Monday 31 December 2012

2012 Australian Player of the Year

Once again there were a number of worthy contenders for the Chessexpress Australian Player of the Year. Both Moulthun Ly and Max Illingworth lead the way for the younger brigade with good performances for Australia at the 2012 Olympiad. Anton Smirnov showed he is also likely to join them in the near futire with a win in the 2012 Australian Masters, while Brodie McClymont won a number of weekend events to confirm his obvious promise.
But I look back to the start of the year for a set of performances for this years winner. GM Darryl Johansen started off  by winning the Australian Championship for a record 6th time. He then followed this up with a win on tie-break in the 2012 Queenstown International, scoring 7.5/9 against a very strong field. He also won the 2012 Fiji International Open with a perfect 9/9.
So congratulations to GM Darryl Johansen for being the 2012 Chessexpress Player of the Year.

Jones,Gawain C B (2653) - Johansen,Darryl K (2403) [B21]
Queenstown Classic Queenstown (9.3), 23.01.2012

Sunday 30 December 2012

Auctioning off openings

One of my little Olympiad jokes is to offer my opening choices to the highest bidder. I'm sure there is someone who has invented a pet opening or line who would be willing to see it played on board 66 of the 2014 Olympiad. This might solve the problem of the lack of Hammerschlag's or Sodium Attacks in chess databases, although there are ways to improve this situation.
In the old days, thematic tournaments were organised. These were normally double round robins where the players were required to start from a fixed position or opening. A number of tournaments to test the Rice Gambit were arranged in the late 19th century but such tournament are less common theses days (A Open Sicilian event in Argentina is the last I can recall). Such tournament still exists in Correspondence Chess these days, but even they shy away from anything completely outrageous.
One opening that could do with a few more games is the Tumbleweed (mentioned in passing here). In my database the line 1.e4 f5 2.exf5 Kf7 3.Qh5+ g6 4.fxg+ Kg7 only shows up 6 times but of those 6 games the score is 3 draws and 3 wins for Black! Is it the case that no one keeps track of the White wins, and only Black victories are savoured? Or that no one is really to 'take one in the name of science' and lose a few games for the sake of research results.
Maybe 2013 can be the year of the Tumbleweed, where a few brave souls gain a degree of immortality by increasing the number of 1.e4 f5 games on record.

Saturday 29 December 2012

A random puzzle

From the inventive mind of Henry Ernest Dudeney comes a couple of chess puzzles. Take a 4x3 chessboard with 4 white knights and 4 black knights arranged at the top and bottom of the board. Label each knight A.B,C,D corresponding to the file they are standing on. What is the minimum number of moves required to swap the position of each knight with its counterpart?
If you want an easier puzzle, place 2 white knights and 2 black knights on the corners of a 3x3 chessboard. What is the minimum number of moves to swap the positions of the white knights with the black knights (it does not matter which knight is swapped for which)?

Friday 28 December 2012

An (old) new idea

While flipping through a non chess book I came across a fairly simple acronym that describes a business planning process. The acronym is SWOT, and represents Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Of course such a term could have come directly from the world of chess, as I have read a number of chess planning books that describe this exact process.
Turns out I was not the first person to make this connection, as I discovered a couple of articles linking the business approach to the chess approach. Probably the best of these was an article titled "Using Business Processes for Chess" by William Stewart. The only difference between his ideas and mine is he looks at Strengths and Weaknesses in terms of personal abilities (eg weak at openings/strong at endings), while I looked at the whole thing as a positional analysis tool (eg Strong knight on d5, weak pawn on b2).
His article is worth a read as he explains the SWOT system better than I could, and provides a framework for asking the 'right' questions during the game.

Tournament links + 1

A couple of significant tournaments are starting up (or have already started).
In Australia, the Australian Open begins on the 2nd of January 2013. At the current time, the field for the Open is close to 100 players, with 3 GM's and 6 IM's filling up the top end. Tournament details (entries, results etc) can be found here.
My favourite tournament that I have never been to, Hastings, is also kicking off today (Friday). Check out the tournament website for more details on this historic event.
There is also the Christmas tournament in Groningen, which is just getting to the business end. Of interest is the participation of former Australian Champion IM John-Paul Wallace, who seems to be making a comeback to tournament play. Results etc are here (in Dutch)

And if you want a bit of chess 'humour', then this effort from the BBC may make you laugh (btw it does have a bit of language. You have been warned).

Wednesday 26 December 2012

But no chess gifts for me

Hopefully there are at least some of you who received chess gifts, or at least chess related gifts this year. This year I missed out on the chess presents, although I did get some pretty good non-chess presents instead. Probably the closest thing I got to a chess present was a book titled "The Grumpy Old Git's Guide to Life", from someone who has probably met too many chessplayers in her time.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

A gift for Christmas

I'm currently playing a number of friendlies for Australia in Correspondence Chess, with the games all starting to get quite interesting. As is my habit, I normally follow established theory in the openings, having neither the time or ability to try and poke a hole in someone else's opening analysis. But occasionally I end up in an opening position which seems to be quite new.
In one of my games I played a pretty offbeat opening, and got to a position where I seemed to be winning material. But I smelt a rat, especially as the reference work I was relying on seemed not to mention the piece winning line. Turns out my opponent had set an interesting trap, which had been played in a similar but different opening. Fortunately I decided to check the line in this other opening, where the whole trap was laid bare before me.
As I am loathe to discuss actual games in progress on this blog (in case a helpful reader fills the comment section with analysis) I will offer the trap from the other line as a gift.
If you play against either the Alekhine's Defence or even the Scandinavian then be aware of the following trick. 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Ne4!? 4.Nce2 d4 5.c3 dxc3! Now 6.Qa4+ looks like it wins a piece but 6. ... Nd7 7.Qxe4 Nc5! leaves White in a heap of trouble. The Black knight is landing on d3 and will either fork on f2 or even support cxb2, and Black is better in either case. So best for White is to avoid the check, and simply recapture the pawn with 6.bxc3!

Monday 24 December 2012

Another Christmas Classic

Just in time for Christmas Eve, I've dug up another game played in Christmas day. It is from the 2000 Israel Championships and was between Mark Tseitlin and Lev Psakhis. The game was a fairly combative affair, but on move 26 Tseitlin overlooked the strength of Psakhis' queen sacrifice, and was forced to drop material. After that it was a matter of avoiding any tricks before Psakhis secured the point.

Tseitlin,Mark D (2445) - Psakhis,Lev (2624) [C07]
ISR-ch Ramat Aviv/Modiin (9), 25.12.2000

Sunday 23 December 2012

Expletive deleted

An amusing end to a problem solving evening with my son. In working on the diagrammed position we came up with what seemed to be a pretty good solution, albeit a fairly long one. The solution seemed doubly plausible, as it revealed a number of tricks, including loss/gain of tempo, correct path of the kings etc. However when we checked our solution it turned out we missed one huge trick, which caused me to burst out laughing. As for my son, he came up with a number of inventive expressions, which while not actual swear words, were obvious replacements for them.
The study is by Richard Reti and it is White to play and Win.

Saturday 22 December 2012

2012 ACT Rapidplay Championship - Results

A good field of 36 players took part in the 2012 ACT Rapidplay Championship. FM Junta Ikeda was the top seed, with Yi Yuan, and IM Andrew Brown seeded second and third. With Yi Yuan a little rusty, the tournament was a battle between the 1st and third seeds. They met in Round 5, playing a very exciting draw. Brown seemed to have the edge for most of the game (or at least the bits I saw),  and managed to promote twice in the ending. But Ikeda was always ahead on the clock and Brown was forced to liquidate to a 'dead' position to ensure a draw. After that neither player dropped further points and ended tied for first on 6.5/7. Junta Ikeda received the trophy and title on count-back, making it 4 wins in a row for him.
Third place was shared by Elwyn Teki and Matthew Bennett, while Josh Bishop won the under 1700 prize. There was a 7(!) way tie for first in the Under 1400 category, with each player winning $7 (The odd dollar going into consolidated revenue).
The event was also significant in that I got to apply the new 10.2c rule for Rapidplay games. A player with seconds on the clock claimed a draw due to insufficient winning chances by his opponent (indeed it was drawn with best, but obvious play). As he did not have enough time to 'show' the drawing method (he might have been able to play 1 or 2 moves at best), I grabbed a digital clock and set it for an increment. Although his opponent had previously rejected the draw claim, when he realised how the game was to continue (with his opponent receiving an increment), he immediately agreed to a draw without any further play!

Friday 21 December 2012

Do these even exist any more?

Around 10 years ago I received a 'Chess Puzzle a Day' Calendar for Christmas. Over the last few weeks I've had a look at the Calendar stands that seem to pop up in shopping centres around this time of year, and I have not spotted any. The closest I've seen are either Sudoku or 'Exercise your Mind' style calendars  but none specifically dealing with chess. I suspect they aren't being made any more, but can anyone provide a counter example for this? (ie Have you seen the type of calendar I've described).

Thursday 20 December 2012

2012 World Cities

The 2012 World Cities Championship (first mentioned on this blog here) starts in the next couple of days. Sacrificing a strict interpretation of the definition of a 'city team', the organisers have attracted 25 teams, after having planned for 32. Australia is represented by Canberra, although none of the team members actually live in Canberra (This seems to be a bit of a tradition in Australian chess btw). The first part of the event is a 4 team RR, with the best 2 teams from each of the 6 groups, plus the 4 best 3rd placed teams, qualifying for the second stage. Then it is a straight KO for the 16 teams. Alongside the event will be an individual swiss,  which members of the knocked out teams can play in, carrying over their points from the teams event.
While it all sounds a little complicated, the $150,000 prize pool should be enough to focus the players on chess. The tournament website is here.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Blindfold Blunder

On one level I don't find playing blindfold chess too difficult. On another level, that of playing it well, it is a lot more challenging. Occasionally my son and I play against each other without a board while travelling in the car, but I make sure I'm not driving when this happens. Sometimes we even have time to complete a game, although when we replay it on an actual board, what seems to be a significant mental achievement is revealed to be a succession of confused moves and missed opportunities.
At the top level the quality of blindfold chess is significantly higher. However blunders do creep in, although it is often just one big one, rather than a series of little ones. Case in point is this game from the 2012 Mind Sports Games between Mamedyarov and Aronian. Mamedyraov plays the whole game quite aggresively, and is rewarded with a advantageous position. However, in trying to defend a threat from Aronian, he puts his rook on an undefended square, and the game ends in one move. A valuable point for Aronian, who went on to take the Gold Medal in this event.

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2764) - Aronian,Levon (2815) [D94]
SportAccord Blindfold Men Beijing CHN (4.1), 18.12.2012

Tuesday 18 December 2012

2012 ACT Rapidplay Championsip

The 2012 ACT Rapidplay Championship is on this Saturday, the 22nd of December. Traditionally this is the final title event on the ACT Chess Calendar, and usually attracts a strong field. As an added incentive, the tournament will be FIDE rated, allowing Canberra players the opportunity to add a FIDE Rapidplay rating to their other ratings.

The tournament details are:
2012 ACT Rapidplay Championship
Saturday 22nd December.
Entries from 10:30 am with round 1 starting at 11am
Venue: Outside King O'Malley's, City Walk, Canberra City
Format: 7 round swiss
Time Control: G/15m
Entry Fee: $10 adults, $5 juniors
Prizes: First prize minimum $100, other prizes dependant upon entries.

Monday 17 December 2012

Miniature of the Month - November 2012

Frank Marshall once remarked that he opened with 1.P-Q4 as he felt he could get better attacking positions as a result, and much later, Gary Kasparov apparently expressed a similar sentiment. For the Miniature if the Month for November 2012, I present an extreme example of this, combining the Queens Gambit Declined with the Greek Gift (Bxh7+). While the game was only a rapid game, White still finishes the game of in a clinical and instructive manner.

Potkin,Vladimir (2665) - Suslin,Alexander (2182) [D35]
Rector Cup MGSU Moscow RUS (2.5), 09.11.2012

Sunday 16 December 2012

2012 Australasian Masters

11 year old Anton Smirnov has been crowned the 2012 Australasian Masters Champion after tie-ing for first with IM James Morris and FM Bobby Cheng. Smirnov defeated both Cheng and Morris in their individual games, and won the title on countback.
The final round saw Smirnov paired with his father, IM Vladimir Smirnov, which in hindsight was a little unfortunate. Not only was Anton playing for first place, he also needed a win to earn an IM norm. This reportedly led to a Melbourne chess identity offering odds of 10,000-1 against a specific result, but a draw between father and son resulted in Anton missing out on his first norm. (As an aside, there was a brother - sister pairing in the final round of the Australian Junior Masters, and I suspect that arbiters may now be a little more aware of restricted drawing of lots for future RR events).
In the other final round games, Morris drew with IM Guy West, while Bobby Cheng caught the leaders with a win over German visitor Arkadius Kalka.
Tournament standings, plus some photos from the event, are available here.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Australian Young Masters - Final

Back in Canberra after and exciting final round of the Australian Young Masters. In the top event Brodie McClymont scored one more win to end the tournament with a perfect 7/7. In the final round he faced fellow Queenslander Yi Liu, needing at least half a point to stay clear of Alistair Cameron. Instead he won a pawn in the middle game, and then won the subsequent Q v R+B ending. Cameron also had a last round win, after IM Andrew Brown overpressed an attack, and when it ran out of steam found himself in a lost ending. This left Cameron on 6/7, which in any other year might have been enough to win.
In the Junior Masters, ACT players Matthew Bennet and Stu Mason tied for first on 6.0/9. Harry Press, who was tied for first going into the final round, continued his run of poor last round results, by losing to Josh Bishop, resulting in a tie for third between the two of them.
In the South Australian Young Masters, Lachlan Cameron also scored a clean sweep, finishing the tournament with 9/9.

Mason,Stuart - Puccini,Jack [B06]
Adelaide AUS Junior Masters (6), 13.12.2012

Australian Young Masters

Spent yesterday watching some of the games in the Australian Young Masters. The Adelaide Chess Centre is a nice venue, although it maintained the tradition of Australian junior events by being very, very warm. However the late morning rain cooled things down, although at the cost of leaking water on the top boards!
In the chess, Brodie McClymont continued his stellar form, leading the Young Masters with 6/6. However he is being closely pursued by Australian Junior Champion Alistair Cameron on 5. In the final round McClymont plays fellow Queenslander Yi Liu, while Cameron plays IM Andrew Brown.
In the Junior Masters Matthew Bennett and Harry Press share the lead with 5.5/8. Bennett plays Qi Le Kong-Lim in the final round, while Press plays Josh Bishop.
If you wish to follow the final round the tournament website has a live blog hosted by GM Ian Rogers.

Thursday 13 December 2012

To Adelaide

I travelled across to Adelaide this evening, and plan to watch the last few rounds of the Australian Young Masters over the next 2 days. Curiously, this will be my first visit to the Adelaide Chess Centre, despite having visited the city at least 3 other times over the last 30 years.
Hopefully my Internet connection holds up, and I can bring you some of the highlights from the tournament.

Feel free to ignore the spam

You're all smart. Spammers are dumb. Feel free to ignore what they write. I know I will.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

The School Chess Carnival

In Australia (and I guess a number of other countries), we have School Athletic Carnivals, and School Swimming Carnivals. Everyone gets the day off to participate in a competitive activity, with trophies and medals normally awarded to the best performing students. Far less common is the School Chess Carnival.
While schools may run their school championships etc it is normally an after school or lunchtime activity, rather than a whole day event. As far as I'm aware Curtin Primary and Amaroo School are the only Canberra schools that have something like this. (NB Corrections welcome)
I spent today at the Amaroo School Championship, which had a field of 86 players from Year 3 up to Year 9. The numbers were restricted due to the amount of equipment available, as otherwise a potential field of 300 students (out of an enrolment of 1400) could have taken part. Even then we had to use the 'Indian' time control for the bottom boards, in that the top 30 boards had clocks, with the bottom boards doing without, until the final 10 minutes of the round, where clocks from completed games were placed on the bottom boards with 5 minutes for both players.
The 7 round event ran very smoothly, as even the newcomers to tournament chess picking up on how it was all supposed to work, At the end of the day top seed Jennifer Ton won with 7/7, while Viv Lam finished tied for second with Nick Coffey on 6/7. As with other schools sports carnivals there were medals for the best scorers from each of the age groups, and each winner was given heart congratulations from their peers.
Next year the school will hopefully be expanding the event to allow all the interested students to take part, so maybe I will be reporting on a 400 player event in twelve months time!

Tuesday 11 December 2012

London Chess Classic - Aussies in Action

Magnus Carlsen wrapped up first place in the 2012 London Chess classic with a final round draw against World Champion Viswanathan Anand. He finished half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik, who would have had the critics raving over his performance, if he hadn't been overshadowed by the Norwegian.
But apart form the main event, there were a number side events, and these featured good performances from visiting Australians. In the FIDE Open, Ari Dale picked up a prize for the best performer in the 2000-2200 category. Interestingly, the prizes in the rating categories went to the player who had the best rating performance compared to their starting rating, rather than just on who scored the most points. Justin Tan picked up a prize in the junior category, although in this case it was awarded on total points.
There were also a couple of weekend events, and IM Gary Lane tied for first in the second of these events, with 4.5/5. And if that wasn't enough chess, there were daily Blitz events, in which a number of Australian players, including IM John-Paul Wallace took part.
If you wish to wade through the crosstables of the various events, then follow the links on the left hand side of the tournament website.

Monday 10 December 2012

The start of opening theory

Once new players get over their obsession with Scholars Mate, they usually move onto to more sensible openings. However it is often still 'make it up as you go' lines, so they still walk into some well known traps.
One obvious variation (which I witnessed this very morning) is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd (So far so good) Nxd5!?! Now normally this is considered bad, but at school level Black often gets away with it. This is because at this level, neither player really knows opening theory, so moves like 6.Nxf7 or even 6.d4! aren't that easy to find. As I said to my class this morning, a move like Nxd5 is only bad if your opponent has read that Nxf7 is good.
Of course once most players start learning a bit about openings, then the refutation of 5. ... Nxd5 soon comes up. Certainly it was one of he first things I learnt regarding openings, and I suspect most older opening books have this towards the front (normally quoting 400 year old analysis). Every now and then I come across an article which suggests that the sacrifice on f7 (with or without d4 first) isn't so clear cut for White, but if this was the case I would expect to see a lot more captures on d5 in higher level games. As I have not observed a tsunami of Two Knights games, then I will continue to believe it is more wishful thinking than cold hard analysis.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Masters and Young Masters

There are two Australian tournaments running over the course of this week. The first is the long standing Australasian Masters which is being hosted by the Box Hill Chess Club in Melbourne. The field is a mixture of Australian, New Zealand, Russian and German players and is being run as a 10 player Round Robin, with IM norms on offer. Results and live games at the Box Hill Chess Club Website.
The second is the Australian Young Masters, which begins on Tuesday. This event has been running for a few years, but seems to have found a home in Adelaide. The top section is an 8 player RR, with the Australian Junior Masters being run alongside as a 10 player RR. The event website is here.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Some thoughts on Carlsen

Given his current outstanding run in the 2012 London Chess Classic, here are some of my thoughts and questions concerning Magnus Carlsen.

  • How high can he go? Obviously the bigger the gap between himself and his rivals, the harder it is to gain rating points, but I wonder how big that gap will be. (And in a sense this is a more significant number than his rating)
  • Will his performance lift his rivals?
  • If he qualifies for the World Championship, I believe it will be the biggest chess event since Fischer - Spassky 1972
  • Who is likely to challenge him in the next decade? Caruana seems to be an obvious choice but is there anyone else?

Friday 7 December 2012

At least they'll have enough Bishops

From various sources comes and interesting story out of New Zealand. GM Murray Chandler is looking to by a church, and turn it into a chess centre. St Pauls Presbyterian Church in Devonport (North Auckland) went on the market last year, after dwindling numbers resulted in its closure. Chandler, a Devonport resident has now put in a bid for the property, although it seems the idea of selling the church has met with some community resistance.
Full(ish) details of this story can be found here.

Thursday 6 December 2012

The Great Wall

While commenting on the weird games in round 4 of the London Chess Classic, I missed the funniest position of all. It was the final position of Anand v Kramnik, where an impenetrable wall of pawns had been set up across the boards. When I saw it, it reminded me of how my brother and I used to play chess when I was 7 (and he was 5). At that time 1.e4 e5 2.c4 c5 3.a4 a5 4.g4 g5 5.d3 d6 6.b3 b6 7.f3 f6 8.h3 h6 was an acceptable opening variation, although I can't remember what happened next. I'm pretty sure that Anand and Kramnik weren't aware of Press v Press 1974, but their game does seem somewhat familiar.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Wild times

Round 4 of the 2012 London Chess Classic saw two pretty wild games. Aronian v McShane saw some bizarre material imbalances, with Aronian having 2 queens(!) v Rook and 2 knights (one of which was as a result of an underpromotion). Eventually Aronian was able to break the coordination between McShane's pieces and win. In Carlsen v Jones, Jones sacrificed his queen for 2 pieces and a lot of board control, but a shortage of time meant he was not able to find the absolute best moves, and eventually Carlsen made the material advantage count.
However I am not going to show either of those games. Instead I'm going to dig into the archives and present   a similarly wild game from 1904. It was from the Cambridge Spring tournament, and was played between Lasker and Napier. In one of my early chess books, this was given as an example of creative, and yet, slightly unsound chess. Lasker took more than a few liberties in the opening, while Napier missed a couple of opportunities  to finish him off. Apparently after the game Lasker described it as "Napier's brilliancy, which I happened to win"

Lasker,Emanuel - Napier,William Ewart [B34]
Cambridge Springs Cambridge Springs (3), 1904

Tuesday 4 December 2012

"Little" tactics

While discussing the current state of chess with my son on the way home from the club, he remarked on the absence of grand kingside attacks at the very top. He said he saw lots of queenside attacks, but not so many kingside ones.
In answer, I thought one of the main reasons is that the modern style is a return the the Steinitz idea of the "accumulation of advantages". Of course being a modern implementation of an older idea, how it is done now is far different from Steinitz's methods. In fact it probably owes more the the Capablanca approach of 'little combinations', married with the practicality of Lasker's play. In essence, the modern game involves moving your position from 0.05 to 0.20 (according to the computer in your head), often via an accurately calculated tactical sequence. Once you get to 0.20, you then aim for 0.50, constantly improving as you go.
The concept of a chess game as a series of tactical sorties struck me while playing through the Gawain Jones v Hikaru Nakamura game from the London Chess Classic. Especially around the move 20 mark, where Jones gave up the exchange, only for Nakamura to return it a few moves later. Once the tension in the position was resolved, what was left was BvN ending, which was eventually drawn after a significant amount of play. Ultimately, while the tactics were necessary, the end result was a position where technique counted for more than creativity.

Jones,Gawain C (2644) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2760) [D97]
4th London Chess Classic London ENG (3.3), 03.12.2012

Monday 3 December 2012

How quickly things change

On Friday I gave a talk to the Year 7 Chess class at Amaroo School in Canberra. Chess is part of the curriculum at the school, and part of course involves the history of the game. My talk was on the more modern aspects of chess, with an emphasis on the top players since 1972. Apart from various players whose names started with K, one player I featured was of course, Carlsen. In the talk I featured a couple of facts on Carlsen, firstly that it was his 22nd birthday on the day of the talk, and secondly, that he had the second highest rating ever.
Move ahead 4 days, and both those facts are out of date. Birthdays of course come and go, and in this case, so do rating records. By winning his first round game against Luke McShane in the London Chess Classic, Carlsen gained enough point to equal Kasparovs record, at least on the 'live' list. By beating Lev Aronian in the second round, he has now jumped clear of Kasparov, by around 5 points. The win by Carlsen had another effect in terms of the tournament, by relegating Aronian to the bottom of the field with 2 straight losses. This has also increased the gap between Carlsen and Aronian on the rating list, with Vladimir Kramnik closing in on Aronian. Of course there is still some chess to be played, so what we see in terms of ratings now, may not be reflected when a new lest is published in the New Year.
Carlsen,Magnus (2848) - Aronian,Levon (2815) [C77]
4th London Chess Classic London ENG (2.1), 02.12.2012

Sunday 2 December 2012

2012 Australian Schools Teams Championship - Final

The second day of the 2012 Australian Schools Teams Championship saw some teams extend their tournament leads, while others have a real battle for the National titles.
In the Open Secondary Section, the colourfully dressed Scotch College from Melbourne ended up winning by a 5 point margin, over James Ruse (NSW) and Brisbane Grammar. A possible upset might have been on the cards after they were held 2-2 by Grammar in round 4, but a 3-1 victory over Lyneham High (ACT) in the 5th round allowed the defending champions to take the trophy back to Melbourne once more.
The Girls Secondary Section was a lot closer, with Sommerville House (QLD) holding a half point lead over St George Girls High (NSW) with one round to play. However a 3-1 win for Sommerville over Radford (ACT), combined with a 2-2 result for St George against Alfred Deakin (ACT) padded the margin of victory.
Greythorn Primary (VIC) scored a last round 4-0 win over Highgate (WA) to overtake Prince Alfred (SA) in the Primary Open Section, after Prince Alfred could only score 2 points against Summer Hill (NSW). This left Greythorn the winners by a narrow 0.5 margin.
The Girls Primary Section was equally dramatic as Curtin Primary (ACT) emerged as surprise winners after beating Abbotsleigh (NSW) 3-1, and watching fellow ACT team Turner Primary take 2 points from previous leaders Somerset College, to eke out a half point win.
Full results from all the events (including individual results) can be found at the ACTJCL website.

Saturday 1 December 2012

2012 Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship

Today saw the first 3 rounds of the 2012 Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship, at Hawker Primary School in Canberra. The event is run in 4 sections (Secondary Open & Primary, Girls Open & Primary), with 6 teams in each section. Senator Gary Humphries gave an opening speech, which was well received by the audience.
As is traditional with a number of Australian Junior events, the temperature in the playing hall was very warm, as there was no air-conditioning on offer. However the provision of a number of fans dotted around the playing hall at least kept the temperature manageable.
As each event is run as a round robin, determining a likely winner after 3 rounds is not that straightforward. Certainly Scotch College from Melbourne (11/12) seems to have inside track in the Open Secondary, but they still have a tough match against Brisbane Grammar to come. The other sections are a lot closer, with every point being crucial.
Of the chess that I managed to watch, there was some quite entertaining games. With a time limit of 60m+10s a move, a number of games ended with time scrambles, providing the opportunity for some clever escapes and swindles. One example was the diagrammed position in the Girls Primary section (NB This is not the exact position, but is as much as I can remember). White pushed the b pawn to b7 aiming to promote, only to walk into Kc2, when mate is unavoidable.
The tournament finishes tomorrow, with the final 2 rounds. Results for the event be found on the ACTJCL website.

Friday 30 November 2012

2012 London Chess Classic

The last 'Big' tournament of 2012, the London Chess Classic starts tomorrow (1st December). Like last year it is a 9 player round robin, with the 'Bye' player roped in to commentary duties for their 'rest day'. One change from last year is the reduction in home (English) players from 4 to 3, with GM Nigel Short moving into the commentators seat on a full time basis.
As with previous editions of the tournament the field is a very strong won. Magnus Carlsen and Lev Aronian top the field, with last years winner Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand adding World Champion class. Judit Polgar and Hikaru Nakamura complete the overseas contingent, with Michael Adams, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones turning out for the host country.
In terms of the winner, I am going to make my usual, safe prediction, and go for Carlsen. As an added omen, today is his 22nd birthday, so hopefully this will put him in a good frame of mind. Luke for McShane to play the maximum number of moves, with Aronian playing the most interesting chess. However I sense one thing will change this year, and we might see a reinvigorated Anand, eschewing his usual quota of draws. (NB I am basing this on nothing but gut feeling).
Along side the Classic are a number of side events, including a big Open tournament. Looking at the field I have spotted a few young Australian players including Justin Tan, Ari Dale and WIM Emma Guo. At one stage Guo was slated to play in the Women's Invitational, but she was 2 rating points short of the level needed to allow the tournament to offer norms.
The official tournament website is with all the usual tournament goodies. However the start time for the rounds is 1400 GMT which translates into 1am Canberra time. So I suspect the only live coverage I'm likely to see are the tail end of games involving Luke McShane.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Google Glass

I was listening to an interview on the radio this evening concerning Google Glasses, a project I have been interested in for a while. During the interview, the Google spokesman mentioned that one potential use is to look at sudoku puzzle, and then be given the option to retrieve the solution.
Clearly if the project can do this, then applying the same technology to chess games should not be far behind. A quick glance at the position on the board, and the best move gets whispered in you ear moments later! No need to hide a phone in your pocket, or make a suspicious number of trips to the toilet.
Of course such a cheating strategy is not as easy as it sounds. Having seen a few prototypes on the web, the design is a bit of a give away. The tiny camera used to record the scene in front of you is not tiny enough, so it should be pretty clear if someone is wearing them. Also you might be able to see random bits of text scrolling across the glasses, and the hand gestures used as part of the control interface run the risk of knocking the pieces off the board.
But as an exercise I would still be interested in seeing chess applications on the finished product. Quite possibly a Google sponsored 'Centaur' (Human+Computer) tournament would be a good PR stunt.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Presented without comment

Press,Shaun - Hosking,Ian [A42]
Swiss Festive Fun, 27.11.2012

Monday 26 November 2012

An opening for big hitters

I've been looking at the games from the FIDE Grand Prix in Tashkent, and found the following one quite interesting. Watching it in real time I was impressed by the cut and thrust nature of it, as both sides seems happy to take some big swings at each other. When I went over it later, there was another interesting feature to it. After 10 ... Qh4 the game seems to be the exclusive preserve of the 2400+ brigade. While there have only been 5 games to reach this position (in my database anyway), 4 of them were 2600+ v 2600+ match ups. Given the sharp nature of the play that result from this variation, it is probably no surprise. Just as 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 is the preserve of the beginner set (Nakamura notwithstanding), there should be some openings that require an advanced drivers licence just to play.

Leko,Peter (2732) - Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2726) [E32]
FIDE GP Tashkent Tashkent UZB (4.2), 25.11.2012

Sunday 25 November 2012

Pika, Pika, Pikachu

The 2012 ACT Transfer Championship was won by a team called "Mmm! Pokemon". They were actually the brother and sister team of Allen and Megan Setiabudi, who even went as far as dressing up as Ash Catchem, and Pikachu (with tail and all). This may have intimidated the opposition, as they scored a perfect 11/11 to finish 2 points clear of second placed "Uncle Michael". At the prize giving Allen "Pikachu" Setiabudi's speech consisted of 'Pika, Pika, Pikachu'.
While the games were interesting and hard fought, a number of teams have a way to go before mastering Transfer. On the lower boards, playing too much like 'normal' chess was the big sin, while at the top, and obsession with clock watching crippled some of the teams. I can understand 'stalling' when ahead by 60 seconds on the clock, but telling your partner not to move when the time difference is under 5 seconds is dicing with death.
But as with anything, the more you play, the more you should understand. As I explained at the start of the tournament, if today's chess doesn't go your way, there is still another 50 years of transfer to look forward to.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Going off too soon

Street Chess saw a couple of games today, where one player was guilty of 'going off too soon' (also known as 'celebrating too early'). The diagram shows a final round game between Wenlin Yin and Yijun Zhang, after 8 moves of a Pirc. Zhang thought he saw a tactical trick and uncorked the TN 8. ... Nxe4? What made this move extra special was he pre-announced it with "Check this out" and followed it up with "Bang!" as he took the pawn. The early celebration turned to dismay when his opponent played 9.Qb5+, forcing off queens and breaking the pin of the knight. No matter how Black defended, losing a piece was going to be the end result.
(For reference the game started with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Qd4 dxc5 8.Qc4 Nxe4?? 9.Qb5+ Qxb5 10.Bxb5+ Bd7 11.Bxd7 Nxd7 12.Nxe4 and White won from here).
The other game was between Ian Hosking and Victor Braguine. Braguine (Black) had been attacking, but the position reduced to Q+B v Q+N and various pawns. Braguine grabbed a pawn, allowing his knight to be captured, and after giving a spite check, met by a king move, extended his hand. His opponent assumed it was a resignation (as I did I while watching the game). Suddenly Braguine picked up his Queen and gave another check, pushing the clock. When Ian asked him what he was doing he said "Sorry, I thought I had mated you". The game continued, and despite being down a piece, Braguine pulled off a later swindle to win the game.
(NB Hosking did not complain or ask for a ruling during or after the game. Clearly Braguine did not intend to resign, or even 'declare he resigned', so I would not have changed the result if asked).

White to play and lose

From the 2nd round of the 2012 Commonwealth Championship. FM Junta Ikeda has just played Kh7 in this (lost) position. So how did White manage to lose from here?

Friday 23 November 2012

Stupid technical issues

Blogging as been a bit haphazard this week, as I am plagued with technical issues courtesy of my ISP. Seems that their DNS servers keep dropping out, meaning my connection to the Internet keeps going with it.  As I result I'm spending more time trying to work around this than actually looking at chess issues.  Hopefully it will be fixed shortly, but until then, I'll try and do my best.

Thursday 22 November 2012

2012 Commonwealth Championship

Another event about to kick off is the 2012 Commonwealth Championship. It is being held in Chennai, India,  with play due to start tomorrow. As with most editions of the Championship the field consists largely of local players (around 400 at last count) , and a smaller number of international players (about 50). As a number of these players aren't from Commonwealth countries, the title will not necessarily go to the tournament winner, but to the highest placed Commonwealth player.
Australia is represented by two players, FM Junta Ikeda, and Karthik Gurunathan. Top seed is Sergei Tiviakov (NED),  with the top 10 seeds all non-commonwealth players!
The tournament website is here, and there is the promise of live games.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Tashkent GP kicks off tomorrow

Today is the opening day of the Tashkent Grand Prix, although the action does not start until tomorrow. Top seed is Sergey Karjakin, with Fabiano Caruana close behind. Despite being 4th seed, Gata Kamsky is only in the tournament as a fill in for Vugar Gashimov, and is not part of the regular GP series.
If you are planning on following the games online, I'm guessing that they will start at 9pm Canberra time. (The website doesn't seem to have round times listed, so I'm assuming a 3pm local time start).
The tournament website is

Tuesday 20 November 2012

ACTJCL Transfer Tournament 2012

Australia's biggest Transfer Chess tournament is taking place this weekend in Canberra. Organised by the ACT Junior Chess League, this event normally attracts a 60+ player field, with a number of strong players taking part. While organised by the Junior Chess League it is open to players of all ages, and a number of adult players take the opportunity to join in.

The details are

When: Sunday 25th November 1pm to 5 pm (Register before 12:45 pm)
Where: Campbell High, Trealor Crescent, Campbell (behind the War Memorial)
Who: teams of two players. There is no restriction on age or strength
Cost: $20 per team or $10 for individuals (just turn up and a partner will be found). Free Pizza for all contestants!

Games will be played using standard transfer rules as described at

Sunday 18 November 2012

2012 Vikings Weekender - Final Results

IM Moulthun Ly coasted to the finish of the 2012 Vikings Weekender with a quick draw with Donato Mallari in round 7. Having won is first 6 games Ly was content to split the point with Mallari, having already won the event with a round to spare. IM George Xie recovered from his 6th round loss with a win over Kishore Sreetheran to take outright second, after a couple of other results went his way. There was a 4 way tie for third, with Mallari being joined on 5 points by Anton Smirnov, Emma Guo, and Allen Setiabudi (via an upset win over IM Vladimir Smirnov). In the Under 1600 tournament, Aelfric Gardiner-Garden (rated 1058!) finished on 6/7 to take outright first. In second place were Ryan Keeble and Bazli Karratyattil on 5.5.
Overall the organisers were pleased with the tournament, with the move to two sections resulting in an increase in entries from the previous year. The new Under 1600 section also provided the opportunity for some of the younger juniors in Canberra to experience there first non-junior weekender, while the Open section provided a stern test for the older juniors.
A full crosstable of both events is available here.

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 6

IM Moulthun Ly has an insurmountable lead in the 2012 Vikeings Weekender, after defeating IM George Xie in round 6. Ly won a couple of pawns in a rook and pawn ending, and killed off any tricks that Xie might have had, to extend his lead to 1.5 points. IM Vladimir Smirnov defeated Michael Wei to get to 4.5, as did Kishore Sretheran by drawinf with WIM Emma Guo, and Donato Mallari, who beat William Booth. The final round sees Mallari play Ly, Xie play Sreetheran, while Smirnov plays Allen Setiabudi. In the Minor (Under 1600), Aelfric Gardiener-Garden has a half point lead over Bazli Karratyattil, Cam Cunningham, Tim Pearce, and Ryan Keeble. The 6th round clash beetween Karratyattil and Gardiner-Garden had an amusing finish when Karratyattil reacted to his opponent queening a pawn by suddenly putting Gardiner-Garden in check and exclaiming 'CHECKMATE!'. Sadly he was mistaken, as the snickering of the spectators revealed. Gardiner-Garden composed himself and went to on to win easily.

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 5

IM Moulthun Ly hung onto his lead in the 2012 Vikings Weekender, with a win over IM Vladimir Smirnov. IM George Xie scored his 4th staright win to remain in striking distance on 4.5, while Kishore Sreetheran (who took a second half point bye) is the only player on 4. Ly and Xie are currently playing in round 6, while Sreetheran and WIM Emma Guo are on the second board.

Derwent,Ethan - Vuglar,Shanon [E97]
2012 Vikings Weekender(5), 18.11.2012

Saturday 17 November 2012

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 4

IM Moulthun Ly is the outright leader of the 2012 Vikings Weekender after finishing the day with 4 straight wins. Close behind on 3.5 IM Vladimir Smirnov, IM George Xie, and Kishore Sreetheran, who all had 3 wins and a half point bye (at various times). Tomorrows round see Ly and Smirnov meet on the top board, while Xie plays Canberra player Miles Patterson, who decided to enter the tournament when he 'could not find anything better to do on the weekend'.
In the Minor (Under 1600) tournament, top seed Ryan Keeble shares the lead with Bazli Karratyattil. These meet tomorrow in a game that will go a long way to determining first place.
Cross tables for both events are available at the ANU Chess Club website.

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 3

The top three seeds continue to set the pace in the 2012 Vikings Weekender. IM Moulthun Ly and IM Vladimir Smirnov are on 3/3, while IM George Xie leads a group of players on 2.5. Local players Wenlin Yin and Ian Rout went down to Ly and Smirnov, while Xie cracked Harry Press on board 3. Board 4 saw an upset win by Kishore Sreetheran over Anton Smirnov, while Michael Wei and Donato Mallari had wins to move them to 2.5
Ryan Keeble is the outright leader of the Minor on 3/3, followed by Lachlan Smart and Bazli Karratyattil on 2.5. The lower boards of this tournament saw a clash between Karl Galli and Chong Wang, where Wang managed to play an 'accidental' brilliancy. Getting his queen trapped, Wang decided to lay for the attack and was rewarded when he mated Galli's king in the centre of the board. However post game analysis showed that rather than getting his queen trapped, it was instead a brilliant sacrifice, and he had been winning all along!

Galli,Karl - Wang,Chong [B22]
2012 Vikings Weekender Minor (3), 17.11.2012

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 2

The top 3 seeds all won their second round games in the 2012 Vikings Weekender. IM Moulthun Ly and IM Vladimir Smirnov are both on 2/2, while IM George Xie is on 1.5, as a consequence of a half point bye in the first round. Local players Ian Rout, Wenlin Yin and Harry Press are also on 2 points, courtesy of second round wins.
The board 3 clash between Harry Press and Allen Setiabudi saw a bizarre finish, with Press having 2 queens, a rook and a knight, versus a queen and 2 pieces, but trying not to get mated. Press gave up one queen, and when Setiabudi moved his king to the wrong square, was able to safely win material, and the game.

Press,Harry - Setiabudi,Allen [A26]
2012 Vikings Weekender(2), 17.11.2012

2012 Vikings Weekender - Round 1

The shift to 2 sections for the Vikings Weekender has proved successful, with an increase in entries over last year. The other effect of the split was that the first round saw a number of upsets and semi-upsets in both tournaments. In the Open section, Anton Smirnov drew with Fred Litchfield, Micheal Wei with Victor Braguine, and Donato Mallari with Nick Beare, while Brian Butler beat Andrey Bliznyuk. Complicating the second round pairings were a number of players taking half point byes in the first round, so it may take a while before a clear favourite emerges.
However second seed IM Moulthun Ly did his bit to stay out in front, with a nice win over William Booth. Booth did not meet the Bc4 line in the Kings Gambit with the right amount of aggression, and after Nxf7, the attack crashed through.

Ly,Moulthun - Booth,William [C34]
2012 Vikings Weekender (1), 17.11.2012

Friday 16 November 2012

Heads up for tomorrow

Not a real blog post, just a heads up for the Vikings Weekender tomorrow. I plan to squeeze more than my usual quota of blog posts in over the weekend, so watch this space. (As of this evening the tournament has attracted 59 entries, with IM George Xie top seed)

Thursday 15 November 2012

Miniature of the Month - October 2012

This months Miniature comes from the European Club Championship, and may be important for players who like the Scotch Gambit/Two Knights opening system for White. Black plays the Max Lange Attack (5. ... Bc5) but after 10.Bg5 goes wrong with 10. ... Qd5 (10. ... Be7 is the move). White is winning after 11.Nc3, although in previously played games White has missed the followup 12.Ne4 on occasion. I suspect Black was genuinely surprised when his queen was trapped. (This game comes courtesy of Chess Today)

Gayson,Peter (2207) - Beukema,Stefan (2271) [C56]
28th European Club Cup Eilat ISR (4), 14.10.2012

Wednesday 14 November 2012

2012 Vikings Weekender - Looking strong

Only a couple of days to go before the 2012 Vikings Weekender. This year sees an Open and Under 1600 event, and the Open is already looking quite strong. 3 IM's and a WIM have already entered, with 25% of the field over 2000 on the ACF Rating List. Surprisingly the Under 1600 has a smaller field (31 v 19), especially given the $500 first prize for this event.
There is still time to enter either event, with the all the details at While entries will be taken on the morning of the event, early entries are appreciated.
 (** I am a paid official at this event **)

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Father and Son

As an arbiter it can be a little tricky when the pairings come up with parent v child or sibling v sibling. On occasion I've had requests from players that they not be paired with other family members, although I usually have to explain why such requests are not granted.
But while I can see why such pairings can make things a little difficult, I feel that it is something that is to be expected from time to time. In my case my son and I have played in a number of tournaments together, and a Press v Press pairing is always on the cards. However, this has mainly happened in Blitz/Rapid events (where he now has the upper hand), and very rarely at longer time controls. In fact the total number of long time control games we have played is 2, with one of those happening this very evening.
Sadly for him, and to a degree myself, I turned around a few weeks of poor form to score a win. The opening was quite sharp, and followed theory for around 16 moves. 17.Nf4 was new (17.Qh3 had been played before), but once my pawn got to f6, the writing was on the wall.

Press,Shaun - Press,Harry [B42]
Swiss Festive Fun, 13.11.2012

Monday 12 November 2012

How do you know when you are getting better at chess?

I posed the title to this post to a group of junior players I coach this morning. As it is a school group, as opposed to a 'chess' group, answers like 'your rating goes up' weren't the most obvious ones. 'You win more' did come at the top of list, but 'you make less mistakes', and 'you stop losing pieces' were also there. But the answer I like the most actually came from my wife when I discussed the topic with her later.
'When you enjoy the game more'.

Sunday 11 November 2012

A quick CC draw

The following very quick draw took place in the current Australia/New Zealand v Germany Friendly Match currently taking place on the ICCF webserver. It has all the ingredients of a 'good' draw, in that happens fairly quickly, it involves a queen sacrifice, and ends in a repetition. Somewhat surprisingly I only have on previous instance of this game in my database.

Pritchard, Owen - Metelmann, Klaus
Aus/NZ v Germany 2012

Saturday 10 November 2012

What is the most popular chess video on Youtube?

As an exercise, I decided to track down the most popular chess video on Youtube. The first part of this quest was quite easy, as I simply typed "chess" in the search box. Turns out there are approximately 185,000 videos with the word "chess" in the title on youtube. But after that my search became somewhat harder. While I can get lots of chess videos, I don't seem to be able to order them by number of views. So the first couple of pages were a mixture of heavily viewed videos (100,000+), and some more recent additions (7,000 views).
So in the absence of being able to do this scientifically I've had to use Eyeball 1.0 to make a guess. Without spending too much time on the process I'm suggesting the "Speed Chess Game" video, with 1.7 million views is a front runner. It is about 6 years old and showed a bullet game between Max Dlugy and Hikaru Nakamura. I'll embed it here if you have not seen it already.

Friday 9 November 2012

Random chess sightings

Driving to work this morning I was listening to a preview of the 1st Cricket Test between Australia and South Africa, and one of the commentators used the term "chess-piecing". He said that Australia had engaged in 'some chess-piecing' before the match, which I assumed meant arranging the team to match the strengths of the South Africans. Nonetheless it is not a term I have ever heard before.
Then this evening I tried to catch a little bit of The Daily Show, to see the wash up from the US Presidential Election. However the bit I did catch was an interview with the director of 'Brooklyn Castle' which is a new documentary on a very successful chess chess team from a school in New York. The link to the episode  is here, although the video does not work here in Australia.
Then finally, I caught a repeat of an episode of QI, and one of the topics of discussion was the loss by Gary Kasparov to Deep Blue. "Poor Gary" was Stephen Fry's parting comment.

Thursday 8 November 2012

World Youth Championship 2012

The 2012 World Youth Championship is about to start in Maribor, Slovenia. Australia has a small squad of players, competing in the various age groups. Yi Liu is in the Under 16 event, while Ari Dale did very well to travel from the Melbourne Cup Weekender to Slovenia in the space of a couple of days. Zachary Lo is in the Under 14 event, alongside Ari, while the Willathgamuwa brothers are both in the Under 10's. Sophie Davis is the only female representative, and she is in the Under 8 girls.
There are live games from the tournaments, although it looks like the top 10 boards from each. Based on the difference in time zones, the rounds seem to start at the slightly awkward time of 1am Canberra time.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Missing tactics

A tactical exercise from a game I played the other day. While I eventually won from this position, I missed the instant crusher in this position. It is Black to play and win.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

US Election

While the US Presidential Election has very little to do with chess, it does have an odd chess connection for me. This years election will be the first since 1996 where I have been in Australia to see the count. The previous 3 elections have all coincided with trips to Chess Olympiads, although in 2004 and 2008 I was in transit and so followed the count on my brothers canal boat in Gloucester.
As for the predicted outcome I'm going to take the radical approach of following the math, which has Barack Obama on track to be re-elected. If you want to delve deeply into the numbers game behind the election, then the FiveThirtyEight blog is one of the best places to go. On the other hand, if you want to watch heads explode on live TV, then Fox News in around 15 hours is a must see.

Monday 5 November 2012

Chess Programming Wiki

I've been out of Computer Chess Programming for quite a while, as other chess activities have taken a higher priority. As a result I've probably missed some recent developments in the field, which makes getting back into it a little difficult.
But a message from Chris Skulte concerning a game played by the Houdini chess program, resulted in me discovering the Chess Programming Wiki. While I've frequented computer chess bulletin boards in the past, using a wiki to cover various computer chess programming techniques seems to work a lot better (For one you don't get the posturing and flaming that goes on in most bulletin boards).
The board seems to cover the important topics pretty well, especially in the provision of example code for various programming ideas. As a programmer this is important, as often your best code is in fact someone else's code!
So if you are looking to write a chess program, or like me, resurrect a dormant project, the a visit to the Chess Programming Wiki should be high on the to-do list.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Karpov wins tournament named for Karpov

It must be slightly unusual to play in a tournament named after yourself, but Anatoly Karpov went one better by actually winning a tournament that carried his name. It was the Cap D'Agde 'Le Trophee Anatoly Karpov' Rapid event,  and Karpov defeated Vasilly Ivanchuk in the final. It was an 8 player KO, with a mix of male and female players, with a healthy dose of leading French players.
The first 2 games of the final were split 1-1, and Karpov eventually won the tiebreak 4.5-3.5 with a win on time in the final game. Here is one of the games from earlier in the final.

Karpov,Anatoly (2616) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2771) [D85]
Trophee Karpov KO 2012 Cap d'Agde FRA (2.4), 03.11.2012

Saturday 3 November 2012

News of the Weird

Two chess related news items caught my eye today.
The first concerns a new development in Robotic Chess from the University of Texas Dallas. They have built a robotic chess player, but not in the way you might think. Rather than have a robotic arm move normal size pieces, they use a large chess board and have mounted the pieces on mobile robots. Check out the story for more details and picture.
The second is from Jakarta, where they have just held a tournament for gravediggers! And it seems a popular pastime for gravediggers (or maybe they have a lot of them) as 160 players entered the two day event. More details here.

Friday 2 November 2012

2013 O2C Doeberl Cup

The website for the 2013 O2C Doeberl Cup is now online. The tournament has a prize pool in excess of $18,000 with $12,350 on offer in the Premier. All the tournament details are available on the website, and entries are already being accepted. As Easter is early next year (28th March is the start date for the Premier), entering early is advised.

(I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday 1 November 2012

Some other Chessexpress's

When I set up this blog, my first thought was to call it '64 Squares'. But (IIRC) that name was already taken, so I chose 'Chessexpress' instead, as it contained one obvious tie-in (my surname), as well as a couple of others (eg the double meaning for 'express'). There was even an unintended bonus a couple of years later, when a Canberra Times sub-editor decided to break the title of the blog in 'ches' and 'sexpress' in an Ian Rogers chess column.
But it is kind of an obvious name, so it is no surprise that their are other 'Chessexpress' sites on the web. The one that I was aware of very early on was a chess retailer from the US, As far as I know they have no problem with the title of this blog, as we have co-existed for a number of years.
Oddly enough there is not one, but two Chessexpress websites in Canada. There is 'The Chess Express' which is a junior coaching organisation involving Hal Bond, who is a friend of mine from various Olympiads. There is also 'Chess Express Ratings' which is a commercial rating organisation in Canada. As far as I know the two are not connected.
And finally, there is even a chess event that carries the Chess Express name. It is the 'Trans Europe Chess Express' and fittingly it is organised by Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways). This years event was held inside the Potsdam Railway station, and attracted a strong field including Karpov, Short, Timman and Huebner.

(NB I do not necessarily endorse any of the commercial sites listed in this post)

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Could you win this?

White to play
Taken from a game played at the ANU Chess Club earlier this evening. It looks pretty straight forward, but could you win this position, taking only 10 seconds per move?

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Normally I'm black here

Having gone undefeated for the first 8 months of the year, I've been roughed up quite a bit since (Rupert Jones calls it 'The Curse of the FM Title'). Tonight saw my third loss in the space of a month, in a game where I was facing an opening I normally use myself.
Kishore Sreetheran surprised me a little with 1. ... e5 and after briefly considering 2.f4 I played 2.Nf3 instead, assuming I would be seeing the Marshall Gambit after a few minutes. This is exactly what happened, and we both followed theory until move 20. Turns out my recapture with the rook on a4 was not the best. After 20. ... f5 I exchanged on d5 and had planned to follow this up with f4. In the nick of time I realised that this failed to Qe8! (a trap that at least 15 other players walked into), but faced with a number of unappealing alternatives went for the material grab which lost in short order.
At the end of the game I remarked that I'm usually Black in these positions, and a little home research proved this point. Checking the game into my database I wondered if anyone else had reached the position around move 19, and what move they chose. It turned out I had myself, 16 years ago, having the Black pieces against Brian Butler. But rather than take on a4 I tried the immediate 19. ... f5, which didn't work so well as the game ended in a draw, albeit an exciting one.

Press,Shaun - Sreetheran,Kishore [C89]
Belconnen Dark Knights (7), 30.10.2012

Monday 29 October 2012

Pawn Sacrifice

Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer? I'm not seeing it myself, but if he gives a performance like he did in Satan's Alley, then maybe he can pull it off.

Sunday 28 October 2012


While I'm hopeless at solving Studies and Problems I still enjoy looking at them, especially ones that are visually appealing. An example if the study shown here. It is White to play and win, and what attracted to me to this problem was the fact that despite the 'equal' nature of the position, White still has a win.
As with most studies it is the first few moves that are hard to find, before it resolves itself into something more familiar. Even if you can't find the exact solution, at least attempting it may help you reinforce some important K+P concepts.
BTW I came across this problem in the recently revamped British Chess Magazine. As part of editorial/ownership changes, the magazine now has a slightly different look, which to my eyes, is an improvement over the last few years. It isn't a radical departure from the previous format, but is does look more professional. A thumbs up from me!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Zombies and Chess

Zombie Bride and Groom

Today saw a quick 'up-and-back' trip to Sydney for the Correspondence Chess League of Australia (CCLA) council meeting, where amongst other things I've taken on the role of CCLA President. The meeting was a fairly straight forward one, although there were some discussions on an expanded role for the CCLA in the area of online chess. Everything was wrapped up within 3 hours which gave me time to do a bit of sight seeing with the family.
One of the sights was the 2012 Zombie Walk, which happened to be taking place in Hyde Park. Not only was this a stones throw from the meeting venue, it was also located in the vicinity of the Hyde Park giant chess board. Now I haven't been to the board in Hyde Park for a while so I was a little surprised that it was out and being used on a Saturday. Certainly when I was younger it was just a work day thing.
So I was able to watch some chess being played in the outdoors, while the surrounds were being overrun by the shambling dead. Curiously the players at the board either did not think anything unusual about this, or more likely, were so engrossed in their game that they failed to notice. Eventually the zombies wandered off to a food festival somewhere, leaving the chess players in peace.

Friday 26 October 2012

A model hack

While looking through some of the content at the Ultimate Chess Course website, I came across the following game by the sites owner, Roy Phillips. It was played at the 2002 Chess Olympiad, and it is almost a model game for players looking to use 1.d4 as an attacking weapon. He based his attacking plan on a game played by Capablanca some ninety year earlier, and it turned out to be just as effective. After aiming to mate on h7 out of the opening, Phillips then took advantage of the weaknesses created by Black in blocking the threat. Finally, after seizing control of the dark squares, he returned to the theme of mating the Black king, finishing off the game with a nice queen sac.

Philips,Roy - Medina,Ricardo [D46]
Olympiad Bled SLO (9), 04.11.2002

2012 CCLA Council Meeting

The Correspondence Chess League of Australia (CCLA) is having their 2012 Council Meeting this Saturday (27 October 2012) in Sydney. Full details of the meeting are at the CCLA website ( All members are welcome to attend.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Turtle-ing in Chess

As the father of a teenage son I do learn new expressions from the gaming world, usually hearing them shouted at the TV after a particularly disastrous outcome. One expression that is both common, and reasonably self explanatory is 'turtleing'. This involves setting up a defensive structure or system and inviting your opponent to come at you. Done right it can result in a kind of victory, especially if annoying your opponent is an acceptable outcome.
Fortunately for chess, such a strategy is usually doomed to failure. Some players have attempted to build a career out of such a strategy (Karl Galli being a local example), but in the long run it doesn't offer much. The Hedgehog is probably the closest mainstream opening system that embodies this strategy, but you have to have a special kind of patience to make this really work.
But such a strategy is enticing to new comers, especially those who have been hacked to bits more times than they are comfortable with. Often moves like a6, e6,d6, b6 and g6 get played, and the rest of the pieces huddle along the third rank, trying to avoid trouble. Nonetheless sometimes this does result in a positive outcome, especially if the opponent overreaches.
A famous example of this was the following win by Tony Miles over Anatoly Karpov in 1980. To be fair to both players Miles had no intention of cowering in his half of the board, although White did start of with more space. But a couple of well timed breaks by Black gave him better board control, and technique did the rest.

Karpov,Anatoly (2725) - Miles,Anthony John (2545) [B00]
EU-chT (Men) Skara (1), 1980

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Licence to ... rule?

While the proposal to mandate payments for Arbiters was shot down at the 2012 FIDE congress, the new licence fee system remained. As of 1 January 2013, all tournaments that are to be submitted for FIDE rating will require a licensed arbiter to run them. For this to happen, Federations need to submit a list of arbiters to FIDE, who will then charge the Federations the licence amounts, which are calculated on the arbiters level (A to D for IA's, C to D for FA's). The licenses are for life but if an arbiter moves up a level, then a new license fee is charged. As well as that, the application fee for an Arbiters title remains.
Now this may seem like another FIDE grab for cash, and I'm not going to argue that it isn't. However the money that is raised will be spent by the Arbiters commission, on things like training and education, as well as the production of an official FIDE Arbiters Manual.
One side effect of the system is the creation of an extra arbiter classification. As there will be occasions when neither an IA of FA is available to run a FIDE rated event, the tournament can be run by a licensed National Arbiter. Now some Federations do have a National Arbiter designation (eg USA, Italy), but a lot do not. So essentially Federations that do not have an arbiters management system will have to create one, even if it is just a hand written sheet in an office somewhere.
So if you are interested in getting even the most basic Arbiter accreditation I suggest you get  in touch with your local Federation and ask to be added to the list of NA's. It is only 20 euro's and you can carry the title for life.

Monday 22 October 2012

A big metal box

Chessvibes is reporting on an alleged cheating incident from the first weekend of the German Bundesliga. German GM Falko Bindrich was defaulted by the arbiter after confessing that he had a smart phone on his person, and then refusing to allow the arbiter to examine it. Suspicion was aroused after Bindrich was observed going to the toilet, when it was his move, on a number of occasions.
I've commented on this issue previously, including offering up a number of solutions, including the not so serious morph suit/nude chess tournament. But it is a serious problem, requiring a serious solution. For me the most obvious one is that organisers should create a storage area or container for all electronic devices. Players would then be required to hand over their phones etc before each round, and only receive them back when permanently leaving the playing venue. This would not only deal with the issue described above, but would also reduce the chance of move signalling, as seen in the Feller case.
I will endeavor to try this system at the up coming Vikings weekender, although ironically, we don't default players for mobile phone offences at this event (as it is not FIDE rated). I instead give the opponent a time bonus. However, this may be an advantage in this case, as the risk in trying any new system is that confusion, rather than deceit, may be the main reason why players forget to hand their phones in.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Blitz Brilliancies

I'm pretty sure we've all played a 'blitz brilliancy' or two in our time. A fast time limit game where you decide to play a sacrifice 'to see if it works', only to find that it succeeds beyond all expectations, at which point you claim that you had planned it all along. Apart from your innate brilliance, the other contributing factors are the fact that blitz chess is played more frequently than serious games, defending at 5s a move is harder, and if you fail to win the game, the result is soon forgotten.
This of course applies to club players, as blitz games played by more famous players tend to be remembered a lot longer. Of course the 'filtering factor' still occurs, with the spectacular wins remembered, while the more mundane games becoming part of a players overall reputation. Here is an example from early on in Mikhail Tal's career. Played during (but not part of) the 1956 World Under 26 Teams Championship, Tal plays a series of sacrifices to destroy his opponent in 20 moves. Of course the first few sacrifices are unsound (moves 11, 12 and partially 13), but White mis-defends (at 5s a move), and after that Tal wins in fine style. If White had found 13. O-O-O (or 13.cxb7) then the game would have been soon forgotten, but he didn't, so here it is.

Szukszta,Janusz - Tal,Mihail [E86]
WchT U26 03th Upsala, 1956

Saturday 20 October 2012

Mate early, mate often.

Today was Election Day here in Canberra, with for seats in the local assembly. As I often do, I was at the polls early in the morning, before grabbing an egg and bacon roll outside the polling station, and then heading off to Street Chess.
And I might not have been to only one, as there was a very large field today. 25 players rolled up, which makes me wonder if the inability to get out of bed on Saturday morning is the real reason why more people don't play. Of course the fact that was a wonderful Canberra spring day (blue skies, not too warm weather) might have also been a factor.
Not only was the field large, but it was also very competitive. The bulk of the top half of the field were all rated within the 1700 to 1800 range, while the bottom half wasn't to shabby either. And in a result that mirrored some previous local elections, there were a couple of runaway winners (Yijun Zhang 6/7, Victor Braguine 5.5/7) and then a 6 way tie for third place on 4.5/7.

Friday 19 October 2012

Writers block

I haven't been able to come up with a topic for this evenings blog post, so talk among yourselves for now.

(But if you do want a topic of discussion try - Is "amongst" really a word? Every time I try and use it, various spell checkers tell me it does not exist!)

Thursday 18 October 2012

The turnover of players

While plenty of people know how to play chess, and some of those also play organised/tournament chess, it is only a small percentage that keep playing chess. There is always a large turnover of players, even at the club level, where over a two year period there may be 50% new players, replacing the 50% who are 'having a break'.
This thought re-occurred to me with the return of local Canberra player Ian Hosking, who has been abroad for the last 2 years. As with lots of players of  a certain age, his break was longer than that, due to time constraints of marriage and family. But even so, at my local club, there would have been only about 4 or 5 players (out of 25), who new who he was. This indicates that 80% of players really only started playing seriously in the last 5 or so years. Now this isn't a bad thing, as without new players we would have less players overall. But it does indicate that player retention is an issue that could do with some work.
(NB The point of this post is only partly about player numbers. It is also gives me an opportunity to welcome Ian back by showing this game).

Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C57]
Belconnen, 1986

Wednesday 17 October 2012

A proposal for a new tie-break system

GM David Smerdon has been a busy boy lately. Apart from holding down Board 1 for Australia at the last Olympiad, he is also working towards his PhD in Economics. As part of his studies he has been looking at the fairness and accuracy of various tie-break systems, and is proposing an alternative system.
His proposal is based in the concept of  'indirect wins' which relies on a transitive set of results (ie If A beats B, and B beats C, then you can assume that A would have beaten C). . So a tiebreak score would be the number of direct wins, plus the result of a function of 'indirect wins'. In the case of 'indirect wins', there would be a scaling factor applied, as assumed results aren't as good as real ones. At this stage part of his proposal is to investigate tournament data to see what would be the best estimate for a scaling factor (shades of Duckworth-Lewis!).
David has posted a link to his proposal paper, as well as some thoughts on the topic, in this article at Chessvibes.