Sunday 31 July 2011

2011 ANU Open - Day 2

GM Zong Yuan Zhao completed a pretty smooth victory in the 2011 ANU Open, scoring 2/3 on the second day to finish on 6/7. The key game was his 5th round against IM Andras Toth. After both players bashed out 15 or 16 moves in less than 3 minutes, Toth had a long think in the position, but was unable to find an answer to Zhao's constant pressure. This pressure built up for the rest of the game, until Toth ran short of time and resigned, more from dissatisfaction with his position, rather than any immediate loss.
Zhao then drew with 'almost' IM Vladimir Smirnov, before securing victory with a quick last round draw against Blair Mandla. Mandla was one of three players tied for second, having beaten IM Andras Toth in round 6, before his last round draw against Zhao. He was joined by Vladimir Smirnov (who beat Justin Tan) and IM George Xie, who beat Paul Broekhuyse in the last round.
In the Minor (Under 1600) tournament, Fred Litchfield was streeting the field with 6 wins from the first 6 rounds, before Ethan Derwent stooped him the final round. The win by Derwent allowed him to catch Litchfield on 6/7, and the two shared first place. Tournament newcomer Curtis Perry finished in outright third on 5.5/7.
The organisers (Shun Ikeda, Paul Dunn, Charles Zworestine etc) judged the tournament a success, with a sight increase in numbers over last year, and no problems or major incidents. In terms of odd happenings (apart from world no 3 Lev Aronian being the highest rated spectator the tournament has ever had),the 5th round pairing between Casey Baines and Curtis Perry may have set some sort of Australian record, with Perry's 193cm fame (6ft 5in) being slightly overshadowed by Baines topping out at 198cm (6ft 7in).

Saturday 30 July 2011

2011 ANU Open - Day 1

After the first day, GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Andras Toth lead the 2011 ANU Open with 4 wins from 4 games. Zhao's tally included wins over Benjamin Harris and Arthur Huynh, while defending champion Toth beat IM George Xie in an important 4th round game. The two leaders meet in the 5th round, which will go a long way to determining the tournament winner.
In the Minor (Under 1600) tournament, local players Fred Litchfield and Matt Radisich are also on 4/4, and just as in the Open, play in tomorrows 5th round.
Results from the tournament can be found at
The top board clash between Zhao and Toth can be seen at from 9:30am Canberra time.

Arthur Huynh - GM Zong Yuan Zhao
2011 ANU Open, 30.07.2011

Friday 29 July 2011

2011 ANU University Co-Op Bookshop Simul

IM Andras Toth proved a hard man to beat in the 2011 ANU University Co-op Bookshop Simul, winning all his games against a fairly tough field. The simul, held at King O'Malley's pub in the centre of Canberra, attracted a group of players in the 1200-1800 range (plus one 2000 ringer), each aiming to score a prize for winning or drawing. While there were a couple of games that could have gone either way, according to Andras, he managed to hang on and take the point. "He didn't miss any tactics" was one comment heard after the game. His score on +15=0-0 was achieved after 2 hours of play.
The annual Co-op Bookshop simul is the first event in the 2011 ANU Chess Festival. The Festival continues tomorrow with the first day of the 2011 ANU Open.

Thursday 28 July 2011

John Mackie - RIP

Canberra chess identity John Mackie passed away earlier this week. He was active as an over the board player in the 1960's and 70's, before concentrating on correspondence chess from the 1980's onward. He was the Director of Play for the Doeberl Cup in its early years, and was the editor of International Chess Forum, which was the spiritual predecessor of Australian Chess Forum. His chess involvement declined over the last few years due to health issues, but he still had a number of friends in the Canberra chess community, who will mourn his passing.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Armenian Team Work

The Armenian Team has won the 2011 World Teams Championship, proving once again that they are masters of teams chess. Although ranked 4th by seeding, they finished with 14/18 (match points scoring), winning 5 matches and drawing 4. This put them 1 point ahead of the host country China, who won 6 matches, but lost 2. Ukraine finished 3rd, with top seeds Russia once again coming up short in a teams event by finishing in a 3 way tie for 4th.
Unlike the Olympiad, this event is an all play all, so there is nowhere to rest after a bad result. Armenia used a similar strategy to their 2 Olympiad winning teams by playing their top 4 for almost all their games (Aronian rested once to give their board 5 his only game). Most other teams rotated players, although the majority of board 1 players played all 9 games.
Apart from Russia, Israel's 9th place was also a surprise, as they normally do well at Olympiads. Less of a surprise was Egypt finishing 10th, as they were rated 100 points below the next team.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Openings that aren't Openings

I've faced a number of weird openings in my time, some so weird I'm not sure they even qualify as openings. I'm pretty sure they're designed to skip the opening phase altogether, and start the middlegame as soon as possible.
For example I faced 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Bc5 this evening, and after taking on e5, I spent the next few moves making sure I didn't have to return the pawn, going so far as to miss a strong tactical shot around move 6. (I did win the game btw).
Of course this isn't as bad as the Irish Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5) which I have played against at least twice in serious games, but coughing up a pawn for little compensation makes little sense to me, even as some kind of psychological ploy.
But having said that there are over 250 games with 2. ... Bc5 in my database, so giving up a pawn this way must appeal to some folks.

Monday 25 July 2011

Bullet - Rolling dice

Having not played a lot of Bullet Chess (G/1m) over the years, I'm not quite up with the nuances of the game. So much so that of the recent games I have played, it seems like the results I score are the complete opposite of what is actually on the board. When I am winning on the board I lose on time, and when I am losing on the board, it is my opponent who gets flagged.
This leads me to one conclusion: You can play bad moves faster than good ones.
So for avid bullet players here is the question: Is playing good moves a bad strategy?

Sunday 24 July 2011

An unhappy birthday

A few months ago I published a drastic loss by Yasser Seirawan from the US Championship. Conventional wisdom was that outdated opening knowledge, caused by a lack of constant tournament play was the reason for the loss. It looks like he has decided to play a little bit more as he has turned out for the United States in the World Teams Championship being held in China at the moment.
In round 6 he played Judith Polgar, who was celebrating her 35th birthday. Showing her no favours he scored a pretty one sided victory, finishing with 2 rooks versus a knight. He then continued his good form with a win in the next round over Mamedyarov.

Seirawan,Yasser (2635) - Polgar,Judit (2699) [E32]
8th World Teams Ningbo CHN (6), 23.07.2011

Saturday 23 July 2011

2011 ANU Open - 1 week to go

The 2011 ANU Open is just under a week away. At the moment the field stands at 57 players, although this will surely grow over the next few days. The top seed in the Open section is GM Zong Yuan Zhao, while local IM Andras Toth is defending the title he won last year.
As a warm up for the weekender, IM Toth will be giving a simul on Friday 29th July, at King O'Malley's in Canberra City. The simul will begin at 4:30 pm, and is sponsored by the ANU University Co-op bookshop.
A list of entries for the ANU Open (and Minor) is here, while tournament details are here.

Friday 22 July 2011

Post game video

It looks like Chessbase is revisiting the "post game" video style from The Master Game. One of the features of the Biel event, is that after the game the players conduct a post mortem, which is both relayed live on, and video taped. While membership of normally costs something (either by diret payment or the purchase of a Chessbase product), they are putting some of the videos up for free. Here is a link to the first round action, while the other rounds can be found at

Thursday 21 July 2011

Deal or no deal

Assume you are defending an ending which you are pretty sure is a book draw (eg bishops of opposite colours or kings covering key squares). Your opponent has knocked back a draw offer, and it looks like it will be 50 further moves before you can go home. You try and claim a draw under 10.2 but as increments are being used the arbiter says no. However he offers you a deal. He will stop the game and put the position into a tablebase. However you must accept whatever result is returned (ie if it is a draw you get what you want, but if it is a loss, you get 0) Would you take this deal?

(Note: This is a based on a discussion *after* the completion of a tournament game between two regular readers of this blog.)

Wednesday 20 July 2011

2011 Dutch Open

2 wins and a draw by three young Australians in the 2011 Dutch Open makes for a successful round 1. While FM's Moulthun Ly and Junta Ikeda started in the top half of the draw (and played lower rated opponents), IM Andrew Brown started in the bottom half. As a result he played GM Vladimir Georgiev, but was still able to split the point. Wins for Ikeda and Ly have resulted in GM opponents in the second round, with Ly being pairing with Dutch chess legend Jan Timman.
The tournament website is at this link, with plenty of live games on show, with broadcasts starting at 9pm Canberra time. (It is in dutch, but the menu options should be clear enough)

Georgiev, Vladimir v Brown, Andrew
2011 Dutch Open

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Biel begins

After a little break, the Category XX+ GM circuit has restarted with the Biel International Chess Festival. The 6 player event is headlined by Magnus Carlsen, with Caruana, Shirov, Morzevich, Pelletier and Vachier-Lagrave making up the field. Carlsen was the only winner on the first day, beating Pelletier. The tournament is using the 3-1-0 scoring system, so Carlsen is already 2 points ahead of the rest of the field.
Click here for the tournament website, while this is a direct link to the live games.

Monday 18 July 2011

Running dead

Years ago I fell into the trap of watching the Fox News Channel on satellite TV. I tried to look at it as an enormous practical joke played on the Americans by Rupert Murdoch, a sort of 'America's stupidest television hosts' that was being shown to the rest of the world.
But even this rationalisation was not enough to keep me watching, and I soon drifted away to real news like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report".
These days I usually follow Fox News in a second hand way, but occasionally I do have a look to see what they are, and are not reporting. And it appears that one thing they aren't reporting so much is the 'phone hacking' scandal that is causing problems for its parent company, News. Sure it gets a brief mention, but usually in the context of 'not much to see here'.
However they at least seem to be doing better than Chessbase, and its coverage of the Rybka/Fruit story. While almost every other blog has either mentioned the story, or had an opinion one way or the other, Chessbase have said nary a word on the issue. Certainly there website has been silent on the matter up until this point, despite having plenty of opportunity to address the story. Of course the Chessbase company sell Rybka on their website, and for now, they still offer it for sale.

Sunday 17 July 2011

2011 Oceania Women's Zonal Playoff

IM Irina Berezina has qualified for the next Womens Worlds Championship KO, with a 2.5-0.5 win over WIM Emma Guo in the 2011 Oceania Women's Zonal playoff. The playoff, which was held today at the Parramatta RSL Club in Sydney, was required after the 2 players tied for first place in the 2011 Women's Zonal earlier this year.
The playoff was over 4 games, played with a time limit of 25m+10s per move, but only three games were required. The crucial game in the playoff turned out to be the first one. After gaining space in the centre out of the opening, Guo chose the very committal 13.e6 which indicated an 'all or nothing' strategy. The next few moves were pretty obvious, but on move 16 Berezina found Ne4, which caused Guo to have a long think. She captured twice on e4. but after 18. ... f5 was faced with the choice of grabbing the c6 pawn or retreating the queen. She chose the latter, but the initiative had now passed to Berzina. Guo castled queenside but her position quickly fell apart.
Game 2 was more one sided with Guo trying a symmetrical opening, but Berezina was able to break the symmetry with a clear advantage. Once Berezina got he rook into play the game was essentially over, and Guo resigned on move 20. The third and final game was the longest of the three, but Berezina was happy to repeat the position, despite being a pawn up in the final position.

Guo, Emma v Berezina, Irina
2011 Oceania Women's Zonal Playoff

The new blogger editor

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recognise that I tend to blog once a day, and that I normally do so just before midnight (Canberra time). It used to be that if I started a post before midnight, it would show up as have been written on that day (even if I finished it after midnight). However I recently switched to the new Blogger editor, and it now takes the post date from when I post the entry, not from when I start it. This explains why I have no posts on a Tuesday (for example), and 2 on a Wednesday.
(Of course this may interest no one but me, but it irks me enough to give an explanation!)

0% Draws

A strange set of results at Street Chess today. In a 17 player swiss with 7 rounds, not a single draw was recorded. This was over 54 games (a few players didn't play the entire tournament). I have seen this in some junior events where there is a big spread of strengths, but not in an open tournament like this, especially as the top seed was 1739 and the bottom was as 1114 (about a 600 point spread).
Well, I'm pretty sure I've never seen this happen before. I may well have, but I would think that such results would have jumped out at me.

Friday 15 July 2011

Another saying that is new to me

"An attack on the king develops more slowly than an attack on objects of lesser value, but is far more dangerous" This saying, referred to as 'classical', comes from "A Contemporary Approach to the Middlegame" by Aleksei Suetin. I guess it must be well known to have such an appellation, but it is certainly new to me.
The example game he gives is an old game (to compound my ignorance), played between Kotov and Panov in 1936. With White having the play on the queenside, Black looks to the Kingside for counterplay. At first glance it looks as though White will break through first, but to prove the point, Black ends up with the greater advantage.

Kotov - Panov [E62]
Moskou, 1936

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.d5 Nb8 8.0-0 e5 9.e4 Nbd7 10.Qc2 a5 11.a3 Nc5 12.Be3 Ng4 13.Bxc5 dxc5 14.h3 Nh6 15.Rab1 Re8 16.Nd2 f5 17.b4 Bf8 18.Na2 Nf7 19.Kh2 f4 20.Nb3 axb4 21.axb4 cxb4 (D) 
22.c5 Ng5 23.Rfd1 f3 24.h4 Nxe4 25.Bxf3 Rxa2 26.Qxa2 Nc3 27.Qd2 Qf6 28.Bg2 e4 29.Rbc1 Nxd1 30.Rxd1 Qc3 31.Qe3 Bf5 32.Kg1 Qxe3 33.fxe3 Bh6 34.Re1 Re5 35.Bf1 c6 36.dxc6 bxc6 37.Bc4+ Kf8 38.Kf2 Bg4 39.Kg1 Ke7 40.Kg2 Rf5 41.Be2 Bxe2 42.Rxe2 Rd5 43.Kf2 Rd3 44.Na5 Kd7 45.Nc4 Ke6 46.g4 Kd5 47.Nb2 Ra3 48.Rd2+ Kxc5 49.g5 Bg7 0-1

Thursday 14 July 2011

Thought and Choice in Chess

Adriaan de Groot's seminal work on chess thinking, "Thought and Choice in Chess" is now available as a free eBook. I found it on Google books, by doing my semi regular search for books with 'chess' as the subject. Normally this simply throws up a number of books from the 1840's which heavily plagiarise each other, but as in this case, you occasionally find a gem.
What I did not realise about this book, until I read the introduction, was that this was de Groot's first book, and was in fact his doctoral thesis. He certainly put a huge amount of work into it, as it clocks in at a heavy 450 pages.
So you don't have to go searching for it, like I did, here is the direct link to it. I'll probably try and read some of it over the next couple of months, but I'm pretty sure I won't make it all the way through.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

World Championship in Chennai?

A quick follow up to my recent post on the venue for next years World Championship Match. A number of news stories from the Indian media are announcing that next years World Championship match will be held in Chennai. It appears that the cost will be picked up by the government of Tamil Nadu.
Now the odd thing about this is that the deadline for bids the 31st July 2011, and that there is also a bid on the table from Moscow. What I suspect has happened is that there has been an agreement between FIDE and Chennai to submit a bid, but someone has jumped the gun at the Indian end and assumed it is an agreement to hold the event. Certainly the fact that the news reports I've seen all seem to come from the same source supports this theory.

Update: The Times of India are reporting this story as a 'bid for the World Championship' which is closer to the truth.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Is everyone on holidays?

I'm sensing a shortage of chess news right at the moment. The big summer events from Europe have yet to start, and not much else seems to be happening in this part of the world. That is of course if you ignore Trevor Tao's win in the Checkmate Open which was played in Adelaide over the last weekend. Tao, who rarely plays tournament chess, beat GM Zong Yaun Zhao and drew with GM Darryl Johansen on his way to outright first.
This Sunday (17 July) also sees the playoff for the Women's Zonal Title, between IM Irina Berezina-Feldman and WIM Emma Guo. It will be held at the Parramatta RSL Club in Parramatta, Sydney, and begins at 11am. Spectators to this event are welcome.

Monday 11 July 2011

The important first win

Getting a win under your belt at the start of an event may be important in more ways than one. For me, getting off zero is my primary consideration in any event, before I set my sights on further goals (reaching 50%, winning the tournament, scoring that elusive GM norm etc). At the higher levels of chess, it may be important for another reason.
After he won the World Championship in 1960, Mikhail Tal wrote a very detailed book on the match. In this match, against Mikhail Botvinnik, he got off to the very best of starts, by winning game 1. In his comments about the game, he pointed out that the victory had one important effect. As defending champion, Botvinnik only needed to draw the match, and therefore would be happy if all 24 games were drawn. Once Tal had won the first game, this equation went out the window, and as a consequence Botvinnik was now forced to play for a win, at least in some games. This meant that Tal could prepare for a slightly 'different' opponent, at least until the match returned to even terms.
Of course this assumes that Botvinnik was willing to employ a 'drawing' strategy in the first place. It may have been the case that he did not, and that the opponent Tal now faced had not changed in any way. But I cannot help but be reminded of the recent Candidates matches, where drawing strategies were certainly on show. And I wonder if those that went down in the playoffs should have tried to negate this strategy by throwing all their energy into the first game, rather than conserve it for the last.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Bad losers on Yahoo! Chess

Half Man, Half Biscuit are an interesting English band who specialise in odd songs with odd titles. As an example, their answer to one of the worst pop songs ever written is "We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune" from the Album "Achtung Bono". Their latest album "C.S.I Ambleside" has a track that deals with one of the pressing issues of the modern age, "Bad losers on Yahoo! Chess". I've added a Youtube link to the song (so it must be legal, right?), although there is no film clip to go with it (just a shot of the album cover). You can also find some mobile phone filmed live performances of the song on youtube if you want to see them in action.

Saturday 9 July 2011

2012 World Championship

While Viswanathan Anand is still hoping for a bid from India (at least according to the news feeds I've seen), at this stage the only bid for the 2012 World Championship match has come from Moscow. As most people already know, there was a potential bid from London, but this unravelled due to a disagreement between FIDE and the London organisers. This meant, for a time, there was no bid at all, but then Moscow stepped up with an offer. The deadline for any bid is July 31, but given the lack of rumours or ambit claims from other countries (eg India or Israel), I'm pretty sure it will be springtime in Moscow for Anand and Gelfand.

Friday 8 July 2011

Blackburne crushes Fischer

Simply because I haven't featured a game of is for a while, I've dug up a win by Joseph Blackburne. It was played as part of a simul he gave in Melbourne in 1885, and it was against a player by the name of Fischer. I'm assuming this Fischer is no relation to Bobby, but it does make a good headline.

Joseph Henry Blackburne v Fischer
Simul, Melbourne, 1885


There is a new blog covering the adventures of a number of young Australian players currently touring the world. It is imaginatively titled, the name being an anagram of the names of the players involved.*
I had hoped it would show Junta Ikeda's win of GM Garcia in the recently completed World Open, but as it does not (and the World Open website does not have the game either), I've found a draw between GM Sergey Kudrin and FM Moulthun Ly.

GM Sergey Kudrin v FM Moulthun Ly
World Open, Philadelphia, 4.7.2011

(*Ho, ho guys, we know what it really stands for!)

Wednesday 6 July 2011

The obligatory Tour de France post

I'm not convinced team cycling is "Chess on wheels" but it does make fore good viewing. I've been watching the early stages of the Tour de France before I fall asleep, and this year it looks like a wide open event. Tonight the challenge seems to be about who can stay on their bike (at least three crashes so far). This may be a little bit of cycling 'darwinism' at work, but it at least one case it looks like simple bad luck.
My only wish (and this is where cycling is like chess), is that the gap between the leaders going into the final stage is so close at the ride into Paris is a real race, rather than the procession it usually becomes.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Good Javascript chess programs?

A new work project has required me to learn to program in a number of computer languages that up until recently I had avoided. One benefit of this extra work is that I may get into programming Google Apps or Opera Widgets, when I regain a little free time.
For now I've been looking at what others have been doing, including a coupe of chess progams that run as widgets in the Opera browser. Sadly the ones I've seen are pretty poor although that may be a function of the fact that they are written in Javascript. So my basic question is: Can you write a strong (ie 2000+ rated) chess program in Javascript? Or has someone already done it?

Monday 4 July 2011

Gawain Jones wins Commonwealth Championship

GM Gawain Jones is the 2011 Commonwealth Champion. He finished tied for first with GM Nigel Short, but edged him out on tie-break. Both players scored 9.5/11 in the South African Open/Commonwealth Championship event that finished yesterday in South Africa. Australian GM David Smerdon finished in a tie for third (and third on tie-break) despite his claims of playing terrible chess throughout the tournament.
While Jones was justifiably happy with his title, Short expressed his displeasure with the tie-break system used, stating it was not much better than a "coin-flip". Assuming that the tie-breaks listed at were the ones used by the organiser, then the first tie-break was a fairly standard Buchholz, albeit with the top 2 and bottom 2 scores dropped. I suspect the cause of Short's annoyance is that you can never really know which of your opponents will be included in your final tie-break score, as final round results not only change your tie-break total, but may also change your tie-break field.
Event results (plus a selection of games up until round 8) can be found here.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Who said endings are boring?

Certainly not the group of kids I coached today. To emphasise the importance of calculation in selecting moves I decided to work through a number of studies and endings. One of the positions I showed them is the one given here. It is by Horwitz from 1851, and while the arrangement of pawns gives a big clue in how the solution is going to look, it still got a big laugh from the group when we reached the end of the 24 move(!) main line.
White to play and win

Updates from South Africa and Philadelphia

I've been keeping an eye on the tournaments in South Africa (Commonwealth Championship) and Philadelphia (World Open).
The news from Philadelphia is that Junta Ikeda and Moulthun Ly are doing well in the World Open. After a shared 4th place in the Philadelphia International, they are both in the top half of the World Open (7 day schedule). Ly is on 2.5/4 while Ikeda is on 2/4, having beaten GM Gildardo Garcia in round 4. Of course the standings are about to change dramatically as the 16 players in the 7 day schedule get swamped by the 77 players in the 5 day schedule (including Kamsky, Adams, Bluvshtein etc)
In the Commonwealth Championships, GM David Smerdon is on 7/9. While this is the kind of score that would win most 9 round events, he is only tied for 7th, due to the huge size of the field. The good news is that there are still 2 rounds to play, and so he still has a chance to improve his final standing.

Friday 1 July 2011

2011 ANU Open

The big event for this month (at least in this neck of the woods) is the 2011 ANU Chess Festival. Once again this event consists of the 2011 ANU Open, the Master Simul, and the ANU Primary and ANU High Schools events. It all kicks of with the Master Simul on the 29th of July, followed by the Open on the 30th and 31st.
The Open & Minor (Under 1600) have a prize pool of $3300 ($1000 for first in the Open). Entry fees are a very reasonable $65 (Adult, early entry) or less.
Full details of the tournament, as well as a downloadable brochure, are available here.