Wednesday 30 June 2010

Fischer Random Fun

While Fischer Random (or Chess 960) hasn't really taken off in Australia, I still get called upon to DOP the odd tournament. The ACT Junior Chess League ran their first Fischer Random title event last week, and although it was a small field (31 players), the players enjoyed themselves enough to want it to be held next year.
Directing a Fischer Random event is much like directing any other chess event, except you get to answer a lot more questions about castling. For example in the starting position shown, White can castle queenside after moving the bishop on b1 and the knight on d1. Having done so, 'castling' consists of placing the king on c1 and the rook on d1, just as you would do in a normal game of chess. It was this definition of castling that Bobby Fischer added to Shuffle Chess that made it 'his'.
However I was asked a pretty clever question by one of the participants, based on the example starting position. Assume that White does castle queenside in the manner previously described. If White then moves the bishop on g1, the queen on f1, the knight on e1, and the 'castled rook' on d1 off the back rank, can White now castle kingside, as the king and rook have not yet moved?
My answer, was that although the white king hadn't 'moved', by castling queenside, it has been moved, as otherwise Rd1 was illegal. This seem to satisfy the player concerned, but I suspect he was simply trying to come up with the smartest question of the day.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

The ultimate chess 'collectable'

If you are looking for that extra special 'chess' gift, you couldn't go past the table,set and clock that was used in the 1972 Fischer v Spassky World Championship Match. And as luck would have it, one of the three tables used in that match is up for sale. The current owner, Páll G. Jonsson, was Fischer's guide during the match, and bought two of the tables at the end of the match. Now aged 77, he has decided to put one on the market. As an added bonus the table, with the built in board, is signed by both players.
Further information, including contact details to negotiate the sale are in this article from the New York Times.

Monday 28 June 2010

Crippled by Tradition

**Warning: Non chess post **

Let me start of by saying I'm astonished at the number of *Australians* who are currently feeling sorry for England, after their loss to Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Of course I can see why the English themselves, and neutral football fans, may feel upset by a poor refereeing decision, but for Australians, this should just be added to the list of why England under-perform at almost all sports.
Secondly, let me point out that poor refereeing is just as much part of football as diving, sex scandals, and corrupt transfer deals. In my opinion this isn't an accident, but an outcome of the structure of the game. In most other sports the score that decides the game is much much larger (by a factor of 100 in some sports), and so the effect of a refereeing mistake is much smaller in almost all other sports (unless it happens right at the end of the game). In football however, the fact that a single penalty given in the first minute can decide the game makes the referee a crucial actor in the eventual outcome. But it also this fact that leads to footballers, and managers, playing right on the edge of the rules, and usually then going beyond it. For supporters of sport that only half-heartedly deals with deliberate infractions of the rules by players (usually exonerating them by blaming the referee for missing it in the first place), to complain when it goes against your team is a bit rich.
And once again there is a demand for video assistance for the officials, although this is now a regular cry after any controversial incident (eg France v Ireland). Given that FIFA has resisted the calls up until now I can't see them caving in any time soon. I suspect that the world wide popularity of the game leads to the 'If it ain't broke, why fix it' reasoning, and unless such incidents damage football's popularity, then the publicity that such controversy generates outweighs any real desire to fix it.
So my advice to football fans who think the lack of technology is throwing up incorrect results. Find a sport that has embraced technology to improve officiating, (there are plenty out there) and watch that instead.

Sunday 27 June 2010

The Barry Attack

Australia's newest Primer Minister, Julia Gillard, is the first foreign born Prime Minister since Billy Hughes back in 1915. She was born in the Welsh town of Barry, which also has a chess opening named after it*, the Barry Attack. This is an anti Kings-Indian/Grunfeld system which begins with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 O-O 6.Be2. The idea is to play ideas like Ne5 and h4, and try and overwhelm Black with a lightning attack (kind of like what happened to Rudd on Thursday!).
The GM who has employed it the most is Mark Hebden, who has over 50 games with it in my database, but Australian GM Ian Rogers was also a fan, having played it at least 15 times in his career. So to celebrate Australia's new Prime Minister in a chess way, here is a quick win with the Barry by Ian Rogers from 1985.

Rogers,Ian (2485) - Pribyl,Josef (2405) [D00]
Tallinn Tallinn, 1985

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Be2 b6 7.Ne5 Bb7 8.h4 Nbd7 (D)
9.h5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Nd7 11.hxg6 fxg6 12.Bd3 e6 13.Qg4 Nc5 14.Qh3 Nxd3+ 15.cxd3 Kf7 16.Nb5 Qe7 17.Rc1 Rfc8 18.Ke2 Ba6 19.Nd4 c5 20.Nf3 h6 21.Bxh6 Rh8 22.Ng5+ Ke8 23.Qxe6 Qxe6 24.Nxe6 Bxe5 25.Bf4 Ke7 26.Rxh8 1-0

*There is some dispute over whether the Barry Attack was actually named after Barry, Wales, but for the purpose of this story I'm running with it.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Active v Quiet

I'm a sucker for openings that either contain sharp tactics or opening traps. The fact that I play the Traxler is a testament to this, but there are a number of offbeat/gambit lines I have for a few other openings. In the case of the French I played the Milner-Barry Gambit, which some consider dubious, but later on I went one step further with the Sorensen Gambit (9.Ng5) ,which Ian Rout first showed me. If the Milner-Barry is dubious, the Sorensen may well be unsound, although only if Black defends correctly. Of course I'm also capable of missing the correct continuation, especially as my memory starts to go.
A couple of times I've got to the diagrammed position (in blitz or rapidplay) and for some reason chosen 10.Qh5? I'm not sure why I've done this, but it is possibly mis-remembering something I read in a book a while back. Of course the active piece sacrifice on f7 is the best continuation, as the rest of the given game shows.

Lindberg,Douglas - Viniarski,Alex [C02]
AUS-ch U12 Churchill (6), 20.01.2000

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bd3 Bd7 7.0-0 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nxd4 9.Ng5 h6 (D)
10.Nxf7 Kxf7 11.Qh5+ Ke7 12.Be3 Kd8 13.Qh4+ Ne7 14.Bxd4 Qc7 15.Nc3 Ke8 16.Rac1 Qd8 17.Qh5+ g6 18.Bxg6+ Nxg6 19.Qxg6+ Ke7 20.Bc5# 1-0

Friday 25 June 2010

2010 ANU Open

Only 4 weeks until the 2010 ANU Open & Chess Festival. This popular event is now in its 18th year(!) which puts it in with some of the longer running weekend events in this country.
Once again the Festival will have the poplar 2 day weekend event, the outdoor simul to kick of proceedings, the ACT Go Championship alongside, as well as schools events for primary and high school students.
The ANU Open will be on the weekend of the 24th and 25th of July at Fenner Hall, Northbourne Ave, Canberra. There is an Open event and and Under 1600 event. The Open is a true open (ie anyone can enter regardless of rating) and has a prize fund of $2200. The Under 1600 has a prize pool of $1100 making the total prize amount $3300. Both events are 7 round events played at the testing time limit of G/60m + 10s per move.
Full details of this event plus details on how to enter can be found at Ian Rout's chess page.

(Disclaimer: I am an *unpaid* official for this event)

Thursday 24 June 2010

Make sure you get the first move right

There is nothing more embarrassing than calculating a winning line, only to play the first move out of order, or overlook an instant refutation. I've done it on occasion (even at correspondence chess), usually when the sequence starts with a capture and recapture, followed by the rest of the combination. Under those circumstances I've skipped right past the initial capture, much to the detriment of my subsequent play.
Early on in his chess career Svetozar Gligoric feel victim to a similar mistake. Playing in his first international event against Goesta Stoltz, he achieved a winning position, and calculated what he thought was the best path to victory. Unfortunately he forgot his queen was attacked. Shocked at his own blunder he played on for a number of moves before resigning.

Gligoric,Svetozar - Stoltz,Goesta [E44]
Treybal mem Prague (10), 1946

1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 b6 5.Nge2 Bb7 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Nxc3 Ne4 8.Nxe4 Bxe4 9.Qg4 Bg6 10.Be2 Nc6 11.Bd2 Na5 12.Bc3 h5 13.Qg3 h4 14.Qg4 Rh7 15.d5 Nb3 16.Rd1 Bf5 17.Qf3 Nc5 18.b4 Ne4 19.Bb2 Qe7 20.dxe6 fxe6 21.Bd3 d5 22.cxd5 Ng5 23.Bb5+ Kf8(D)
24.Bc6?? Nxf3+ 25.gxf3 Rd8 26.e4 exd5 27.Bxd5 Be6 28.0-0 Bxd5 29.exd5 h3 30.Rd4 Rh4 0-1

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Platforms and Manifesto's

Both* competing parties in the upcoming FIDE elections have now released their electoral platforms. Having read both, there isn't a lot of surprises in either, as they are both heavy on 'motherhood' statements, and in a sense promise to do what most people already know what needs to be done (organise high level events, attract sponsorship etc).
Probably the best place to read both platforms is at the Chessbase site, as the respective websites are weighed down with a lot of other guff ("We are now being supported by Elbonia!"). The Ilyumzhinov platform is here, and the Karpov platform here.
The only comment/proposal that really jumped out at me was the observation from the Karpov camp concerning funding for federations. In the introduction it says "Resources must be provided consistently rather than once every four years on the eve of FIDE elections. Past practices contaminate the electoral process." While this statement is true, the first part is as much the fault of federations failing to develop projects to be funded as it is FIDE's methods of disbursements. It is the second part of the statement that I feel is actually the most important part. For as it stands, there is an enormous advantage to the incumbent in this and past FIDE elections, and how that effect the democratic process is a big concern of mine.

(*BTW I now know who the 'mystery' third candidate is supposed to be and while it is someone who is probably quite obvious, as I am not convinced their ticket will even make it to the starting gates, I'll leave their name unpublished for now)

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Good Night

I quite enjoy the Weekly Endgame Study at Chessvibes, although I can barley solve even one. However looking at the answer the following week is just as much fun, due to clever selection of problems by IM Yochanan Afek. An example is the problem shown on the right. It is White to play and Draw. I'll give you a day or two to solve it before putting the answer in the comments section (or you can just go to Chessvibes and look for the answer!)

Monday 21 June 2010

Scooping up free engines

One of the slight drawbacks of using a netbook computer is the lack of a CD/DVD drive. I can normally get around this by using the DVD drive on my desktop machine and sharing it across my home network, but this only goes so far. For example I can install my copy of Fritz 9 on my netbook, but I can't actually run it. When I fire up the engine it asks me to insert the engine disk (ie installation CD) but then does not look at the correct drive on my computer.
Fortunately there are a couple of free engines that are both stronger than Fritz, and far easier to install. Fruit, which was initially open source, then closed source, is now back to open source. Although the original developer, Fabien Letouzey,is no longer working on the program, others are, and it is still a very strong program. It can be downloaded from
Stockfish is the other program I am using. It is also open source, and was the main analysis engine used by Chessdom for their recent World Championship coverage. It was based on the Glaurung program (free for Ipod Touch users btw) and is comparable in strength to Rybka. You can download it from
I've added both engines to my Fritz installation, and am now employing both to do the job of annotating games I am too lazy to annotate myself!

Sunday 20 June 2010

Subjective v Objective

The other day I had a scoresheet thrust into my hand, with the suggestion that the game it contained appear on this blog. To provide me with further incentive to publish it, the phrase "The Greatest Chess Game Ever Played" was written across the top. Curious, I said I would look at it, before making up my mind. (To be fair I also suggested that I was liable to mock the hyperbole of the game's title).
As it turns out it wasn't the greatest game of chess ever played. (Feel free to read that sentence again in a different tone of voice). The chess engine Fruit was particularly scornful of it, finding a number of moves of dubious quality. But still, there were a couple of nuggets of gold in amongst the quartz. In the diagrammed position White missed a chance to elevate the game to a slightly higher plane by playing 15.Rh8+, when 15.Nd5! was the winning move. Ironically the very next move he did find Nd5, but instead of it now being the winning move, it was the losing one! And after a few more missed opportunities, White collapsed completely and Black won.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Launching Pieces

One of the difficulties in teaching openings to new (junior) players is that they don't see the point of opening principles. Taking the time to move each piece once only isn't as much fun as playing for the 4 move checkmate, or going on the rampage with the queen. Even if they are shown how horribly wrong such an opening strategy can go, the vast majority of their games are played at such a level that 'bad' openings are just as effective as 'good' openings.
So I've decided to take a slightly different tack. Rather than stress the positional features of 'good' openings, I've simply shown how some openings can lead to a quick checkmate. No, not Scholars mate, but quick knockouts where almost all the pieces join in. One game I use as an example is the Marshal v Burn, 1900. Also known as "The Pipe Game", Marshall develops his pieces and then overwhelms Burn with a kingside smash. And unlike some other common example games (eg Morphy's Opera Box Game), when White sacrifices, he does so with a clear return in sight.

Marshall,Frank James - Burn,Amos [D55]
Paris IT Paris (14), 12.06.1900

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nf3 b6 7.Bd3 Bb7 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.h4 g6 11.h5 Re8 12.hxg6 hxg6 13.Qc2 Bg7 (D)
14.Bxg6 fxg6 15.Qxg6 Nd7 16.Ng5 Qf6 17.Rh8+ 1-0

Friday 18 June 2010

A stamp of approval for the Kings Gambit

In the current Kings Tournament in Medias, Romania, World number 1 Magnus Carlsen pulled a surprise by using the Kings Gambit in his round 4 game against Wang Yue. Carlsen would certainly be the highest rated player ever to use this opening in a serious tournament game, and for fans of the opening, his opponent may well be the highest rated player* ever to lose to it.
Of course at this level the opening is played with a more positional outlook than the 19th century hack and slash style you see in club chess, which makes the game all the more instructive to lower rated players. Also worth studying is the ending where Carlsen was up the exchange. In one of his books on the middlegame, Euwe stated that being up the exchange in the ending was almost always winning, and Carlsen proved this to be so (even when his opponent had an extra pawn).

*Of course Fischer may well have been the 'strongest' player to lose to the Kings Gambit, in his game against Spassky at Mar Del Plata in 1960.

Carlsen,M (2813) - Wang Yue (2752) [C36]
4th Kings Tournament Medias ROU (4), 17.06.2010

1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 exf4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5 6.0-0 Be7 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qd8 9.d4 0-0 10.Bxf4 Bf5 11.Qe2 Bd6 12.Bxd6 Qxd6 13.Nb5 Qd8 14.c4 a6 15.Nc3 Nd7 16.Rad1 Bg6 17.Qf2 Re8 18.h3 Rc8 19.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 20.Rxe1 c6 21.d5 Nf6 22.Qd4 cxd5 23.Nxd5 Nxd5 24.cxd5 Qd6 (D)
25.Ne5 Re8 26.Re3 Rd8 27.Nc4 Qf6 28.Re5 h6 29.d6 Bf5 30.Nb6 Be6 31.d7 Kh8 32.a4 g6 33.Qc3 Kg7 34.a5 h5 35.h4 Rxd7 36.Nxd7 Bxd7 37.Qd4 Bc6 38.b4 Bb5 39.Kh2 Ba4 40.Rd5 Bc6 41.Qxf6+ Kxf6 42.Rc5 Ke6 43.Kg3 f6 44.Kf2 Bd5 45.g3 g5 46.g4 hxg4 47.h5 Be4 48.Rc7 f5 49.h6 f4 50.h7 g3+ 51.Ke1 f3 52.h8Q f2+ 53.Ke2 Bd3+ 54.Ke3 1-0

Thursday 17 June 2010

Not the outcome we were looking for

Two weird stories popped up today, one to do with chess, and one to do with something else. I've decided to group them together, simply because I found them both funny.
The first involved Loek Van Wely in the Dutch Championship. As an experiment, he had sensors attached to his body to read his stress levels during his round 4 game. However things didn't quite go according to plan, as his opponent FM Benjamin Bok forced a repetition starting on move 13. This didn't amuse Van Wely, as neither player was willing to claim a three-fold repetition until move 37! As for measuring Van Wely's stress levels, the use of equipment may have been unnecessary, as his post game comments where he referred to his opponent as an "idiot" probably provided enough experimental data on its own. Chessvibes has the full story, including the game in question.
The second (non-chess) story involved a giant statue of Jesus, located in Ohio,USA. Nicknamed the "Touchdown Jesus" due to the its raised arms (like the signal for a touchdown in American Football), it was completely destroyed by a bolt of lightning during an overnight storm. Apparently the Adult Bookstore located on the other side of the freeway was left untouched. Full story here.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Taking a dive in the penalty box

It is not only soccer where you see players rolling on the ground in agony, trying to milk a penalty from the referee. Sometimes it happens in Chess as well (although not in quite the same way).
With the football World Cup currently on, and a number of players looking for Academy Awards for their acting prowess, I am reminded of a game from the 2006 Olympiad.
New Zealand Board 3 FM Roger Nokes was playing against Costa Rica, and from the outset he had had the upper hand. His attack had rolled along quite smoothly and by move 34 he was up a piece, and had a forced mate starting with 35.Qc3. But at some point while executing a move (I do not know which one exactly) he had bumped another piece, apparently upsetting it. According to the New Zealand Team Captain Hilton Bennett, his opponent took one look at this and then "went down like a striker in the penalty box". There was much gesticulation, the calling of arbiters, and general umbrage from the Costa Rican player concerned. After some argument about what had happened, and what should then happen, the position was restored and the game continued. However this break in concentration did Roger no help at all, and after missing the win (and subsequent ones), his position began to slowly go backwards. A dozen moves later a draw was the best Roger could hope for, and another dozen moves after that he was lost.

Nokes,Roger NZL (2322) - Valdes Romero,Leonardo CRC (2374) [B07]
37th olm final Turin ITA (8), 29.05.2006

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 c6 5.h3 Bg7 6.f4 Qb6 7.Qc1 Na6 8.g4 c5 9.Nf3 0-0 10.Bg2 cxd4 11.Bxd4 Qa5 12.0-0 Be6 13.Re1 Rac8 14.a3 Rfe8 15.Qe3 Qc7 16.Rac1 b6 17.Qf2 Nc5 18.Qh4 h6 19.g5 hxg5 20.Nxg5 Nh5 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.f5 Bd7 23.Nd5 Qd8 24.b4 e6 25.f6+ Nxf6 26.Nxf6 Rh8 27.Qg3 Qxf6 28.e5 Qe7 29.Rf1 Be8 30.exd6 Qd7 31.bxc5 Rxc5 32.Ne4 Ra5 33.Nf6 Qa4 34.Rcd1 Bb5 (D)
35.d7 Bxf1 36.Ne8+ Rxe8 37.dxe8Q Qxe8 38.Rxf1 Qe7 39.Rf3 Qc5+ 40.Qf2 Qe7 41.Rd3 Rxa3 42.Rxa3 Qxa3 43.Qd4+ Kg8 44.Qd8+ Kg7 45.Qd4+ Kg8 46.Qd8+ Qf8 47.Qd7 a5 48.Kf1 Qc5 49.Ke1 Qxc2 50.Qd8+ Kg7 51.Qd4+ f6 52.Qd7+ Kh6 53.Bc6 Qc3+ 54.Kd1 Qxh3 55.Qe8 Qd3+ 56.Kc1 Qe3+ 57.Kd1 Kg5 58.Bd7 e5 59.Qe6 Qd4+ 60.Kc1 a4 61.Be8 a3 0-1

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Winning with the Hack

Here is one of the decisive last round games from the 2010 NSW Open Under 1600. Both players were on 5/6 and a win for either would potentially put them in a tie for first place (as indeed happened). While some players might approach the game with a degree of caution, waiting to see the state of the other important games, Matthew Bennett decided to decide the game quickly with a double piece sacrifice. Of course if his opponent had spotted the best defensive moves it may have been decided in his opponents favour, but fortune favoured the brave this time.

Stahnke,Axel - Bennett,Matthew [A85]
NSW Open Minor, 14.06.2010

1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 d5 5.Nf3 c6 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 Ne4 9.0-0 0-0 10.Ne2 Nd7 11.Ne1 Rf6 (D)
12.f3 Bxh2+? 13.Kxh2 Rh6+ 14.Kg1 Qh4 15.fxe4 Qh2+ 16.Kf2 fxe4 17.Bxe4 dxe4 18.Qxe4? Nf6 19.Qf4?? Ng4+ 20.Kf3 Rf6 21.Ng3 Rxf4+ 22.exf4 Qh6 23.Rh1 Qd6 24.Ne2 Qd5+ 25.Kg3 Qe4 26.Nc3 Qxd4 27.Nf3 Qf2+ 28.Kh3 Ne3+ 29.Kh2 Qxg2# 0-1

2010 NSW Open - Zhao wins

GM Zong Yuan Zhao recovered from his earlier tournament setback to win the 2010 NSW Open with 6/7. The last round saw a clash of the top 2 seeds, Zhao and IM George Xie, but a quick-ish draw saw Zhao reach 6/7. IM Gary Lane had a chance to catch Zhao if he could defeat Gareth Oliver, but Oliver completed a very successful tournament by drawing with his titled opponent. This left Xie and Lane in second place, with Zhao the outright winner.
In the Minor (Under 1600) event, 4 players shared first place on 6/7. Willis Lo went into the last round on 6/6 but a loss to Mark Stokes saw Stokes, Matthew Bennett and Alana Chibnall share the winners cheque with Lo.
The organisers were extremely pleased with the 148 player entry, knowing that such numbers point the tournament on a sound financial footing for future years. And it is hard to disagree with GM Zhao's comments at the closing ceremony that Australian Chess is "undergoing a renaissance period", at least where tournament numbers are concerned.

Sunday 13 June 2010

2010 NSW Open Day 2

After the numerous upsets in round 2 of the 2010 NSW Open, normalcy has been restored, with the top seeds clawing their way back to the top. In the round 5 top board clash, GM Zong Yuan Zhao defeated IM Gary Lane to move back into the lead. Joining him on 4.5/5 is Gareth Oliver, while the Rej v McNamara game on board 2 (which is still in progress) would also see the winner reaching 4.5.
In the Under 1600 event Axel Stahnke and Willis Lo are leading with 5 wins from 5 rounds, and will play in tomorrow's morning round.

Saturday 12 June 2010

2010 NSW Open - Day 1

The organisers of the 2010 NSW Open were caught unawares by the big turnout, with the 148 player field stretching the resources to the limit. In fact the first round started with the bottom board of the Minor minus a board, pieces and clock. A hurried trip gathered the extra equipment required, and all players were underway (albeit half an hour late).
While the first round saw few upsets, it was the second round where the top seeds really struggled. On board 1 Arthur Huynh held a determined Zong-Yuan Zhao to a draw, while John Papantoniou went one better by beating George Xie in a game where Xie was never in the hunt. A number of other top seeds could only draw, leaving the leader board with a somewhat strange appearance.
Full results of the tournament can be found at, while I will be providing regular mid-round updates via my twitter feed (look to the right of this blog).

Papantoniou,John - Xie,George [A28]
NSW Open Gent BEL, 12.06.2010

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.d4 e4 5.Ng5 Bb4 6.d5 Ne5 7.Qd4 Qe7 8.Ngxe4 Nxe4 9.Qxe4 f5 10.Qxf5 d6 11.Qc2 0-0 12.e4 Bc5 13.Nd1 Qh4 14.Be3 Bg4 15.Bxc5 Bxd1 16.Kxd1 dxc5 17.f3 Rae8 18.Qe2 c6 19.g3 Qf6 20.f4 Ng4 21.Kc2 Qg6 22.Bg2 b5 23.Rae1 bxc4 24.Bh3 Nf6 25.Be6+ Kh8 26.f5 Qg5 27.Qxc4 cxd5 28.exd5 Ng4 29.h4 Ne3+ 30.Kd3 Qxg3 31.Rxe3 Qf2 32.Qc2 c4+ 33.Qxc4 Rxf5 34.Rhe1 Rf4 35.Qc3 Rd8 36.h5 h6 37.R1e2 Qf1 38.Rg3 Qb1+ 39.Kd2 Rf6 40.Rxg7 Qf1 41.Rg6 Rdf8 42.Rxh6+ Kg7 43.Rg6+ Kh7 44.Qc7+ Kh8 45.Qg7# 1-0

Friday 11 June 2010

NSW Open 2010

Off to Sydney in the morning to be one of the arbiters for the NSW Open. At this stage the entries are looking very good, with 130+ players down for the Open and Under 1600 tournaments. There will be a good contingent from Canberra travelling up, as well as a few visitors from north of the border. (Not so many Victorians though, the Victorian Open is on at the same time in Melbourne).
The tournament is quite strong by Sydney standards, with GM Zong Yuan Zhao the top seed, and IM George Xie hoping to pick up some of the 18 rating points he needs for the GM title.
I will try and publish regular tournament updates, depending on my access to wifi (Mickey D's seems to be my best bet). And watch for the standings from the Open.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Further misadventures in the Grunfeld

An occasional series where I wonder why I play the openings that I do.
In this case my opponent played a couple of move order tricks (Bg5-d2-g5!) to catch me in a line I wasn't that keen on (and indeed have used as white), although I thought I was OK, given the extra pawn in the bank. However poor judgement with the plan of e6 and Bg7 (I was worried about weak dark squares around my king) allowed his two bishops to cut me to pieces in very short order.

hwntw - Press,Shaun [D85]
Chessworld Friendly, 2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Be2 c5 9.0-0 Qa5 10.Bg5 cxd4 11.cxd4 Bg4 12.Bd2 Qa3 13.Rb1 Qxa2 14.Bg5 Qe6 15.h3 Bxf3 16.Bxf3 Qd7 17.Bg4 Qxd4 18.Qxd4 Bxd4 19.Rxb7 e6? [19...e5] 20.Rd1 Bg7 21.Rc1 h6?? 22.Be7 Re8 (D)
23.Be2! Bf8 24.Bf6 Bg7 25.Bb5 Rf8 26.Be7 1-0

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Chess, politics and journalism

Alan Mascarenhas was a regular player at the ANU Chess Club until until the last few weeks. However a job opportunity in New York took him away from the club, although what that job was was unknown to me until now. Turns out that Alan was off the US to write for Newsweek, and the US political scene is his beat. One of the first articles of his I discovered was the suggestion that Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney are "stalking each other like chess grandmasters". While I like the gratuitous chess reference, I'm not sure applying it Sarah Palin is grounded in reality. However you can read the article yourself, and make up your own mind. I certainly will keeping my eye on his writings, if only to tally up how many more chess references he can sneak in.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Secret(?) Ballot

The upcoming FIDE elections once again draws attention to how politics works inside the organisation. I've seen a lot of comment on various chess bulletin boards supposing to know how these things go (eg everyone gets bribed, all African nations are dupes, Western nations are discriminated against etc), but none of this matches what I have observed in practice.
For example, in the 2006 Election the PNG Chess Federation supported Bessel Kok, a decision that was announced ahead of time. During the days leading up to the voting, no one tried to get us to change our vote, offered us inducements, and in the months and years following the election, did nothing to punish us for backing the wrong horse. And in the lead up to this election I have spoken to both camps, and once again the discussions have been entirely 'political' and no inducements to vote one way or the other have been mentioned.
One of the odd things (at least to me) about the election is that voting is carried out in secret. The obvious reason for this is to prevent intimidation of voters, although democratic parliaments have all their voting in public, so as to prevent elected officials being bribed to vote a certain way. Why this is odd in terms of FIDE elections is for the following reason. Each countries voting is done via its FIDE delegate, who I assume is acting upon the instructions of their federation. And as the federation would (should?) make the decision about who it will support in a public way (during a committee meeting for example), then who each country is voting for should be known by both the commitee, and more importantly, by the federations members. Certainly when PNG makes up its mind on who it will vote for it won't be a secret, and I am sure that the Australian Chess Federation will announce its decision in advance of the election.
Nonetheless, at the 2006 election there were some delegates who made sure their votes weren't secret. According to one of the (horrified) returning officers, some delegates emerged from the voting booth with a mobile phone picture of the filled out ballot paper, as proof that the voted the way they were "supposed to"!

Monday 7 June 2010

Bill Hook

I was somewhat shocked to open the latest issue of "Chess" and read that Bill Hook had passed away last month (10 May 2010). Bill Hook had represented the British Virgin Islands at almost every Olympiad since 1968, playing 229 games for his country.
I played Bill in his final Olympiad (Dresden 2008), winning the game, although this result annoyed my team mate Rupert Jones who considered Bill one of his chess heroes. Bill's best result at the Olympiad would have been in Malta 1980, where he won the Gold Medal for the best percentage on Board 1. The Birtish Virgin Islands even released a stamp to commemorate the feat.
Bill played plenty of strong players at the Olympiad, garnering the scalps of a number of titled opponents. He even got to play Bobby Fischer in the 1970 Olympiad, although Fischer collected the point with a brilliant win.

Fischer,Robert James - Hook,William [C18]
Siegen ol (Men) Siegen (5), 1970

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qa4 8.Qg4 Kf8 9.Qd1 b6 10.h4 Ne7 11.h5 h6 12.Rh4 Ba6 13.Bxa6 Nxa6 14.Rf4 Qd7 15.Qf3 Nc6 16.Nh3 Rc8 17.g4 Qe8 18.g5 Ne7 19.gxh6 gxh6 20.Rf6 Nf5 21.Nf4 Ke7 (D)
22.Nxd5+ Kd8 23.Ne3 Nxe3 24.Bxe3 Rc7 25.dxc5 Nxc5 26.Rd1+ Ke7 27.Bxc5+ bxc5 28.Rxe6+ 1-0

Sunday 6 June 2010

A table of Odds

'Novelty' tournaments are one way for a chess club to provide a bit of variety to the regular calendar. On format used is the 'Handicap Tournament', where players either recieve a time or material handicap.
Time handicaps are fairly straight forward, where the time each player recieved is based on the ratings difference. One event I played 25 years ago had 30 minute games, where (IIRC) there was a 2 minute difference in time for every 100 rating point difference (with a minimum of 5 minutes for the stronger player). For example if there was difference of 200-299 points the clocks would start with 19-11 while a >1000 point difference would see 25-5 on the clocks. However I still think a stronger player can overcome the difference in time far more easily than a difference in material.
Much for common (in Canberra at least) is the material handicap tournament. As a rule of thumb the handicap is 1 pawn per 100 points difference. Of course you wouldn't give up 6 pawns for a 600 point difference, instead surrendering rook+pawn. Having run just such a tournament today here is a table of odds for the rating brackets we used. (NB This is based on 'traditional' odds, like Queen's rooks and f pawns, but I couldn't actually find a list on the internet, at least in the 5 or so minutes I spent searching)

  • less than 100 - no odds
  • 100-199 f pawn
  • 200-299 Q Knight for stronger player, f pawn for weaker
  • 300-399 Q Knight
  • 400-499 Q Knight + f pawn
  • 500-599 Q Rook
  • 600-699 Q Rook + f pawn
  • 700-799 Q Rook + Q Knight for stronger player, f pawn for weaker
  • 800-899 Q Rook + Q Knight
  • 900-999 Queen
  • >999 Queen + f pawn

Saturday 5 June 2010

Fancy some homework?

Different coaches have different material and styles when working with students. I tend to use complete games as lessons, and my teaching style might best be described as "standing up and waving my arms around".
One approach I have seen work well from other coaches is a "Studies" based system. Using chess studies to get students to think harder about what moves to play, rather than just having them rely on memory and simple ideas, does lead to better results. The only drawback I see is that often studies are really, really hard (although I guess that is the whole point of them).
Here is a problem set as homework for a group of junior players here in Canberra, although they have been given 4 weeks to find the answer. It is a Helpmate in 2, which means that Black moves first, and helps White mate on his second move. So far I have got as far as assuming it relies on a double check from White, but I haven't been able to cut off all the escape squares for the Black king. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, and the answer lies in a different direction.

Friday 4 June 2010

The power of two bishops

My most recent copy of "New in Chess" contains a number of tributes to Vasily Smyslov. Towards the back Jan Timman reminisces about the former world champion, having played against him on a number of occasions. In the article he shows a game played by Smyslov as a 14 year old, which eve though shows his ability to turn positional mastery into tactical dominance. The game is both a demonstration of the power of the two bishops, and the value of knowing what has gone before. As Timman says in his article, the final combination is a variation on Rotlewi - Rubenstein, 1907

Gerasimov,K - Smyslov [D05]
Moskou, 1935

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.Bb2 Bd6 7.0-0 Qc7 8.a3 b6 9.c4 Bb7 10.Nc3 a6 11.Re1 cxd4 12.exd4 0-0 13.Na4 Bf4 14.Ne5 dxc4 15.bxc4 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Qc6 17.Bf1 Rfd8 18.Qb3 Ng4 19.h3 (D)
19. ... Rd3!! 20.Qxb6 Rxh3 21.Bd4 Bh2+ 22.Kh1 Bxe5+ 0-1

Thursday 3 June 2010

Monkey Chess

A few years ago the illusionist Derren Brown performed a 'stunt' where he played 13 chess players (IIRC) (amongst them a number of GM's and IM's) in a simul and achieved a plus score. The trick to this however was rather simple, and already well known in the chess community. You simply pair up games of alternate colours (ie 1 white game and 1 black game) and then take the move played on the first board and repeat it on the second (eg White plays 1.e4 on board 1 and you then play it as White on board 8. When Black replies on board 8 you then play the same move on board 1). This way the players are actually playing each other and you guarantee a 50% score on each of the paired boards. His added wrinkle was to add a weaker extra player who he could beat, ensuring a final result of +1.
Until now I didn't believe this trick had a name, but I have recently seen it called "Monkey Chess". It is so named because it takes no chess ability at all to perform, and could be carried out by a proverbial monkey.
Over at the International Correspondence Chess Federations bulletin board there is a current discussion on this issue. In OTB (over the board) chess it isn't much of a problem (in teams events for examples) as it is quite obvious when it takes place, and in fact there are procedures in place to deal with such situations in such events as the olympiad (The games are moved out of sight of each other). But in correspondence chess such occurrences are not so obvious and in fact may happen without players being aware of it. Nonetheless I am sure that once a tournament is finished, and the game scores become available, such tricks would soon be discovered, and I assume sanctions would be applied.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Meeting with FIDE

As mentioned in this post, a couple of FIDE officials, Geoffrey Borg and Ignatius Leong, were paying a visit to Australia and New Zealand to discuss chess development in Oceania. The other reason for the visit was to hold an arbiters seminar for prospective Australia arbiters (in conjunction with the ACF), but that seemed not to have happened.
Wearing my PNG hat I caught up with them over breakfast today, along with PNG team captain Brian Jones. It was fairly free-wheeling discussion but there were a number of points I felt important. Geoffrey Borg stressed the importance of good management practice in federations, which is hardly surprising given his background in business management. He stated it best when he said "Just because you are volunteer administrators, doesn't mean you can't be professional administrators". His other good point was that federations who take a mainly hands off approach to chess organisation do not reap the benefits of junior chess. While a federation need not be intrusive in what it does, it needs to provide enough extra levels of activity to capture the players when the move up from 'schools' chess.
Also look forward to a greater level of visibility from FIDE in the region, with a Oceania Development Officer being proposed as a way of building up chess in the existing federations, as well as encouraging new federations to be formed.
Of course this discussion took place with the upcoming FIDE elections in the background. While this was touched upon lightly, it wasn't a significant part of the meeting. But from a completely different source (ie NOT from todays meeting) comes a suggestion that a third candidate may enter the contest. Who that is not public, and at this stage completely unknown to me.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Some big improvers

Much excitement in the Press household with the release of June 2010 Australian Ratings. Not so much for me (as my rating went down) but for my son who is that stage of his career where ratings are really, really important. As his rating jumped by over 200 points he was quite pleased with the outcome.
And I suspect the next meeting of the ANU Chess Club will see a number of other pleased players, with 3 of the countries top improvers being club members (although in December 2009 the club had 6 of the biggest improvers). However the biggest improver of the lot wasn't on the official list (due to the sensible restriction against listing players with unreliable ratings, as huge jumps are possible at the start of your chess career). James Ashton went from 148? (ie unreliable) to 708, an increase of 560 points in 3 months.