had 2 and half minutes on the clock, while Camer had about 5 minutes. At this point Camer put out his hand, for what most assumed was a draw offer, and Davidson accepted. Of course this isn't the correct way of offering a draw, although I have seen it happen plenty of times, even at the highest levels. And it turned out that while Camer had assumed the draw had been agreed, Davidson believed his opponent was resigning. The mix up was only discovered when the draw for the third round was announced. The only solution was to resume the game from the last position reached, which both players were happy to do. After a few more moves, the game was drawn anyway!
After 3 rounds Samar, Castor and Emma Guo share the lead with 3/3. I started with a loss in round 1 (to Joshua Bishop), a draw in Round 2 (to Charles Bishop), before finally managing a win in round 3. My only hope of a decent finish is if the trend (0,0.5,1.0) continues and I score 1.5 in round 4.

Friday 27 March 2009

An old fashioned beat down

The Melody Amber tournament finished yesterday, with Lev Aronian finishing outright first with 14/22. He did this by scoring 7/11 in both the blindfold and rapid sections. In the blindfold he shared top spot with Carlsen and Kramnik, while in the rapid he tied for first with Kamsky and Anand.
One of the more interesting games in the blindfold tournament occurred towards the end of the event, when Carlsen went up against Kramnik. Chessvibes suggested that Carlsen was "playing far below his normal level", but to me it was just a good old fashioned beat down.

Carlsen,M (2776) - Kramnik,V (2759) [E32]
18th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (10), 25.03.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4 d6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nge2 Ba5 8.0-0 Bb6 9.d5 Nb4 10.Qd2 exd5 11.cxd5 Ng4 12.Bb1 Qh4(D)
13.Qf4 f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.h3 Bxf2+ 16.Kh1 Bd7 17.Qg5 Bc5 18.Rxf8+ Rxf8 19.Ng1 Rf1 20.Bxh7+ Kh8 0-1

Thursday 26 March 2009

The one and only move

A simple looking study by Hermann Mattison, but one that embodies a reasonable amount of endgame knowledge. White is trying to draw this position (a win is out of the question), and there is only 1 move that will do it. Which move would you choose and why?

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Greatness denied

Gordon Crown was an English player who could have become one of the greats of post WW2 chess. In the 1947 Anglo-Russian Match he finished 1-1 with Alexander Kotov, with both players winning a game each. Tragically for Crown, and British chess, he died at the age of 18 years old.
Here is an example of his attacking skill, from a correspondence game he played in 1947.

Crown,G - Leeson [B02]
corr, 1947

1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Nfd7 4.e6 fxe6 5.d4 c5 6.dxc5 Nc6 7.Nf3 Nxc5 8.Bb5 Qd6 9.g3 Nd7 10.0-0 g6 11.Re1 Bg7 12.Ng5 Bxc3 13.Rxe6 Qc5 14.Bxc6 bxc6 15.bxc3 h6 16.Qe2 Nf8 17.Be3 Qc4(D)
18.Rxe7+ Kd8 19.Nf7+ Kxe7 20.Bc5+ Kf6 21.Qe5+ Kxf7 22.Qe7+ Kg8 23.Qxf8+ Kh7 24.Qf7# 1-0

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Well done, Solomon Islands Chess Federation

The Solomon Islands Chess Federation is only a new body, and were only admitted to FIDE at the Dresden Congress last year. However they are taking their activities seriously, and have just secured a big sponsorship deal with the company Phoenix International. The sponsorship deal is worth $150,000 (SD), which is about $Aus 27,000 at current exchange rates.
A full report can be found here.

Monday 23 March 2009

Odd Tie Breaking Systems

A number of years ago the British Chess Magazine observed that the tie-breaks for tournaments played in the old USSR seemed to operate like this: USSR players first, the rest of the Warsaw Pact next, the rest of the players last.
I was reminded of this when flicking through Kasparov's "The Test of Time" and Volume 1 of "Tournament Chess" from Pergamon Chess. Both publications covered the 1981 Moscow Super GM Tournament, and both included a cross table from the event. Karpov easily won with 9/13 and in equal second were Polugaevsky, Smyslov and Kasparov on 7.5/13. Strangely enough, while this was the order given in "Tournament Chess", Kasparov listed the players as Kasparov, Polugaevsky and Smyslov in his own book.
At first I assumed some Kasparov-centric tiebreak system was in operation, and crunched some numbers. The usual tie-breaking system for round robin events is S-B (ie add the final score of everyone you beat, and half the final score of who you drew with), but that only resulted in a third ordering (Polugaevsky, Kasparov and Symslov). As it turns out I was looking in the wrong direction entirely. Kasparov had cunningly used the "Alphabetical" tie-break system, which certainly improved his standing. But to be fair to Kasparov (or his editors), he was happy to place himself behind other players on tie-break when reporting other tournaments in the book.

Sunday 22 March 2009

The same ol', same ol'

I made three trips to the Lifeline bookfair this weekend. Probably the most interesting book I picked up was "New Ideas in Chess" by GM Larry Evans (although I also purchased "The Test of Time" by Kasparov for $3). As for the rest of it, it was pretty much like last year.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Chess Karma

The chess adventures of my PNG team mate Craig Skehan get some coverage on this blog. Regular readers will know that Craig is still looking for that elusive first Olympiad victory, in part to shed an unwanted record. While I can't show you that (yet), I can at least show you a win of his from the recently completed ANU Chess Club Summer Swiss.

Skehan,C - Derwent,F [D05]
ANU Summer Swiss, 11.03.2009

1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 e6 4.Nf3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 c4 7.Bc2 b5 8.0-0 b4 9.Re1 Bd6 10.e4 e5 (D)
11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 13.exd5 Qxd5 14.f4 0-0 15.Rxe5 Qc6 16.Qf3 Qb6+ 17.Kh1 Bb7 18.Be4 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 f6 20.Be3 Qd8 21.Rd1 Qc7 22.Red5 Bxd5 23.Rxd5 Qc6 24.Rd6 Qc7 25.Bd4 f5 26.Nf6+ gxf6 27.Rxf6 Rxf6 28.Qxa8+ Rf8 29.Qd5+ Qf7 30.Qe5 Qf6 31.Qxf6 Rxf6 32.Bxf6 b3 33.a3 a6 34.Kg1 Kf7 35.Bd4 Ke6 36.Kf2 Kd5 37.Kf3 h6 38.g4 fxg4+ 39.Kxg4 Ke4 40.f5 Kd5 1-0

For those who wish to quibble about the quality of the game it is worth noting this. While the above game was being played, I (FIDE 2076) managed to lose a game against a FIDE 1949 player, despite being a piece up.

Friday 20 March 2009

How far does FIDE's writ run?

One of the interesting side issue in the Mamedyarov-Kurnosov Aeroflot Open blow up, was that the notion that 'FIDE should do something' about false accusations of cheating. Why I find this interesting is that normally the chess community want FIDE to be less intrusive in the running of chess events, not more. For example, the vast majority of players I've spoken to think FIDE's attempts at imposing a 0 minute forfeit time on all chess tournaments is ridiculous, and the "move first, write second" rule isn't that popular either.
Of course it is understandable that there is a body that have codified the rules of chess (and that body is FIDE), but how far beyond that can they go? Even FIDE recognise that there is a distinction as the Laws of Chess are divided into the "Basic Rules of Play" and "Competition Rules". They even allow exceptions to the Competition Rules for FIDE rated events (eg events held in the USA).
An interesting test of FIDE's reach was in the case brought against GM Nigel Short by FIDE Vice-President GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili. In a newspaper interview Short referred to Azmai as a 'dunderhead' and made mention of a couple of other controversial incidents that Azmai was involved in. Azmai filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Committee over the interview. Short argues that the Etics Committee had no jurisdiction in the matter because "in giving an interview to a journalist he was not acting as a player or as a FIDE officer or as a member of a affiliated organisation". The Ethics Committee rejected this argument, in part because "Mr. Nigel Short is both a very famous chess player, who participates to many FIDE rated tournaments, and the President of the Commonwealth Chess Association, an organization affiliated to FIDE."
Nonetheless the Committee tossed out most of the complaint, as part of it concerned personal opinion, and parts of it concerned other, disinterested, parties. However they did regard 'dunderhead' as a breach of the Ethics Guidelines and gave Short a warning.
Now although I am not a lawyer, this seems to be a real stretch to me. It sets up two classes of individuals in the chess world ie those who have nothing to do with chess administration, and those that do. If you are in the first group, and are not playing in a FIDE registered event, you can pretty much say what you want about FIDE officials. But if you are in the second group you have to choose your words more carefully. And as the FIDE Code of Ethics extends to "member federations, delegates and counsellors" this is quite a large group.
Indeed, as I am on a couple of FIDE committees (as well as being Secretary of the PNGCF) and a number of commentators to this blog hold positions on "member federations", it may stymie some of the more colourful comment directed at me!

Thursday 19 March 2009

The Veresov System

At the club level you often get players who specialise in an offbeat opening, defending its soundness no matter what the current 'theoretical' opinion is. While these openings may be suspect at the highest levels, they often work at lower levels, mainly due to the strength of the opposition. I see plenty of Colle players, the odd Budapest or Nimzowitsch defender, and of course the Blackmar-Diemar Gambit arouses fierce passions in its adherents. I've spent 25 years playing the Traxler as Black, and have even shifted more and more towards 1.Nc3 as my weapon of choice.
However, there is one opening which I haven't seen anyone utilise on a regular basis is the chess circles I move in. The Veresov System (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5) doesn't seem to be a bad opening, but I can't recall seeing anyone play it in the tournaments I've played in. And I have no explanation for its unpopularity, especially given that the opening ideas seem pretty straightforward.
So in attempt to increase its popularity here is a short game from last year. White goes for rapid queenside castling with 4.Qd3 and after Black bites of more than he can chew with 13. ... Bxa3 , happily surrenders his queenside pawns in the knowledge that mate is not far away.

Ibba,I (2222) - Bieg Pagel,C (1988) [D01]
Capo d'Orso Open Porto Mannu Palau ITA (6), 21.05.2008

1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.Qd3 Be7 5.f3 Nc6 6.0-0-0 0-0 7.e4 Nb4 8.Qd2 c6 9.a3 Na6 10.Bxa6 bxa6 11.Nh3 Rb8 12.Nf2 Qa5 13.Bxf6 (D)
13. ... Bxa3 14.Qg5 Bxb2+ 15.Kd2 Qxc3+ 1-0

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Changes to FIDE Ratings

FIDE have released the changes to the FIDE Ratings system, which will come into effect on the 1st July 2009. There have been some significant changes, some of which may not be popular at all.
The most benign change is the lowering of the rating floor to 1200. This change has been expected and I would be surprised if the list goes below this, at least in the next decade.
The rating difference limit that was previously 350 points has been increased to 400 points. This means that if the rating difference between 2 opponents is greater than 400 points, it will be adjusted to 400 points for the purpose of calculating ratings. The worry with this change is that it will dissuade higher rated players from entering events with lower rated players. In fact one proposal was to abolish the limit altogether, but the Ratings Committee rejected this proposal.
The other big change is to increase the K factors to 20 for players who have reached 2400 on the rating list, and 30 for players who have yet to reach this level. This essentially doubles the previous k factors (10 and 20), and abolishes the 25 factor for players who played less than 30 games.
I suspect this will be the most unpopular change, as a players FIDE rating is almost like currency in the world of professional chess. The new changes will means ratings will change much more rapidly, and in the case of some players, drop faster than they will like. Consequently, a bad tournament or two may drop a player off the list of invitees to some of the more lucrative chess events.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

How to hack the Sicilian

Years ago the late Hugh E. Meyers commented that the Sicilian was just a bad opening, and that Black only won if "White misplayed his kingside attack". As I read this quote when I was young and impressionable, I (a) never played the Sicilian and (b) tried to blast away on the kingside as much as possible. Of course (b) doesn't always work, and it is only later in life that I've even begun to ignore (a).
However I still cheer for White when I see a Sicilian, and the following game demonstrates the sort of plan I wish I could execute every time 1.e4 is met by 1. ... c5. Indeed it has some similarity with the attacking ideas found in the Grand Prix Attack, especially 12.Qe1 and 8.f4 followed by 9.f5

Nisipeanu,L (2675) - Cvitan,O (2542) [B42]
10th ch-EUR Budva MNT (7.44), 12.03.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 Qc7 7.Kh1 d6 8.f4 g6 9.f5 Bg7 10.Nc3 0-0 11.Bg5 Bd7 12.Qe1N Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Qh4 Qe7 15.Rf4 Rae8 16.fxg6 1-0

Monday 16 March 2009

The generosity of chess players

Every year King O'Malley's pub (one of the sponsors of Street Chess) organisers a fund raising event to help find a cure for Leukaemia. This year the players at Street Chess donated $132 towards the cause, including a very generous $100 donation from Mark Scully.
Of course there was a price to pay .....

Sunday 15 March 2009

How to play the Ruy with your eyes shut

The 2009 Melody Amber has started in Nice. There were a number of interesting games in the first blindfold round, including an interesting queen sacrifice by Aronian (as White) against Ivanchuk in a Gruenfeld.
Another striking game was Anand v Leko. The games was theory up until move 18, which is hardly surprising in such a heavily analysed opening as the Ruy Lopez. However these positions are difficulty to play with your eyes open, so the way Anand kept increasing his advantage without sight of the board was very impressive. Anand even ended the game with a nice combination that I would have been pleased to find with full sight of the board.

Anand (2791) - Leko (2751)
Amber 2009 Blind Nice (1), 2009

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 d6 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.a4 Bf8 14.Bd3 c6 15.b3 g6 16.Ba3 Qc7 17.Qc2 Bg7 18.Rad1 Rac8 19.Bb2 Nh5 20.Bf1 bxa4 21.bxa4 d5 22.dxe5 Nxe5 23.Nxe5 Bxe5 24.c4 dxe4 25.c5 Bxb2 26.Qxb2 e3 27.fxe3 Rcd8 28.Nc4 Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Qe7 30.Nd6 Rd8 31.Qd4 Rf8 32.Bc4 Bc8 33.Rb1 Ng3 34.e4 Qg5 (D)
35.Bxf7+ Rxf7 36.Qh8+ 1-0

Saturday 14 March 2009

2009 O2C Doeberl Cup - less than a month to go

When I gave my last Doeberl Cup update 2 weeks ago, 110 players had registered for all the events. In the last 14 days this has jumped to 182! The Premier section has reached its limit of 80 players, but don't fret. Due to the popularity of this event, and the large number of overseas players entering this year, the organisers have increased to size of the field to 90 players. So there are still 9 places left in this event. There has also been an increase in the number of titled players in the Premier with the tournament attracting 8 GM's, 14 IM's, 4 WGM's, 1 WIM, 6 FM's and 3 WFM's.
The prize list has also been inceased with the addition of the Bedi Cup and the Pooja Cup. The Bedi Cup will be awarded to the best Australian Junior player in the Premier, along with a prize of $1000. The Pooja Cup will be awarded to the best Australian Female Junior player in the Minor Event (Under 1600), along with a prize of $500. Both of these prizes have been provided by Baldev Bedi.

(** I am a paid official at this event **)

Friday 13 March 2009

A trap to avoid

Courtesy of the ChessToday game collection for February 2009 comes the following trap in the Semi-Slav. Due to its frequent appearance in recent World Championship matches, the Semi-Slav has become a popular opening again, and I've even tried to add it to my repertoire (with dismal results btw).
In the example game the plausible 12.O-O is the blunder, and indeed White is better after the alternative 12.Bb2. Nonetheless Black still has to play exactly after 15.Bxd5 as the immediate 15. ... Qxa1 is also a blunder with 16.Bb2 trapping the Black Queen. And 14.h3 doesn't help White as Ribli defeated Portisch with 14. ... Bxh3 back in 1985.

Thursday 12 March 2009

I might be a cheat

One of the more ridiculous arguments when accusing some of of computer cheating is that X% of their moves matched Fritz/Rybka/Fruit etc This is often presented as a bare statistic, with the assumption that the greater the percentage, the greater the likelihood of computer assistance. Such assumptions are risky however, as often they aren't statistically valid. They might seem intuitively appealing, but as examples of Bayesian Inferences have shown, the 'obvious' assumption may turn out to be the wrong one.
For example here is a game I played (as White) last week. I ran it through Fritz 9 and asked it to flag any moves that it considered better than the ones I played, even if the difference in evaluation was as small as 1 centi-pawn. Out of the 34 moves it suggested 8 improvements, although only 4 of those had a significantly better evaluation. Over the final 14 moves I played Fritz's suggestion 13 times.
Of course I did not use computer assistance, merely playing moves that seemed sensible. Granted it wasn't an overly complex game, and I didn't have to calculate too many tactics, but the 'facts' are the 'facts'. So until someone develops a test that eliminates 'false positives' from the data set, colour me unconvinced.

1.Nc3 Nf6 2.e4 Nc6 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 e5 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.Bc4 Be6 8.Bxe6 fxe6 9.Be3 Bb4 10.0-0-0+ Ke7 11.Bg5 Bxc3 12.bxc3 h6 13.Bxf6+ gxf6 14.Nh4 Rhd8 15.Rd3 Rxd3 16.cxd3 Rd8 17.Kc2 Kd6 18.Re1 Rf8 19.Re3 f5 20.Rf3 f4 21.Rh3 Rf6 22.Nf3 b5 23.Rh5 b4(D)
24.d4 Rg6 25.dxe5+ Kc5 26.Nh4 Rg5 27.Rxh6 bxc3 28.Kxc3 Rxe5 29.f3 Nd4 30.Ng6 Rg5 31.Nxf4 e5 32.Rg6 Ne2+ 33.Kd2 Rxg6 34.Nxg6 1-0

Wednesday 11 March 2009

2009 Dubbo Open

The 2009 Dubbo Open is on the weekend of the 28th and 29th of March 2009. It will be a 6 round swiss (G/60+10s) with a $350 first prize.
Last years event was very enjoyable and this year should attract a bumper field, with at least 15 players from Canberra planning to make the trip up. For some it will be about the chess, for others, a chance to visit the world famous Western Plains Zoo.
Further details from Alexander Aich (alexander.aich@gmail.com)

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Some kind of win

Back in November 2008, I had a lengthy post on the Rules and Tournament Regulation Committee meeting during the Dresden Olympiad. One of the hot topics was the question of a default time for chess events (ie how long does a player have to appear before losing the game by default). As a participant at the meeting I had proposed a default 'default' time of 30 minutes, with the caveat that this could be changed by the tournament organisers. At the meeting this was changed to 0 minutes, and by the time the proposal had reached the FIDE General Assembly, there were moves to remove the organisers discretion in setting the time at all. No decision was reached at the GA, so it was punted to the FIDE Presidential Board for a decision.
The Presidential Board has just wrapped up its meeting in Istanbul, and the issue has been resolved, in a kind of satisfactory way. The 0 minute default time remains, but so does the ability of an organiser to set a different time.
For tournament I am involved with organising, I will recommend 30 minutes, but the important thing is to make sure that this condition is clearly printed on the entry forms etc Because the big fear is that organisers will forget to list their own default time, and there will be a rush of players claiming wins within seconds of the start of each round. While I hope that common sense would prevail if such a situation occurred, there will always be someone who will argue that 'the rules are the rules', and under the new rules (post 1 July 2009), they will be in the right.

Monday 9 March 2009

4 Queens at Ballarat

The 2009 Ballarat Begonia Open has finished in a tie for first between Igor Goldenberg and and Erik Teichmann. They finiehd on 6/7 (+5=2) and drew their round 6 encounter. Equal third on 5.5 were Christopher Wallace Wallis, Mirko Rujevic and Bobby Cheng.
Going into the final round Goldenberg and Teichmann were tied with Leonid Sandler and Eugene Schon. Teichmann defeated Sandler while Goldenberg won a rare 4 queens game against Schon.
Oddly enough the crucial mistake for Schon was in gaining a second queen (how often would you say that!), and theory recommends the less adventurous 13. ... Bxg7

Sunday 8 March 2009

Grischuk and Ivanchuk tie for first in Linares

Alexander Grischuk and Vassily Ivanchuk have tied for first place in the 2009 Linares Tournament, with Grischuk gaining the first place trophy on tie break. The tie-breaker between the two players was Number of Wins with Grischuk scoring 3 wins (and a loss), to Ivanchuk's 2 wins. Now coming equal first in a 14 round event scoring only 2 wins might seem a little surprising, but not if you look at the make up of the tournament.
It is not as though the tournament was made up of drawish players, and indeed there were a number of exciting games. However, such tournaments tend to fall victim to the paradox of strength. While it is clearly desirable to have the best chess players playing each other, as this should result in higher quality chess, the fact that the players are so evenly matched in terms of ability means that a draw is the most likely result. Consequently tournaments like Linares often end up with 65% to 75% of the games being drawn. Having a more varied field (ie players with lower rating included) might result in more decisive games, but the chess may turn out to be more one-sided as well.
This effect is also apparent in big swiss tournament as well. The games that the spectators really want to see (between any of the top 4 to 6 seeded players) are often the games with the least amount of fight, as the players themselves are protecting their tournament position. Of course this isn't always the case, but the exceptions usually depend on either a surprise leader, or a particularly aggressive player. But as Linares has shown (both this year and in previous years) even an attacking player such as Kasparov hasn't saved the tournament from this problem.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Sunday of a Thousand Shotguns

As befitting Australia's capital city, Canberra has been the home of some of the finest political thinkers in the country. And before he gave up politics for chess, Ian Rout was one of those thinkers. Thirty years ago, Ian was one of the people behind the "Deadly Serious Party", which contested a number of local government elections. While the DSP might not have formed government in their own right, they did have at least one policy which was very popular with the voting public.
Canberra is a "garden city", with a large number of trees throughout the city and suburbs. Indeed it is commonly known as "The Bush Capital", although usage of that term seems to have declined over the last 8 years. Now along with trees comes birds, especially magpies. Now magpies are very protective of their young, and every spring large numbers of magpies would begin swooping the residents of Canberra, as a method of protecting their nests. While this is perfectly understandable from a magpies point of view, it annoyed large numbers of Canberran's. The policy suggestion from the DSP was that everyone over the age of 18 on one day of the year be issued with a shotgun and deal with the problem in the obvious way. This policy was known as "The Sunday of a Thousand Shotguns".
It was never implemented as public policy, mainly because the DSP never got elected to anything, but the need for the policy hasn't completely gone away. The tree covered beer garden where we play Street Chess every Saturday is also home to an aggressive flock of magpies, who spend most of their time scavenging food from the tables, and regurgitating it from a great height. The bombing tally from today included the side of my head, the tournament pairing cards, one player who happened to be in time trouble at the time, and at least one other chess set. Attempts to deal with the problem by applying anti-magpie spikes to areas where they congregate have proved unsuccessful, leaving me to think that the DSP may need to make a comeback at the next ACT Government election.

Friday 6 March 2009

A quick Olympiad win

Courtesy of Chess Olympiads 1927-1968 by Arpad Foldeak comes a quick win by Lothar Schmid from the 1968 Lugano Olympiad. While I've not seen this specific trap before, I have certainly seen the mating motif with Nf3+ followed by Bh3# in other openings.

Gibbs,G - Schmid,L [B02]
Lugano ol (Men) Lugano, 1968

1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Nge2 Nc6 5.g3 Bg4 6.Bg2 Nd4 7.Bxd5 Qxd5! 8.f3 [ 8.Nxd5 Nf3+ 9.Kf1 Bh3#] 8...Qxf3 9.Rf1 Qg2 0-1

Thursday 5 March 2009

Suicide Chess

Amongst FIDE's Rules and Tournament Regulation Committee there is a debate about whether Chess 960 aka Fischer Random is equal to standard chess (and should therefore be listed in as an Apendix to the Laws of Chess) or is simply a chess variant, like Bughouse or Progressive Chess.
One of the arguments in its favour is the growing popularity of the game. But if popularity is the sole criteria then I suspect there is at least one chess variant that is ahead of it in the queue. Without basing this claim on anything more than gut feeling and personal observation, Suicide Chess (or Losing Chess) is probably more widely played today. Most of this activity may be on chess servers, or more annoyingly, in junior chess clubs (when the players should be concentrating on mastering real chess), but I'm sure that every chess player has played a fair amount of Suicide Chess at some point in their lives.
Of course there has been a big push for Chess 960 in recent years (and it is an event at this years O2C Doeberl Cup), but Suicide Chess also had some big name adherents. Here is a game where David Bronstein defeated Evgeni Gik

E.Y. Gik v D. Bronstein
1.e4?? d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qxg2 4.Bxg2 b6 5.Bxa8 Nc6 6.Bxc6 a5 7.Bxe8 Nf6 8.Bxf7 Be6 9.Bxe6 Nd7 10.Bxd7 e6 11.Bxe6 Rg8 12.Bxg8 g6 13.Bxh7 c5 14.Bxg6 a4 15.Nxa4 c4 16.Nxb6 Bc5 17.Nxc4 Bxf2 0-1

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Getting over the advantage line

Anyone who watches Rugby on TV would be familiar with the term "Getting over the advantage line". Basically the team with the ball gets further up the field each time they run at the opponents defence.
In chess terms this equates with having move space (assuming you treat both sets of forwards as pawns!), although in endings it also means having your pawns over the halfway line on the board.
An example of the latter definition occurred during a game at my chess club this evening. In the diagram it was Black to move, and he was playing for a win, not so much because he knew his position was better, but simply because he had 10 minutes on the clock to his opponents 1. At first he tried to gain the opposition by luring the white king onto the wrong square, but seeing this didn't work, he hit upon the temporary sacrifice of a pawn (5. ... g4+). It was this idea that worked, especially as his opponent lost on time playing 8.Kf1, although it wasn't noticed for another move. This was somewhat fortunate for Black as Kg3 makes the win a lot harder than Kf4.

1...Kf5 2.Kf3 Kf6 3.Kf2 Kg6 4.Ke3 Kf5 5.Kf3 g4+ 6.hxg4+ Kg5 7.Kf2 Kxg4 8.Kf1 Kg3 9.Kg1 0-1 (time)

It is important to note that if you move the kingside pawns up one rank (so they are in their own half of the board), then the position is drawn.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

The joy of resignation

Of course you can't win every game of chess, as much as you try. While some games are hard fought, close run or even just plain unlucky (if there is such a thing as luck in chess), there are some games that seem to go downhill at a steady rate. If there is some solace to be gained from playing such a game, it is that resigning often comes as a relief.
Here is such a game. I blundered a pawn on move 13, and then compounded the error by wrecking my position. The major difficulty I then had was deciding exactly when to resign!

Monday 2 March 2009

The stress of Correspondence Chess - Part 2

This is the second game that I played in the Australia v Finland match. My opponent employed a similar strategy to the first game, with a similar result.

Karpoff,K - Press,S [A13]
Finland v Australia, 2008

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.cxd5 exd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.e3 Bd6 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 Bg4 8.Nbd2 Nbd7 9.Re1 Re8 [ 9...Ne4 is also playable, but I didn't want to jam the e file with a pawn.] 10.Nf1?! Allowing my knight into e4 10...Ne4 11.Ng3 Ndf6 12.a3 Nxg3 Here I applied the principle of the 'Superfluous Piece'. The best square for my knights is e4, but I can't put both of them there. So I get rid of one. 13.hxg3 c6 I'd been worrying about Qb3 for White for a while, so I'd thought I'd deal with it. 14.b3 Ne4 15.Bb2 Qf6 The idea behind this move was to prevent Nh2, followed by a lot of annoying exchanges. 16.Rf1 Qh6 With the idea of Nxg3 followed by Qxe3+ 17.Nh2? (D)
17. ... Nxg3!!
After White's last move, this is even stronger.[ 17...Nxg3 18.Bxg4 ( 18.fxg3 Qxe3+ 19.Rf2 Bxe2-+) 18...Ne2+! is the sharpest finish.] 0-1

Sunday 1 March 2009

The stress of Correspondence Chess - Part 1

I find Correspondence Chess quite stressful. While in a normal OTB game you might spend 4 hours worrying about the game, in CC you are more than likely to spend 4 months. And not just one game, but 6 or 10 or 12 at a time. It is almost like you have been given permanent chess "homework", and there are no school holidays.
Of course that doesn't mean you shouldn't play CC. One of the reasons for playing CC is that is it like homework, and if you do it right you learn new ideas. Towards the end of last year I began two friendly matches as part of the an Australian team (against Finland) and a combined Australian/New Zealand team (against Portugal). (Eagle eyed readers may wonder why I'm not playing under the Papua New Guinea flag, as I do in OTB chess. This is because PNG is not part of the ICCF) Even those these are titled "Friendly" matches, they are still team matches, and it is still country v country.
For the Finland match I guess the team captain took pity on me (as it was my first CC international) and put me on a lower board. Even then it was still hard work as my opponent employed a defensive, but solid strategy in both games. In fact the games make an interesting pair as I employed similar ideas in both games, despite starting with different colours for each.
Here is the game I had as white. I've abridged the notes down from the 4 pages of variations I looked at during the game.

Press,S - Karpoff,K [B01]
Friendly, 2008

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Be3 Nbd7 9.Qe2 Re8 [ 9...c5] 10.a3 c6 11.Rad1 Nf8?! Allowing my knight to take up residence on e5. 12.Ne5 Ng6 After my other knight comes to e4, Black cannot take on e5 for tactical reasons. 13.Ne4 Rf8 [ 13...Nxe5? 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 ( 14...Bxf6?? 15.dxe5) 15.dxe5+-] 14.Ng5 I've always thought that in any game where I could play Neg5, I'd be close to winning. 14...Qc7 15.f4 Nd5(D)
It would be unkind to call this a blunder, although it meets with a tactical refutation. I spent a substantial amount of time (3 or 4 hours at least) making sure the next move worked. 16.Nxh7! Nxe3 [ 16...Kxh7 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Nxf7! was one of the lines I needed to find to make the idea work. 18...Rxf7 19.Bxg6 Nf6 20.Bxf7+ Kf8 21.Qg6+-] 17.Qxe3! In OTB I would have reflexively taken on f8, which is OK, but not the most exact move. 17...Nxe5 The knight on h7 is still taboo. 18.fxe5 Rd8 19.Qf3 And even here I spent a great degree of time deciding between the move I played and Qh3. As it turns out, both are good. 1-0