Wednesday 30 November 2011

Australian Young Masters

Next week sees Adelaide hosting the 2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters. This event has been running for the last few years, and is a round robin event for leading Australian junior (and slightly older) players. This year will see the Young Masters, Junior Masters and Girls Masters events, as well as a possible South Australia Junior Masters. Each event is a 10 player round robin, and the tournament will run from the 7 to 11 December.
Although the tournament is being played in South Australia, 10 of the participants come from the ACT. IM Andrew Brown is the top seed in the Young Masters with WIM Emma Guo also in this event. 5 more ACT players are in the Junior Masters, and 3 in the Girls Masters.
One player in the Girls Masters is Alana Chibnall, who warmed up for the event with this 19th century style game at tonight's ANU Summer Rapid. While the queen sacrifice is inventive, it wasn't quite sound, at least until her opponent pushed the wrong pawn in front of the king!

McPherson,Erick - Chibnall,Alana [B01]
ANU Summer Rapid Canberra, 30.11.2011

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Calculation and representation

As part of my real (ie non chess) job, I spent part of the year as a tutor for a Digital Media unit at the Australian National University. I was definitely on the Digital side of the course, rather than the Media side, as I struggle with the whole creative process.
The students were required to produce assignments using the Processing language, which is well suited to artistic representation on a computer. Although the course finished a couple of weeks ago, a tie-in with chess came to my attention today. Kerry Stead told me about a web site that had a chess playing program that represented its thinking process in a graphical format. The site is and it uses a chess playing program to create images like the one on the right.
The diagram is generated while the program is deciding on a move. The lines indicate the moves it is examining (green for white, orange for black), and the stronger the move, the brighter the line. The creators confess that the program isn't that strong, but having a strong chess playing program isn't the aim of the website. There are a couple of other little graphical tricks on offer as well, but you need to visit the website to find out what they are.

Monday 28 November 2011

Another shot at three player chess

Three player chess. Inventive minds have worked for hundreds of year to make it work, but I'm not really sure what problem they're trying to solve. Anyway, there is another attempt at coming up with a workable solution, and if anything, it has a certain artistic appeal. It uses a circular board, a moat to separate the pieces, and lines to mark out the trajectories of the diagonal moving pieces. Of course the old 2v1 problem is likely to rear its head (any player in the lead is likely to be hacked down by a coalition of the other two), and I wonder how this is dealt with (if at all).
I'll add it to my list of 'things that only look like chess' but it still may make a nice Xmas present, if only to leave on the lounge room table.

Sunday 27 November 2011

ACTJCL Transfer Championship

Sixty-eight players (including a number of nervous adults) took part in the 2011 ACT Junior Chess League Transfer Championship. There were a couple of high powered teams (combined ratings over 3000) and number of semi-serious teams (including 2 dressed in cowboy outfits!) while the rest were just there to enjoy themselves.
After 12 rounds three teams finished equal first, with 10 points each. On tie-break first place was awarded to the top seeds Emma Guo and Alana Chibnall, ahead of Harry Press and Michael Kethro, and Allen and Megan Setiabudi. The Setiabuid's picked up a consolation prize as best sibling team.
This year did not see as many 'shady' tricks as last year, although there were still a couple of 'only in transfer' moments. A clash between two of the top finishers saw one player sitting on one board, facing disaster if they moved, while there was a perpetual on the other. So the partner of the sitting player was forced to accede to a 50 fold repetition while her opponent waited until the sitting player had lost enough time to allow him to sit as well!
The other strange thing was there were at least 5 drawn games, in a version of the game where draws are all but impossible.A couple were due to double flag fall, at least one to a simultaneous mate v illegal move claim, and the rest due to confusion about what was going on in the game, leading to the arbiter making a ruling that resulted in the least amount of crying.

Further adventures in Rule 10.2

While the use of increments in serious chess tournaments has cut down the number of draw claims by 'insufficient losing changes', in more casual events they still crop up. I had an interesting case at Street Chess today. The position on the board (accurate as far as my memory allows) was reached with White having about 2 minutes on the clock and Black having about 5 minutes. White had previously offered a draw but Black decided to play on for a while, given the advantage on the clock. Barring any real stupidity the position is a draw, with White simply moving the bishop between b4 and d6. However rather than doing this as quickly as possible, as a simple way of showing Black that further play was pointless, White took between 5 and 10 seconds over every move. Not only that, but he was also made the king move in the direction of the kingside pawns. Eventually Black called me over and asked if it would be 'unsporting to win on time in this position'. (White at no stage tried to claim a draw btw). I said it was up to him, and he offered a draw to White (who would have had less than 30s on the clock) which was accepted.
After the game I suggested that if White had wanted to claim a draw under 10.2 he would do well to try and move a little bit faster than he did in the game, and to try and not give the impression he was playing for two results by lunging towards his opponents pawns.
The point being, if this had been a game where White had claimed a draw under 10.2, but had moved as slowly as he did (more than 5 seconds per move) I would have had no problems in disallowing the claim, even if the position had not substantially changed after White lost on time.

Friday 25 November 2011

I stand corrected

The Tal Memorial finishes tonight and it has revealed at least one thing to me. Previously I suggested that double round robins encouraged more conservative play than single round robins, in that players were happy to draw with Black and then fight against the same opponent with White (or course their opponent is probably using the same strategy).
However the gathering of 10 of the worlds top players has seen just as many draws, if not more. After 7 rounds there were 5 players tied for first on +1, and in round 8 only Aronian v Svidler was decisive. Of course most of the draws were still pretty hard fought (No draw offers before move 40 is a tournament condition), but lack of decisive games in the later half of the tournament indicates, well, something.
Probably the outstanding result in this regard is Viswanathan Anand's +0=9-0 result. The normal explanation is that he keeps his powder dry for upcoming World Championship matches, but I'm sure Tigran Petrosian is smiling somewhere in the afterlife!
Here is his final round game against his upcoming World Championship challenger Boris Gelfand.

Gelfand, Boris - Anand, Viswanathan
6th Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (9), 25.11.2011

Thursday 24 November 2011

Which openings have computers killed?

I've played most gambit openings in my time, but one I've not really tried is the Belgrade Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 ed 5.Nd5). It popped up on my radar when I saw it played at last weekends Vikings tournament, but even then I had to wrack my brain to remember what it was.
If my memory isn't failing me, I'm pretty certain it was popular in the 1970's and 80's, even at the top level. However I haven't noticed it so much these days, even with the current fad of digging up old and overlooked lines. So I'm wondering whether it has fallen out of favour due to 'engine disapproval' . Has the march of the machines dealt it a death blow, or is there some other reason why I'm not seeing it. But if it has faded away due to computer improvements, are there any other openings that have suffered a similar fate?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Australian Go Championship

For those that find chess too easy, the Australian Go Championship is being held in Canberra this weekend. It is being organised by the Canberra Go Club, which usually meets alongside the ANU Chess Club on Wednesday evenings.
The event is a 6 round swiss, with an Open and Handicap division. It is being held at the Canberra School of Art (at the top of Childers St), in the same room that the ANU Open is usually held. It beings at 10am on Saturday (26 November) and runs for 2 days. Further (brief) details, including a contact email for the tournament director, can be found at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Rook mates!

The ACT Junior Chess League is holding its end of year Transfer (Bughouse) tournament this coming weekend. This is the traditional ending to the junior chess year in Canberra, and is always an extremely popular event. Last year there were 32 teams taking part, with the Setiabudi's (Allen and Megan) taking out first place.
The event is being held on Sunday 27th November at Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent, Campbell (next to the War Memorial). Registrations close at 12:45 pm with the tournament running from 1pm, with prize giving at 5pm. Entry is $20 per team, and is open to players of ALL ages (yes even adults can play). The rules for the tournament are described here. The main thing to note is that it usually played without 'drop for mate', but this rule has sometimes been overturned due to popular demand.

Monday 21 November 2011

How ridiculous!

I suspect the day of the tournament book is coming to an end. While there have been a couple of very good exceptions to this rule (San Luis, From London to Elista), most players prefer instant coverage. Sometimes such coverage is provided by the organisers themselves, in other cases it is a third party doing the commentary.
Due to the late evening finish, I normally pick up the results from the Tal Memorial in the morning. The added advantage of this is that there is normally rudimentary commentary on how the game went. For example the round 3 game between Kramnik and Carlsen was described by one young GM as a 'ridiculous game'. Now I don't know how firmly his tongue was planted in his cheek when he typed that, but it certainly had an odd look about it. Another observer even commented that Carlsen was 'the reincarnation of Steinitz' as he had retreated his pieces back to their starting squares. But even the extra tempo and masses of space, Kramnik was unable to convert this into anything meaningful, as a draw was the final result.
Why this is so is still not clear to me, given the number of 'rules' that Carlsen broke. I might have to wait until someone writes a book on the tournament too find out!

Kramnik,Vladimir (2800) - Carlsen,Magnus (2826) [A20]
6th Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (3), 18.11.2011

Sunday 20 November 2011

2011 Vikings Weekender - Day 2

FM Junta Ikeda has added another Vikings Weekender title to his collection, scoring 6/7 to win the tournament by half a point. The key to his victory was his round 6 game against IM George Xie, which was decided in a familiar fashion. Short of time (down to his last few seconds on more than 1 occasion), Ikeda had to defend against a very strong attack from Xie. However as the attack began to falter, Ikeda improved his position and eventually went on the counter offensive as Xie's clock ran down. Eventually Ikeda won material, and caught Xie's king in a mating net.
In the final round Ikeda played IM Vladimir Smirnov and a draw gave Ikeda first place, while Smirnov took a share of second. Along with Smirnov, IM's Andrew Brown and George Xie also made it to 5.5/7.
Curiously for a weekend event most of the rating group prizes were decided by games between opponents within the same rating group. Wins for Mos Ali, Milan Grcic and Willis Lo gave them a share of the Under 1800 prize, with Lo also being the best placed junior.
Other players with good performances included Canberra juniors Fred Litchfield and Jamie-Lee Guo (both prize winners), while Greg Melrose showed he still knows his way around the board, scoring 5/7. The tournament itself was a delight to run with the Tuggeranong Chess Club (Glenn Ingham, Matt Radisich and Jim Flood) doing a fantastic organisation job.
Final results from the tournament can be found here.

Saturday 19 November 2011

2011 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The first day of the 2011 Vikings Weekender saw 4 very tough rounds, at least for those who resisted the temptation to take a bye in the evening round. IM Andrew Brown is the only player with a perfect score, half a point ahead of FM Junta Ikeda, Blair Mandla and IM George Xie.
Local player Steven Sengstock created a sensation the 2nd round by holding Xie to a draw. Bishops of opposite colours frustrated Xie's attempts to find a win in the ending. Round 2 saw the interesting Smirnov v Smirnov pairing, with a draw agreed as most of the pieces disappeared from the board.
Former Australian Junior Champion Greg Melrose returned to the tournament scene with 3 straight wins, before going down to IM Andrew Brown in the 4th round. As a result Brown is up against top seed Xie in the 5th round, while Mandla and Ikeda meet on the second board.
Further down the list there a number of interesting games, non more so than the Setiabudi v Sidiqi games which resulted in the position shown in the diagram. A draw was agreed soon after.
A crosstable from the event is available at while the round 5 draw is available under Current Announcements link on that page.

Friday 18 November 2011

A tasty exchange sac

In sacrificing the exchange two things are important. The strength of the minor piece removed, and the strength of the minor piece that remains. I learned this the hard way in an online (turn based) game. Trying my usual 'mate down the h file' line against the Pirc, I got hit with a sac on c3 and was quickly in trouble. My opponents knights danced around the middle of the board, and after the timid Rhf1 I lost my material advantage, and the game soon after.

Press,Shaun - Nightflight [B07]
Chessworld online, 18.11.2011

Thursday 17 November 2011

2011 Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender

A last minute reminder for the 2011 Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender. If you are planning to play, you need to enter by tomorrow to be included in the draw for the first round (late entries will be paired after the start of round 1).
At this stage there are just over 50 entrants, which indicates a larger field than last years 55. Top seed is IM George Xie, with IM's Vladimir Smirnov and Andrew Brown also playing. One interesting entry is Greg Melrose, who was Australian Junior Champion in 1972, but who hasn't been on the tournament scene for a while.
The tournament is being held at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa, ACT. It is a 7 round event with a time limit of G60m+10s per move. First prize is $1000 and the total prize pool is expected to exceed $2700. Full details of the event, including an entry form are here.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Tal Memorial

The 2011 Tal Memorial has just started in Moscow. This 10 player round robin has an average rating of 2776, a category 22(!) event, under the old scale. To put that into perspective, the score for a GM norm is 2.5/9 while 1.5/9 will earn you an IM norm.
With a field of this calibre, every round is going to have some fantastic match-ups, but Aronian v Carlsen in Round 1 (a world championship match I'd like to see), and Gelfand v Anand in round 9 (a world championship we will see) look particularly interesting.
The tournament website has both live coverage, as well as live video and commentary. At this stage I've only been able to find the Russian version (is there any other?), but this hasn't cause me any difficulties.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

And along came Jones

I'm going to highlight a second Gawain Jones win in as many days, although it is not as fast as yesterdays game. The reason for the this one isn't because Gawain is a nice guy (which he is), or that he plays for White Rose in the 4NCL (managed by my friend Rupert Jones), but because this win ended an undefeated run by Bogdan Lalic which was rumoured to have lasted more than 150 games! Funnily I'd read in the latest issue of British Chess Magazine that in maintaining such a streak, Lalic was burdened with 'protecting' it, which meant he focussing on not losing, rather than winning. Clearly this was an important stat for Lalic as he did not take the loss well at all (Facebook was where the subsequent tantrum was played out!).

Jones,Gawain CB (2635) - Lalic,Bogdan (2454)
4NCL De Vere, Staverton Park, ENG (215.1), 13.11.2011

Monday 14 November 2011

I'm kind of missing the subtlety here

From the files of "Why don't they play that against me?" comes a game from last weekends 4NCL round in England. GM Simon Williams tried an opening system against GM Gawain Jones,  a system which owes an awful lot to the 4 move checkmate. It backfired horribly and Williams was lost after around 12 moves!

Williams,Simon (2513) - Jones,Gawain (2635) [B10]
4NCL 2011-12 Staverton ENG (1), 12.11.2011

Sunday 13 November 2011

ACT Under 14 Championship - The POTUSA edition

The ACT Junior Chess League run a number of weekend events at the Campbell High School in Canberra, Australia. It is nice roomy venue, located close to centre of the city, and right next to the Australian War Memorial.
The ACT Under 14 Championship was being held there this weekend, but under slightly different circumstances. Soon after the tournament began a number visitors appeared, inspecting other buildings in the area. It was also helpfully suggested we move out cars from the school car park. Then on Sunday a number of workmen turned up to engage in a very rapid, and noisy, beautification project. Now while I'd love to say it was because of the chess tournament (and if it was I'd tell them to quiet it down a bit), I suspect it may have more to do a certain visitor who is scheduled to make an appearance this coming week.
As for the chess, Stuart Mason won the event in a playoff against Michael Kethro. Mason's win was built on the ability to hang on in difficult positions, turning 3 games on the second day where he was clearly worse in 1 win and 2 draws. A couple of  lower rated players also had excellent tournaments with Michael Searle and Donghoon Shin scoring big upsets against a couple of top seeds.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Cracking under pressure

The players at Street Chess continue provide sources of amusement. Today was a good example, with a dramatic last round game on the menu.
Milan Grcic was one of 4 players tied for first, all on 4.5/6. His last round opponent was Mos Ali on 4. Two of the other players on 4.5 were playing each other so the odds were pretty good that someone was going to get to 5.5. Under the circumstances it was hardly surprising that last round nerves might play a part in the result. Indeed when the round started both Grcic and Ali were still finishing up a conversation, away from the board. After a few minutes the game began in earnest.
Fortunately for Grcic he was able to handle the final round pressure a little better than Ali, and found a neat checkmate in 4 moves. This moved him up to 5.5, and as only one other player in the leading group was able to win, enabled him to take home $37.50 as part of his shared first place. As for Ali, his unfortunate loss left him stuck on 4 points, and out of the money.

Ali,Mos - Grcic,Milan [A00]
Street Chess Canberra, 12.11.2011

1.f3 e5 2.Kf2 d5 3.Kg3 Bc5 4.c3 Qg5# 0-1

Friday 11 November 2011

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

What happened over the last few days in the Cricket match between Australia and South Africa reminded me of the last game of the Steinitz - Chigorin World Championship Match in 1892. A win for Chigorin in game 23 ties the match at 9-9, and he built up a clear advantage by move 31. However on move 32 he plays the worst move in the position and allows Steinitz a mate in 2. 10-8 to Steinitz and the match is over.

Chigorin,Mikhail - Steinitz,William [C34]
Wch04 Havana (23), 1892

Is it wait and see?

The most stressful part of being a tournament organiser is often waiting to see how many people will actually turn up. These days a lot of tournaments try and speed up the entry process by offering discount for early entries, but even then a lot of entries still come in at the last minute.
I assume the main reason for this is simple procrastination on the part of most players. They always intend to enter, it is just that haven't got around to it just yet. However their are some players who either see how the field is shaping up (strength wise), or simply want to make sure that the field suits them (from a personality point of view).
What seems to happen more and more is that early entries come from the top end of the field, with the more casual players entering late. Even small events like the upcoming Vikings Weekender already have 3 IM's (Xie, Smirnov and Brown) and 1 WIM (Guo) in the field, although only abut 50% of the expected field have entered. And big events like Queenstown have titled players making up more than 20% of the field.
So I'd like to make a plea to the run of the mill weekend chess players. Entering early helps the organisers (in reducing stress), encourages other to enter, and most importantly, shows respect to the titled players who have committed to playing the event.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

A team of champions or a champion team?

The European Teams Championship is once again demonstrating that a team of champions isn't always equal the sum of their parts. The Russian team is again finding it hard going in a teams event, tied for 11th place after 6 rounds of the 9 round event. They are not alone in under-performing, with second seeded Ukraine tied for 15th place.
On the other hand the Romanian team are a full 16 places ahead of their seeding, currently sharing first place with Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. Round 7 sees them in with a chance to hang on to the lead as they are downfloated to play Germany, while Bulgaria and Azerbaijan battle each other. Lurking in the wings is the always dangerous Armenia, who bounced back from an early loss to Azerbaijan to sit a point back from the leaders.
I'd normally mention live coverage etc at this point of the post, but apparently their have been problems with the game transmission and records. A lot of the coverage I've seen have warned that the game score may not be accurate, especially where double blunders seems to have occurred, or a player has resigned for no reason.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Melbourne Chess Club

It is a fairly rare thing for an Australian chess club (or association) to have its own premises. There are some clubs that lease buildings for their chess activities but as far as I know, the Melbourne Chess Club is the only club that owns its own building outright. This was in no small part due to Arnolds Rudzitis, who left his house and other property to the club in his will.
It has been more than a decade since I last visited the MCC, but going by the story in the Melbourne Leader, it looks as though the club is in good nick. The story also includes a video segment showcasing the club, and interviewing young arbiter Jack Hughes.

Monday 7 November 2011

A gift that keeps on giving

The tactical idea of taking advantage of a bishop on g4 by playing Bxf7+ and following it up with Nxe5+  barely earns the title of 'sacrifice', especially as it turns up time and time again. I've lost count of the number of times it has happened in my games, but there are still players who fail to see it coming. The latest incarnation of the idea occurred in one of my online games that finished recently. A misplayed King's Gambit by my opponent turned into a tactical rout once his king was dragged around the board.

Press,Shaun - royalbishop [C30] match, 06.11.2011

Sunday 6 November 2011

2012 Queenstown Chess Classic

Preparations for the 2012 Queenstown Chess Classic are coming along nicely, with a very strong field already shaping up. At the cut-off for early entries there were 11 GM's, 2 WGM's, 6 IM's, 3 WIM's, 8 FM's and 4 WFM's. In the coming weeks I'm sure this number will grow, as will the overall entry numbers.
Full tournament details, including the current list of entries, as well as travel and accommodation options are available from the tournament website.

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

Saturday 5 November 2011

Testing new media

Over the last week or so I've been playing with a few gizmo's, and a few new ways of doing things (new to me anyway).
The first toy was a new video camera, which I hope to use to make videos of tournaments etc. I tested it out a Street Chess today, and you can see the results below.
While working on the editing of the piece (10 or so minutes down to 45 seconds), I ran across the speech recognition software that comes with Vista. It has been a couple of years since I did anything with speech recognition (I built a conversation system for a robot a few years back) but I thought I'd give it another shot. It seems to work ok, but what I tried to get it to do, is to input games into Chessbase by reading the scoresheet. Sadly this failed on two levels. The first is that I have yet to work out how to get the speech recognition system to understand basic phrases like "e2e4". The second is that Chessbase has very limited support for keyboard input, which is necessary to enter the moves from the speech recognition system.
The other area I've been investigating is Google+. In a sense this is just a different type of Facebook, but it has the benefit of not actually being Facebook. What I hope to use Google+ for is for simple video conferencing. It supports conferences of up to 10 people, which may make some of my chess admin work a little easier. I'm also keen to try and use it to do live tournament reports, as well as things like arbiter training.

Friday 4 November 2011

Won't someone think of the children

My 11 year old daughter expressed an interest in seeing "Bobby Fischer against the World", but it turns out she is not allowed to. The film is classified as R18+, but not because it features a picture of a naked Fischer in the shower, but for a more bureaucratic reason. As the film is being shown as part of a Film Festival (the Canberra International Film Festival), it does not have go through the normal classification process. The flip side of this is that films that are unclassified are restricted to viewers 18 years and older. So for now my daughter misses out on seeing what all the fuss is about, but I'm pretty sure it will soon come out on DVD, and the classification will be somewhat lower than R.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

European Team Championships

The very strong European Teams Championships is starting in the next day or two in Halkidiki, Greece. As with most European events it is very strong at the top of the field, with 4 teams (Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) having a rating average over 2700. Out of the 38 teams in the open section, only 4 have an average rating below 2400!
It will be a 9 round event, and I am assuming it will be scored on match points (rather than game points). The website for the event is here, and offers all the usual goodies (live games, pgn files etc)

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Another King March

Having extolled the beauty of games like Steel v Amateur (Calcutta 1886) I'm always interested in seeing games that follow the same opening variation. Today I came across Chigorin v Mortimer from 1900, where Chigorin (like Steel) was happy the rest his king on e2, before marching it up the board and out of trouble. Unlike the game from Calcutta, where Black missed a drawing resource at the end, Chigorin seemed to have it pretty much under control, at least from move 10 onwards.

Chigorin,Mikhail - Mortimer,James [C25]
Paris Paris (12), 08.06.1900