Saturday 31 December 2011

2011 Australian Player of the Year

Deciding the 2011 Chessexpress Australian Player of the Year was quite tough. There wasn't a dominant performance I could look at, but there were a number of fine achievements throughout the year. In the end three young players seemed to stand out.
Firstly IM James Morris had a very good Bangkok Open early in the year, and then won the Australasian Masters at years end. FM Max Illingworth finished equal 3rd in the 2011 Oceania Zonal, scored an IM norm at the Bangkok Open, and then finished his European adventures with a GM norm in Hungary.
However it is a third player I've decided to go with. IM Moulthun Ly started the year tying for equal first with GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM George Xie in the Australian Open (after kind of tying for first in the Gold Coast International). He then tied for third on the 2011 Oceania Zonal, before embarking on the Northern Hemisphere chess journey. While overseas he picked up enough rating points to move past the 2400 mark and confirm his International Master title. So congratulations to IM Moulthun Ly for being the 2011 Chessexpress Player of the Year.

Timman,Jan (2575) - Ly,Moulthun (2369) [E63]
Open NK 2011 Dieren, Netherlands (2), 20.07.2011

Friday 30 December 2011

I still think this is weird

The San Sebastian tournament, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the celebrated win by Capablanca, is trying a different format from most chess tournaments. In fact it is taking an existing format, the knockout, and modifying it to repair a perceived weakness.
Having discovered that the player with the white pieces in the first game has a slight edge in progressing to the next round, the players are required to play both their games simultaneously. Two players, two boards, one with white, one with black. This way the advantage of starting with the white pieces goes away.
Of course the drawback is that you cannot concentrate on just one game, and I suspect trying to manage two games at once may cause a new set of problems.
But if you want to find out more about the tournament, and the format, Chessvibes has a comprehensive report of the first few days.

Thursday 29 December 2011

2011-12 Australian Championship - Day 3

Based on the rudimentary theory of Swiss tournaments, the first log2N rounds (where N is the number of players) are the knock-out phase, while the rest of the rounds are more like a round robin. If this is so, then the Australian Championships will be a KO until the first rest day (after round 5).
However the first three rounds have been completed without anyone making it to 3/3, so the KO may need an extra round to deliver a sole leader. Two of the top board clashes were draw (IM Smirnov v GM Zhao and IM Ly v IM Wohl) while IM George Xie joined the leaders on 2.5 with a win over IM James Morris. There are another 8 players on 2/3, including a few who recovered from first round losses.
In the Reserves tournament Ian Rout and Tony Davis are the only players on 3/3, and they play tomorrow. Another 12 players share third on 2.5, so it will be a few more rounds until a tournament favourite breaks clear.
Visit the tournament website for links to various bits of tournament information, including standings, pairings, and game files.

Through the Maginot Line

My post about sharing analysis from last week obliquely referred to the game below. As the game was still in progress at the time I could not show it, but it has since been completed, I can now post it here.
Again I wheeled out the Sorensen Gambit in the Advanced French, aiming for a direct attack against the king. After move 11 I had ideas of sacrificing the knight on d5 and pushing e6, but 12.Qf3 was a little finesse that I found in a couple of previously played games. After that is was about bringing pieces into the attack with tempo, before another sacrifice (Rxc6) helped finish the game.

Press,Shaun - Manley,Jason [C02], 28.12.2011

Tuesday 27 December 2011

2011-12 Australian Championship begins

The first round of the 2011-2012 Australian Championship has been played, with some of the top seeds already finding it tough going. Second seed IM George Xie drew with Domagoj Dragicevic, as did GM Daryl Johansen with Laurence Matheson. FM Bobby Cheng and FM Michael Steadman were the two players on the top half of the draw to drop full points, to Yi Liu and Jason Tang respectively.
Top seed GM Zong Yuan Zhao had the easiest game of the round, due to communication problems. FM Bill Jordan had missed the deadline for entry, and applied late to play (apparently illness prevented him submitting an entry on time). Although his entry was accepted by the Australian Chess Federation, he was not informed of this, and turned up to the tournament an hour after the start to find he had been paired with Zhao, and had already lost the game.
The tournament arbiters are posting the results and pairings for both the Championship and Reserves at The links will take you there.

Monday 26 December 2011

Once again I've missed Hastings

At some point in my life I will make sure I am in England over the Christmas break, if only to play in the Hastings tournament. I suspect this won't be happening until I retire, so for now I continue to follow it from afar.
This years tournament has 113 players (so far), with a large number of GM's. The tournament website proudly announces that they will be hosting the worlds first FIDE rated blitz on the 2nd of January, the day after the new FIDE regulations for Blitz and Rapid come into effect.
If you wish to keep track of the event, then here is the tournament website. As for who will win, I think it will be a race between the top two seeds Yue Wang and David Howell, with victory going to the home town player.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Tis' the season for puzzles

Chessbase is once again running its Christmas Puzzle competition. A few years ago it was a trivia competition (and the team of Rogers I., Rogers C., Dunn P. and Press S. managed to pick up a prize), while this year it is more of a problem solving quiz.
The first set of questions, by GM John Nunn, have gone up on the Chessbase website, with new puzzles each day.
For Australian chess players, there is also the regular Xmas quiz in the Australasian Chess magazine, written by myself. After the cruelty of last year (half the puzzles relied on breaking the laws of chess to find solutions), this years quiz is much more straight forward. However I already had one person tell me that one of the questions was too easy, based on an obvious, but incorrect answer. 'That is why there called puzzles' was my reply.

Saturday 24 December 2011

A relaxing Xmas Eve

Chess players are nothing if not committed. When I turned up this morning to run Street Chess one of the tournament sponsors expressed surprise that I was there. "No one will turn up" he said, "it's Christmas Eve". "Don't worry, I'm sure they will" was my reply.
It turned out that 18 players decided to pass on last minute shopping to play some chess in the sun instead. The field included an IM, a WIM and an FM, making it a pretty strong tournament. FM Endre Ambrus won the tournament with 6.5/7, just ahead if WIM Emma Guo.
It was also the last Street Chess for Alana Chibnall, who is moving to Sydney for work reasons. She has been a regular player for the last 5 or so years, as well as filling in as an arbiter when I have been away. She has certainly added a lot to Street Chess both as competitor and arbiter, and I wish her all the best in the years ahead.

Friday 23 December 2011

2011-2012 Australian Championship

The 2011-2012 Australian Championship begins just after Xmas, on the 27th of December. It is being organised by the Geelong Chess Club and will be held in North Geelong, Victoria.
This years event sees an emphasis on youth, with a number of junior players being allowed to play, despite their ratings falling below the nominal 2150 (ACF) cut-off. Top seed for the tournament, and my tip for the title, is GM Zong Yuan Zhao. IM George Xie is the second seed, and would both be keen to claim the title, and to push his rating over the 2500 mark (thereby confirming his GM title). One other player who might be in contention for first place, but not the title, is Indian IM Akshat Khamparia, who clearly enjoys playing in Australian events, after winning this years Sydney International Open.
I'm assuming the official website for the tournament is the Geelong Chess Clubs own site, with the tournament details here. For some reason, the Australian Chess Federations own website does not seem to have a clear link to the tournament site, but if you click on the link related to PDA / iPhone devices you will get there.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Is this an official game?

I've always assumed that games played under tournament conditions constituted an 'official game', even if a player subsequently withdrew from the event. These days it is pretty clear cut, as such games are submitted for ratings under most circumstances. In the days before ratings it may not be so clear.
The reason I'm wondering about this is that I had some difficulty finding the Fischer v Stein game from the 1967 Interzonal. It is a famous game, and Fischer included it in his '60 Memorable Games'. But a couple of obvious database searches came up empty. I eventually did find it, but the fact that Fischer withdrew from the event may have contributed to my difficulty. Is it the case that a decision was made to expunge Fischer's games from the 'official' record? Without the requirement to rate it would certainly be an easy decision to make, but I've never seen any documentation on this.

Fischer,Robert James - Stein,L [C92]
Sousse izt (7), 1967

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Less than handy chess players

About a year ago I posted my ideas about what would make a good 'robot' chess player. This year others have put their ideas to the test by participating in a competition to see which robot arms can sensibly move chess pieces around the board.
Based on the article it appears that work is still required before we see a completely robust solution to this problem. Nonetheless, what was described in the article fits in with what I think is achievable in the short term.
In fact I am currently doing a little hacking with the Kinect system (used as a controller on the Xbox). While it is equipped normal camera it also has an IR sensor, which generates a depth map of the scene in front of it. Hopefully this may make identifying pieces on the board a little easier, as it is now possible to locate pieces in 3 dimensions.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Sharing analysis

Although my correspondence chess activity has diminished somewhat, I still play the odd game on turn based chess servers ( or Generally it isn't that serious, although I tend to stick to team events, either representing PNG or Canberra. However I kind of get ticked off with the assumption that anyone who does well on these servers may be using computer assistance. When I won a couple of games on and had my rating go over 2000, I was sent a gentle reminder about the servers policy on computer assistance. I assumed it was a form letter that every 2000+ player gets, but I still found it kind of annoying.
So thinking about this, I wondered if there was a way of reducing this level of distrust. One idea I had was for players to share analysis, while the game was in progress. For example I'm currently playing a sharp line against the French, and have just sacrificed a piece. Now I have no idea whether it will work or not (although I am following a game where white had an unconvincing win), but I would hate to think that my opponent believed there was some silicon assistance behind my move choices. To that end what I would be interested in doing is to simply say, 'here is my sacrifice, and this is what I've seen so far'. Note, this isn't the same as sending conditional moves in CC, as it might turn out that his reply reveals something new or different.
Of course players could still 'game the system' by sending incomplete analysis, or use it to try and bluff their opponent, but I would be interested in seeing if such an 'open' game would result in better, and happier, chess.

Monday 19 December 2011

Dear Leader

I swear I can remember reading about the chess career of the very recently departed Kim Jong Il. Or maybe it as his father Kim Il Sung. Any way the gist of it was that he was easily the strongest player in Korea and almost certainly the world, but affairs of state prevented him from playing more often.
However I've come up empty on a source for this description. Am I imagining things, or am I thinking about someone else? Help from anyone with a similar recollection to mine would be appreciated!

Sunday 18 December 2011

A blindfold bash

While a lot of chess takes place in our head, blindfold chess is still harder than normal chess, in that we aren't required to remember the position from move 1. Having the pieces in front of us makes it easier to analyse, even if we aren't allowed to actually move them.
The recently held Minds Sports Games decided to fully test the players taking part, by holding a blindfold chess event. Given the popularity of the Melody Amber series of tournaments, I'm sure that most top GM's do take blindfold chess a little more seriously these days, as the following game shows.
Giri tries an rare sideline in the Petroff's but gets hacked in a similar style to the refutation of Damiano's defence. I'm sure he would not have played it in a serious OTB game, but maybe he was hoping it was just offbeat enough to work at blindfold.

Almasi,Z (2707) - Giri,A (2714) [C43]
SportAccord WMG Blindfold Bejing CHN (3), 15.12.2011

Saturday 17 December 2011

2011 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship

FM Junta Ikeda has completed a hatrick of wins in the ACT Rapidplay Championship, with a win in the 2011 tournament. Starting as top seed, Ikeda was in trouble in the second round against Alana Chibnall after she was a up a queen for a rook. However a hint of counterplay from Ikeda somehow convinced Chibnall that a draw was the safe result! After that he scored 5 wins to finish on 6.5/7. In second pace was Ken Xie who dropped his only point to Ikeda. On the way to 6 points he defeated seeds 2,4 and 5.
This years event attracted a field of 37. Evidence of its strength was the fact that IM Andrew Brown was only seeded 5th, although this may have been due to a somewhat out of date rapidplay rating.
The prize giving ceremony also saw the awarding of FIDE title certificates to IM Andrew Brown, WIM Emma Guo, and FM Junta Ikeda. Two other Canberra players, FM Gareth Oliver and WFM Megan Setiabudi, will recieve their certificates at a later date.
Full results of the tournament can be found here.

Friday 16 December 2011

Why chess and economics don't mix

An interview with GM Ken Rogoff on BBC World Service. His bit is towards the end.

Thursday 15 December 2011

A simple line against the Benko

To memorise the refutation of every opening system (assuming they even exist) is somewhat impractical. Given the finite space of the human memory, to do so would probably involve forgetting other significant pieces of information like your PIN or the address of your home.
So all I ask for is to have a couple of simple systems that at least get me to the middlegame without to much pain. Even then their are still gaps, especially against less frequently faced openings. So to repair at least one gap, I've found a CC game that shows a fairly straightforward system against the Benko. It was played in 2001 and ended in a quick (especially for CC) win for White. I'm not saying it refutes the Benko, and the winner attributes part of his victory to the aggressive play of his opponent. But the idea of Nf3,Nbd2 and e4 with play in the centre seems sensible enough.

Mrkvicka, Josef - Mascarenhas, Alberto [A57]
ICCF 50th JT, 2001

Wednesday 14 December 2011

2012 O2C Doeberl Cup

Entries for the 2012 O2C Doeberl Cup are now open. The event will run from the 5th to the 9th of April 2012, and will once again be held at the Hellenic Club, Woden, ACT. The Premier has a prize pool in excess of $12,000 and the total tournament prize pool is over $17,000.
The tournament website is and you can find all the tournaments details (prizes, schedule, entry forms, regulations) there. For those who want to play in the Premier, and have ratings just above the cut-off mark, you can enter now to guarantee your spot, even if your rating subsequently falls below the cut-off (payment is required to take advantage of this offer).
Of course the fact that next year is the 50th edition of the tournament is an added incentive to take part. Hopefully the tournament will attract a record size field, with players (and officials) from the early years being encouraged to attend, if not as participants, at least as welcome spectators.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Morphy Miscellanea has a little historical article about Paul Morphy. Most of it is the usual biographical fare, but with a greater emphasis on the impact that the American Civil War had on him, than I've seen in straight chess biographies.
There is also a little story at the end which I was unfamiliar with. Long after he retired from chess Morphy needed $200 urgently, and went to see a friend for a loan. The friend instead offered him $250 to play him at chess, as a test to see how much he disliked chess. Morphy accepted the wager, albeit reluctantly, and then contrived to lose in short order. The sting in the tale was that Morphy then failed to collect the money!

Monday 12 December 2011

Kramnik on tiebreaks!

This of course is a predictive post, concerning the likely outcome of the 2011 London Chess Classic (although the results may be known when you read this). With one round to play Vladimir Kramnik holds a 2 point lead over Magnus Carlsen, under the 3-1-0 scoring system. The likeliest outcome is that Kramnik draws with Aronian and Carlsen beats Short, leaving both players on 16 points. Under the tie-breaks used for this tournament, this would be enough for Kramnik to take first place, as they both have the same number of wins (tie-break 1) but Kramnik has more wins with the black pieces (tie-break 2).
BTW This is not the only scenario as McShane and Nakamura are on 12 points, and a loss by Kramnik, a loss or draw by Carlsen, and a win for McShane would leave him in front on tie-break (his 3 wins have all been with Black).
And speaking of tie-breaks, the minutes from the recently completed FIDE Congress have been published , including the report from the Rules and Tournament Regulations Commission. The report contains a detailed explanation of various tie-break systems, including a recommended order for tie-break systems. Of course organisers are free to specify their own order, but if the LCC organisers had followed the recommendations, the order would have been: Direct encounter, No. of wins, Sonneborn-Berger, No. of games with Black, and finally Koya.

(*The morning after edition: Kramnik drew with Aronian, but Carlsen could not get past Short, leaving Kramnik in outright first. Carlsen's draw allowed Nakamura to move past him with a win over Adams, leaving Nakamura on 15 and Carlsen on 14)

Sunday 11 December 2011

We can draw - if we want to?

I've noticed something interesting with top tournaments that have restrictions on agreeing to draws. In the early rounds of the event, there seems to be a number of decisive games, and the draws that do occur seem to happen well past move 40. Later in the tournament however, the draw ratio increases, and repetitions (or dead positions) seem to occur before move 40.
Now I know the plural of anecdote is not data (and I've presented nothing to support my claim*) but I'm wondering if the 'effortless draw' is becoming part of the Super GM bag of tricks. Not the 'I will draw no matter what you do' style, but more the 'I'll head for a sterile but safe position, and if you want you can join me' kind of play.

(* Round 6 of the London Chess Classic had 4 drawn games, which kind of surprised me, given the number of decisive games up until now. Of course Round 7 had 3 wins, just to provide a quick counter example!)

Saturday 10 December 2011

World Mind Games

The quest to set get 'mind sports' recognised as the equal to 'perspiration sports' continues. The 2011 World Mind Games is currently running in Beijing, China. The 5 medal sports are Chess, Bridge, Go, Draughts and Xiangqi. While there are pretensions to set this up as a kind of Mind sports Olympics, the organisers have gone for quality over quantity, restricting the chess events to 16 male and 16 female players. However the chess is at least multi discipline, with Rapid, Blitz, Pairs and Blindfold medals on offer.
If you want to follow the chess then is the link you need (nb someone spelt sportaccord wrong on the front page, breaking the link) while the overall event can be found at

Friday 9 December 2011

Australian Young Masters - rolling along

While my son is off in Adelaide playing in the Australian Junior Masters, I'm relaxing back in Canberra, enjoying the cricket highlights. I've never been a fan of having coaches accompany players at junior events (not that I'm claiming to be his coach), and so the decision to stay home was a pretty easy one.
However I've been following the event at Utilising a live blogging widget, there have been a steady stream of updates coming from the tournament. The coverage is made more enjoyable by the involvement if the players themselves in the coverage, although some are more enthusiastic than others.
I've even been sent a couple of games, providing me with a choice of what to show. While today's round 6 game between Harry Press and Allen Setiabudi was more significant in terms of tournament standings (a 12 move win by Allen left a 4 way tie for first), I've decided to be a caring parent by showing a win from round 4. I hope this act is remembered when Father's Day rolls around.

Cameron,Lachlan - Press,Harry [A58]
Australian Junior Masters Adelaide, 08.12.2011

Caught out by the spelling

When putting together the latest issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly I was asked to feature a game from the current Austria v Australia friendly match. Normally it is a simple task of going to the ICCF Webserver and searching for 'Australia', and then selecting the right match from the list of Australian events.
However this did not seem to work for me this time and searching for 'Austria' yielded nothing either. So I finished the magazine and apologised to the readers, blaming it on 'technical difficulties'
It turns out that I didn't think about alternative spellings. As the match was organised by the Austrian side, I needed to think in German (as suggested by Clive Murden). If I had searched for 'Australien' or 'Osterreich' it would have come up in a snap.
So the game will appear in the next issue, but for now here it is. On the 'Australien' side it is played by former Australian CC Champion Norton Jacobi, who took the poisoned pawn and lived to tell the tale.

Maierhofer, Johann - Jacobi, Norton
Austria v Australia, 2011

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Mos Ali

Canberra chess player Mos Ali has unexpectedly passed away, at the very young age of 40 years old. Mos, a school teacher by profession, died of a suspected heart attack on Tuesday 6th December 2011. While Mos was a typical 1700-1800 club player, he played an enormous amount of chess, frequently featuring on the ACF's Most Active Players list when new ratings were released.
While Mos and I had our differences (over both personal and chess issues), his passing is a loss for the Canberra chess community, and to his wife and young family.

(*Edit: Apologies for the wrong date in this initial post)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

A widely travelled player

The USCF website has noted the passing of Robert Feldstein. While he may not be that well known (at least outside the US) he was one of the more widely travelled players, something he himself was quite proud of. Apart from playing tournament games in every state of the United States he also attempted to play rated games in as many countries in the world.
This was how our paths crossed, as he turned up at the offices of the Canberra Times in 2001, explaining to them that he was a travelling chess player trying to set a record for playing chess in the most number of countries. The only problem was that he did not have an opponent, at lest until the Canberra Times rang me up and asked if I could come over to play. We played one USCF rated game and a couple of blitz games. I'm pretty sure the time limit was G/20, which was slow enough to make the chess look sensible, but fast enough to cause both players to miss many far stronger moves than were played. In the end I missed a few absolute crushers, and went down in the ending.

Press,Shaun - Feldstein,Robert [B03]
CT Challenge, 2001

Monday 5 December 2011

The visual appeal

Here is a nice mate in 2 which took me a little while to solve. I like this, not because of the difficulty (you should be able to find the answer in under 5 minutes), but just because of the nice layout of the pieces. (Composed by F. Schrufer)

Sunday 4 December 2011

The wisdom of twitter

While there is an argument that the combined intelligence of a crowd can exceed the individual parts, I'm not sure the same can be said for twitter. As lead in to the London Chess Classic, a match between the players in the classic, and the rest of the world was played.  The moves from the rest of the world were submitted by twitter with the GM team replying on the tournament website.
The GM team won without too much difficulty, and even afforded the ROW a positional head start by playing the North Sea Defence (which Carlsen lost to Adams at the 2010 Olympiad with).

The World on Twitter - London Chess Classic [B06]
London Classic Twitter Game London ENG (1), 02.12.2011

Saturday 3 December 2011

Choose your children's school carefully

A news story in the Sydney Morning Herald has the potential to leave a number of people with red faces. It concerns the Willathgamuwa brothers, Rowan and Kevin, who represented Australia at the recent World Youth Championships in Brazil. As a consequence of their absence from school, Sydney Grammar, they have been asked to look elsewhere for their education next year.
Although I have directed a number of tournaments that the Willathgamua brothers have played in, I have no real knowledge of the issues involved in this decision. At best I can compare what appears to be the case with the attitude my children's school has towards their chessplayers.
In my case, my son Harry is off to Adelaide to play in the Australian Junior Masters next week. As this involved him missing 3 days of school I made sure I asked his teacher before he was able to accept his invitation. Not only was the teacher OK with him missing the 3 days, he congratulated Harry on being invited to the tournament. Of course the school my kids go to 'walks the walk' where chess is concerned, as they have chess on the curriculum for 3rd, 4th and 4th grades, as well as offering it as an elective for years 6 & 7.
But the best bit about this, at least as far as I'm concerned, is that my kids did not have to go on long waiting lists, or go through a testing or interview process to get into this school. That it is because it is the local government school, less than 300 metres from my house. So at least for my family, the local school was the 'right' school for us, not only for chess, but also for the overall quality of education. .

Friday 2 December 2011

ACT Rapidplay Championship

2011 ACT Rapidplay Championships

Where: City Walk, Canberra City (outside Chicken Gourmet where Street Chess meets)
When: Saturday 17 December 2011
What time: 11:00 am star - register from 10:30am
Format: 7 round swiss
Time control: G/15m
Entry Fees: $10 ($5 for juniors)
Prizes: First prize minimum $100, other prizes based on total entries

Thursday 1 December 2011

All change for London

Half the field from the Tal Memorial is now off to London, to join up with 4 English players in the 2011 London Chess Classic. While a 9 player field might seem unusual, the organisers see 2 benefits. Firstly, the spare player for each round is being roped in to do onsite commentary. And secondly, each player will have an even split of whites and blacks.
The field is Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Short, McShane and Howell. Alongside the main tournament, a huge number of side events are also being organised. There is a Women's invitational round robin, a FIDE rated swiss, junior events, weekenders and rapidplays.
The whole thing kicks off on Saturday night (Canberra time), with live coverage from the tournament website. As for tournament predictions I'll play it safe and tip Carlsen for the win, Anand to draw almost every game and McShane to play the most moves of anyone in the tournament.