Wednesday 31 December 2014

2014 Chessexpress Player of the Year

Sometimes when trying to decide who is going to be the Chessexpress Player of the Year, I find a player who may have done well in one half of the year, does not do so well in the other. Or that they do well in a couple of events, but badly in others.
This year I am pleased to say I did not have this problem with my eventual choice. This years winner started the year with a high placing in the Australian Championships, and finished the year with as the best placed Australian player in the Australasian Masters. Along the way he became an International Master, beating Danish Champion Allan Rasmussen to score his final IM norm. He then had an impressive debut on the Australian Olympiad team, scoring an undefeated 7.5/9 on Board 5. He also won a number of important events in 2014, including the 2014 Australian Junior Championship and the George Trundle Masters in New Zealand.
Based on the overall quality of his results for 2014, I am pleased to announce that IM Anton Smirnov is the 2014 Chessexpress Player of the Year.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Another draw offer in the cricket

I mentioned this point a number of years ago, but the end of today's 3rd Cricket Test between Australia and India lets me mention it again.
With 5 overs to play, Australia realised that they were unlikely to dismiss the last 4 Indian batsmen to win the game, and agreed to end the game early. India were obviously in no position to win (being well short of the number of runs required) although the offer went to the Umpires rather than to the other team.
The ability to end games early in Cricket has been around for a while, and in a sense serves the same purpose as agreed draws in chess. In a sport where a draw is a common enough outcome, once both sides realise that a win is out of reach for both teams, then agreeing to that result is perfectly sensible.

This might hurt for a while

As the number of 26500+ players has increased over the years, the number of games by "Super GM 's" (to use an outdated term) has increased as well. As a result we get to see a lot more high quality games, but at the same time, there is an increased chance of seeing the absolute shocker. And as the player concerned is 2600+ this seems to magnify the size of any bad blunder, while giving a sliver of hope to the rest of us.
The most recent example of this is a 10 move loss by GM Qun Ma to IM Danny Reznikov in the Groningen tournament. Failing to analyse all checks and captures, Ma missed a queen sacrifice that left Reznikov ahead material. While Ma could have played on, albeit with a big disadvantage, he decided to end the game at that point. For Ma this is probably just one game in what will be a long career, but the nature of the loss (and blog posts like this) may make it hurt for at least a little while.

Ma,Qun (2621) - Raznikov,Danny (2494) [A33]
SFG 2014 Open A Groningen, (6.3), 27.12.2014

Monday 29 December 2014

2015 Australian Open

The 2015 Australian Open is only a few days away, and the field has just about reached the 100 mark. It is very strong at the top, with 9 GM's, 1 WGM, and 10 IM's. The organisers have done a fantastic job of attracting both players and sponsorship, with over $26000 in prizes for the Open and the Minor event.
The tournament is being held at the Castle Hill RSL Club in Sydney, and starts on the 2nd of January 2015. It is an 11 round event, and finishes on the 11th January 2015. There are 2 days with double rounds, and given the strength of the field, there will be IM and GM norms on offer in the top section.
If you still haven't entered the tournament (Open of Minor) you can do so at the tournament website. You will also be able to follow all the action from the tournament at the website, with live games, up to date results and I suspect a bit of social media on the side.

Sunday 28 December 2014

An Alekhine game - just because

Here is a nice attacking game from Alexander Alekhine, where he crushes former World Champion Emanuel Lasker. One interesting point from this game is how Alekhine was able to generate an attacking position after opening with the Queens Gambit. Most attacking players start with 1.e4, but Alekhine, Frank Marshal and even Kasparov felt that 1.d4 gave White better attacking chances.
In this game Alekhine is on top after centralising his pieces, although Lasker should have exchanged Queens when he had the chance. By not doing so not only did he leave Alekhine with a better position, it also meant that Alekhine was able to finish the game with a queen sacrifice.

Alekhine,Alexander - Lasker,Emanuel [D67]
Zuerich Zuerich, 1934

Friday 26 December 2014

Quick Chess

One Christmas present given this year, was Quick Chess, which my wife picked up at Australian Geographic. It was a gift for our grand-nieces, who are just starting school.
Quick Chess is a 2-in-1 chess game, with a learning version of the game on one side of the board, and a full version on the other. In the Quick version, the game is played on a 6x5 board (only 1 of each piece+5 pawns), and the emphasis is on learning how the pieces move. All the pieces more normally, with the exception of pawns, who only move a single square. As well there is no en-pas, no castling and pawns only promote to captured pieces.
At first glance it looks like a useful way of introducing young children to chess. The smaller size of the board allows games to finish a lot quicker, and tactical ideas are more obvious. On the other hand it isn't that far removed from proper chess to make the game completely different, and the skills learnt in Quick Chess should be transferable to normal chess.
I also believe some national chess federations are looking at using Quick Chess as part of a beginners coaching system, so there may be a new generation of players whose training starts on the smaller board.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Hastings 2014

There are a couple of Christmas traditions that are followed in my house. One is my sons insistence on staying up late to catch the Boxing Day fixtures in the English Premier League. Another is to follow the traditional Hastings Christmas Congress. This years event starts on the 29th December  and runs through to the 6th of January. The organisers are already boasting of a stronger than usual turn out this year, and the entry list seems to be filled with plenty of GM's. As is a current tradition, the top seeds come from outside the host country, but there are a few English GM's lining up to give it a go.
If you wish to follow the tournament you can do so at the tournament website. The time difference between Australia and the UK may be a bit of a problem for live coverage, but I am sure by the time you wake up, the results from the days play will be available.

An early Christmas Game

On the night before Christmas I normally go hunting for games that are played on Christmas day, For this years effort I decided to find the earliest Christmas game in my database. I expected this to be a difficult task, as a lot of early games only have the year played, missing the day and month. Surprisingly I quickly found a game from 1837, between Von Bilguer and Von Heyderband un der Lasa.
I am guessing the game is an authentic Christmas game, as it is a bit of a horror. White drops a pawn on move 6 and never gets close to equality. On the other hand Black misses a couple of crushing moves, but at least doesn't blunder back. The game ends abruptly when White moves a piece en pris. Possibly both sides enjoyed some Christmas cheer before sitting down to play, but if the quality of the moves is anything to go by, it was White who enjoyed it the most.

Von Bilguer,Paul Rudolf - Von Heydebrand und der L,Tassilo [C00]
Berlin m1 Berlin, 25.12.1837

Tuesday 23 December 2014

One check chess

A number of years ago I read about a variant of chess called "One check chess" (or 'first check chess') where the first player to give check wins. Apparently it did not last long as an alternative as Frank Marshall quickly found a forced win for White. Annoyingly a quick search has not turned up the winning moves, although I assume 1.Nc3 (threatening 2.Ne4 or 2.Nd5) seems to be an obvious start.
One possible improvement is 'Safe check chess' where the first player to give a 'safe' check wins. By safe check I mean a check that does not result in the immediate capture of the piece as a legal reply. This would rule out any kamikaze attacks by the knights, although if one side decides to "turtle" it may be difficulty to actually win the game.
A variant which still seems to have legs is "Three check chess". Three checks are required to win the game, and they can happen at any stage (ie non consecutively is fine). Here is an example game where White goes horribly wrong. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 Bb4+ 3.c3 Bxc3+ 4.Nxc3 Qh4 and Black will play a third check with the queen next move.  I suspect that this is the kind of chess variant that might be useful to know if you are embarking on a career as a chess hustler, as it is simple enough to entice the unwary, while giving you an edge if you know what you are doing.

Chess for fun or chess for blood

In a recent interview former World Champion Vishy Anand said that his "appetite for chess has recovered". Such a statement is not that uprising, as 2014 has been a particularly good year for him. However it is not clear from the interview which came first, the good results or the renewed enthusiasm. 
The idea that you play chess, even if you don't enjoy it, was first pointed out to me in a book by Reuben Fine that chronicled the lives of the worlds leading players throughout history. Salo Flohr was one of the leading players in the 1930's, but according to Fine, once he reached to top he felt the need to protect his reputation rather than strive for the ultimate prize. As a result he began to play risk free chess, which resulted in fewer losses,  but fewer wins as well. And while there was an argument that he could have played in the 1948 World Championship tournament (as a surviving participant of the 1938 AVRO event), he was replaced by Vasilly Smyslov. I can remember thinking at the time that this was a little sad that a promising career was curtailed by the necessity to make a living.
Of course the alternative is to do a Morphy or Fischer and just quit, or even a Lasker, taking long breaks from the game. At least in the case of Anand, his lack of passion for the game did not last that long, and he seems the better player for it. 

Monday 22 December 2014

Visitors win Australasian Masters

A trio of visiting Grandmasters have tied for first on the 2014 Australasian Masters GM tournament, which concluded in Melbourne today. Going into the final round GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev and young Australian IM Anton Smirnov shared the lead on 5.5/8 but Vasily Papin defeated Smirnov in the last round , while Kazhgaleyev drew with IM Moulthun Ly. The win for Papin ended Smirnov's chance of a GM norm, and left him tied with Kazhgaleyev on 6/9. Joining them was GM Rustam Khusnutdinov, who defeated Luke Li.
The subsidiary IM tournament was also won by an overseas (although currently living in Australia) player with IM Kanan Izzat proving a convincing winner with 7.5/9. Yi Liu had a good event to tie for second with IM Igor Bjelobrk with 6.5/9.
Full details of the tournament, including a nice set of bulletins, can be found here

Sunday 21 December 2014

Very Nineteenth Century

From the 2014 ACT Rapidplay Championship comes the following game. It has a very nineteenth century feel about it, from the choice of opening, the early f4, and the sudden finish!

Guo-Yuthok,Sherab - Press,Harry [C27]
ACT Rapidplay, 20.12.2014

Saturday 20 December 2014

Basque Chess

The current World Mind Sports event in China has a number of different styles of chess, including the relatively new format of Basque Chess. In this format players play two games at once, against the same opponent, starting one game with black and the other with white. Players move on either board (when it is their turn), in a similar way to a clock simul. The idea is to cancel out the advantage of having the white pieces in the first game of a 2 game (or 4 or more) match.
While this format seems to be new, my knowledge of a similar type of game goes back at least 20 years. FM Craig Laird described to me a 4 (and possibly a 6) board variation of the game, which he said was played at his local club. To make it more fun it was played with a blitz time limit (G/5m) for all games. It was even tried at the Belconnen Chess Club 25 years ago, although the format tended to favour fitter (and taller) players! Adding the extra games did add an extra strategic dimension to the match, as you could afford to abandon a losing position to concentrate on your winning ones. It would not surprise me if it still is a thing in certain chess clubs, although the necessity of having extra equipment may have contributed to its lack of popularity.

Friday 19 December 2014

2014 ACT Rapidplay Championship

The traditional end of year ACT Chess tournament, the ACT Rapidplay Championship is being held on Saturday 20th December 2014, in City Walk, Canberra City. It is a 7 round swiss played with a time limit of G/15m. Entries are being taken from 10:30am and the first round is at 11am. Entry fees are $10 ($5 for juniors). The event sponsors are Chicken Gourmet and King O'Malley's and the prize pool is normally over $300.
This event is a popular one on the Canberra scene, and provides one last opportunity for chess before Xmas. Normally 30 to 40 players take part in the beautiful outdoor setting in the centre of Canberra, and already a number of strong Canberra players (including at least one IM) have indicated that they will be playing.
Entries will be taken on the day, and it the tournament is open to all players.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

What the what? - Episode 27

The 2014 London Chess Classic has finished in a 3 way tie for first place. Anand, Kramnik and Giri all scored one win and 4 draws to tie for first on 7 points, using the 3-1-0 scoring system. Anand won the title on countback as his win was scored with the Black pieces. Further down the table Nakamura scored 6 points (+1=3-1) while Adams and Caruana scored 4 points each, although Adam's single win relegated Caruana to last place on countback.
Of course it is kind of weird to see the final standings  the way they are (at least to me). In this instance the 'football' scoring system did not encourage decisive results, with 66% of the games drawn (NB this is not a comment on the quality of the games). Half the players finished in first place which is another oddity,while the player that lost 3 out of 5 games finished ahead of the player who only lost 1.
But rather than point the finger at the scoring system I think this is more a function of the small size of the field, and the limited number of rounds. Unless you have either big round robins (8 players or more) or double rounds (or even quadruple like tournaments of the past), you will get results like this, no matter who you invite.

Puccini's Brilliancy

Young Australian player Jack Puccini is representing his country at the Under 16 World Youth  Chess Olympiad, currently taking place in Hungary. For the first half of the tournament he has been holding down top board, while IM Ari Dale finished playing in the London Chess Classic FIDE Open. But despite being outrated in almost all his games, he has started the event with 3/4, and is performing at 2400+. Along the way he picked up a brilliancy prize for his destruction of the Serbian Board 1 in round 3.

Puccini,Jack - Radovic,Luka [B87]
World Under 16 Olympiad, 15.12.2014

Monday 15 December 2014

Happy Birthday Junta Ikeda

Having published a loss by IM Junta Ikeda yesterday, it is only fair that I publish a win, seeing that today is his birthday. Ikeda, who turns 23, has been a fixture on the Canberra chess scene for over a decade, as well as being one of Australia's rising young talents. He won his first open weekender in 2004 (the Vikings Weekender), and has won a number of major events in Australia and Japan (where he studied for a year). Despite moving to a level where chess study tends to preclude a weekly chess schedule he has continued to support the local Canberra chess scene by playing the Canberra weekend events, the ACT Championships, and other FIDE rated tournaments.
Today he showed his resilience as a  player, rebounding from yesterdays loss in the Australasian Masters. Facing top seed GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev he started with Larsen's Opening (1.b3) reaching the kind of middlegame he favours. He then began some patient manoeuvring, probing for weakness in his opponents position, until a tactical oversight allowed him to execute a quick attack to end the game.

Ikeda,Junta - Kazhgaleyev,Murtas [A01]
Australasian Masters, 15.12.2014

Sunday 14 December 2014

Mighty Max

The 2014 Australasian Masters has got off to a combative start, with 70% of the games ending decisively, after 2 completed rounds. The first round was particularly brutal, with no draws happening at all.
Unfortunately for the local players, most of the pain has been inflicted on them (and sometimes by them). The notable exception has been IM Anton Smirnov, who is the only player to start with 2 wins. He is followed by a trio of overseas GM's on 1.5, as well as Australian Max Illingworth, who inflicted this beating on Canberra IM Junta Ikeda.

Illingworth,Max - Ikeda,Junta [D31]
Australasian Masters, 14.12.2014

Friday 12 December 2014

Tricky Mickey

Michael Adam's has been one of the worlds top players for the last 25 years, winning his first British Championship in 1989, and qualifying for his first Candidates (PCA) Match in 1993. He has been the top English player for most of that period, with Nigel Short his closest challenger in terms of playing strength.
Now in his 40's, he still has the chops to match it with the world's top players. In 2013 he won Dortmund ahead of Kramnik and Caruana, and has finished near the top of most events he has played in recently.
His is in the field of the 2014 London Chess Classic and started the event with a win over World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana. The game is a pretty wild one, with Adams sacrificing a piece for a kingside attack. While the sacrifice did not yield immediate dividends, the exposed nature of Caruana's king meant that Adams was able to keep generating threats and prevent Carauana from consolidating. Eventually a heavy piece ending was reached,  where Adam's passers counted for more than Caruana's piece, and after some accurate moves at the ened, Adam's scored the full point.

Adams,Michael (2745) - Caruana,Fabiano (2829) [C90]
6th London Classic 2014 London ENG (1.2), 10.12.2014

Thursday 11 December 2014

When Masters get bored

For some being a professional chess player would be the ultimate career, for others it may well be a nightmare. One of the worries I would have trying to be a full time chessplayer (apart from lack of ability) is that it would eventually become a boring grind, like almost every other profession.
Of course you may be able to change at least some aspects of your day, by changing your regular opponents (by playing simuls or exhibitions) or even deciding to play different openings. I suspect this may have happened a lot in the distant past, with positional players like Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch or even Capablanca trying gambit lines (eg Latvian or Kings) to liven proceedings.
An example is the following game by Rubinstein. Despite forging 1.d4 into a great attacking weapon, he decides to wheel out the Kings Gambit in this game. He even plays it in a pretty risky manner, offering Hromadka an exchange at one point. After Hromadka declines the offer Rubuinstein gets the upper hand, and finds a brilliant tactical finish starting with 25.Qb6. Unlike most days, when he went home to the wife after work he could accurately describe his day as 'exciting'

Rubinstein,Akiba - Hromadka,Karel [C30]
Maehrisch Ostrau Maehrisch Ostrau (4), 1923

Wednesday 10 December 2014

2014 Australasian Masters

The next couple of months look like they will be busy ones for a number of Australian chess players. Apart from the upcoming Australian Open, there is the 2015 Australian Junior Championships (for the younger players) and the 2014 Australasian Masters. This tournament, which has a GM and an IM section, starts on the 13th December, at the Box Hill Chess Club in Melbourne. Both tournaments are 10 player round robins, with GM and IM norms on offer.
Top seeds in the GM events are Murtas Kazhgaleyev from Kazakhstan, Vasily Papin from Russia, and Max Illingworth from Australia. Rustam Khusnutdinov is the third overseas GM taking part, while the rest of the field consists of the young guns of Australian chess.
At this stage I am not sure which website will be hosting coverage of the tournament, but I am assuming it will be the Box Hill Chess Club website, who covered the event in previous years. The rounds start at 4:00 pm (apart from rounds 2 and 9), and all games will be shown live.

Monday 8 December 2014

2014 Lidums Australian Young Masters

The Lidums Young Masters is now in its 4th year as one of the premier junior events in Australia. Interestingly, as the tournament gets older so do the participants, with the age limit pushed up to Under 25 years for this years event. And while the top section remains a closed round robin, the other events have been expanded into swiss tournaments, with the Junior Masters being split into an open and an under 1600 section.
Having the top section as a round robin makes sense, as there are very few round robin events held in Australia, junior or otherwise. The downside of this (although I personally don't think it is much of one) is that some players might miss out on either qualifying through strength, or not get invited, due to tournament considerations. If I remember correctly there was a bit of a blow up a couple of years back, when one prominent player did not get invited, resulting in vigorous discussion on various Australian chess forums.
The tournament began today, and results are available from the tournament website. You can watch the games from the top section live, although I have yet to find games from the other tournaments. However I was able to get a copy of the round 1 clash between the top 2 seeds, which I can show you here.

Izzat,Kanan - Morris,James [C68]
Australian Young Masters, 08.12.2014

Sunday 7 December 2014

London Chess Classic Rapidplay - Ari's day out

Young Australian IM Ari Dale is competing in the 2014 London Chess Classic Rapidplay, and his first day was certainly a memorable one. He started the event with 4 wins from 4 games, including a win against one of modern chess' legendary players, GM John Nunn. As a reward for this victory his round 5 opponent was former World Champion Viswanathan Anand. In the game (shown below) Dale played a Gruenfeld against Anand's 1.d4, a particularly gutsy choice as Anand had just had his knowledge of this opening tested by non other than Magnus Carlsen.
In fact it turned out to be a good choice, as Dale was equal for most of the game, only coming unstuck when he lost a bishop to a pin down the d file. But having played an international field so far, his opponent for the first round of todays play turns out to be fellow Australian IM John Paul Wallace. If this was Wimbledon, such a match up would not be surprising, but in such a big swiss, so far from home, such pairings are at least amusing.

Anand,Viswanathan - Dale,Ari [D94]
London Chess Classic Rapidplay (5.8), 06.12.2014

Staunton - you hacker

Howard Staunton, English Chess Master, Shakespearean Scholar, illegitimate offspring of nobility, has had a reputation of being a somewhat dour player. I'm not sure whether this reputation is accurate, although there is a notion that he was a 'positional' player, before such things became fashionable.
However, when presented with an opportunity he could certainly go the hack. An example of this comes from the London Tournament of 1851. He plays an opening beloved by hackers, the Scotch Gambit, and is happy to surrender a couple of pawns for a lead in development. His opponent then chooses the wrong way to defend and suddenly Staunton is threatening to win material and/or checkmate his opponent. Given that the games in this tournament were untimed, I am a little surprised that his opponent allowed such an elementary checkmate at the end, but it is possible he was simply choosing the 'gentlemen's way out'.

Staunton,Howard - Brodie,Alfred [C44]
London knockout London (1.1), 27.05.1851

Friday 5 December 2014

2014 ACTJCL Transfer Championship - This Sunday

The 2014 ACT Junior Chess League's Transfer tournament is on this coming Sunday. This annual event has been running for a decade or so, and always attracts a big field. While most of the players are juniors, the event is open to teams of all ages, with adult teams just as welcome as kindy ones.
It is being held at Campbell High School, Trealor Cres, Campbell (just next to the Australian War Memorial). Registration opens at 12:30pm, and the cost is $10 per player (eg $20 per team). As an added incentive, there will be free pizza provided as part of the prize giving ceremony.
The standard rules of Transfer (Bughouse) apply, including 'drop for mate'. It normally runs for 11 rounds, and apart from trophies for the winners, there will be additional prizes on offer for whoever the organisers thinks deserve it (oldest team, best parent child, and best team outfit have all been awarded in the past).

Thursday 4 December 2014

The School Chess Championship

I am not sure how many schools do this, but Amaroo School gives students a day off school to play in their school's Chess Championship. This has been held for the past 3 years and it normally attracts a field of between 60 and 80 players. In fact it would attract more players, but space an equipment limitations restrict the total number of entries.
The 2014 edition was held today, with 66 players taking part. Amaroo is a K-10 school, but entry is restricted to 4th grade and above. While the bulk of the entries came from the 4,5 and 6 graders, there was still a healthy entry from the high school students. My role at the event was the arbiter, and it was one of the easiest school event I have ever run in my 30 years of chess. A lot of the credit must go to Belinda Robertson, and the chess program she has run at the school over the last 6 years. All the students who took part who both familiar with the laws of chess, and more importantly, familiar with how chess tournaments are run. Before we started there was a thought we might only have time for 5 rounds, but due to the knowledgeable field, we played the full 7 rounds by 1pm, leaving plenty of time to pack up and hand out prizes.
Rarely for a school event there were no disputes, no one cried, and I only had to answer a couple of queries. I was a little bit gentle with the new FIDE 'Illegal move' loses Rapidplay rules, by implementing a '2 strikes and you're out' system, and even then players had the option of not reporting the first illegal move to me. I did get suckered by one player who innocently asked me if you could mate with K+B v K. Thinking he was about to make a draw claim I said no, but he then used this information to sacrifice his bishop for his opponents last pawn, before claiming the draw!
The winner of the event (on countback after a 3 way tie) was Vivian Lam, who also won last year. In fact each of the 3 editions of the championship have been won by a female student, which is another reason it is a rather special event.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

2014 London Chess Classic

It might be a long way from Canberra, but the London Chess Classic is still an important event on my radar (and one day I might even get to visit). This year sees the return of the 'classic' tournament, with the main event being a 6 player RR. This years field consists of Caruana, Anand, Nakamura, Giri, Kramnik and Adams. But before they sit down to play chess at long time controls, they are all taking part in the Rapidplay Open that precedes their tournament. There is also a 9 round FIDE Rated Open, a conference on Chess in Schools, and a number of other side events.
The best place to find out more information on the event is at the tournament home page. I've spotted a number of Australian players in the entry list (IM John Paul Wallace, IM Ari Dale and Derek Yu) and I am sure a few others might pop up at the last minute. The whole thing runs from the 6th December through to the 14th, and based on the number of entries for the supporting events, it should be a huge success.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

And then there were 2

While Vladimir Kramnik seemed to have a little difficulty in coming to grips with the nuances of the swiss tournament, Anish Giri was more at home in the Qatar Masters, reeling off 6 wins from 6 games. In doing so he has taken a point and a half lead over everyone, with one exception, Vladimir Kramnik. Having drawn his first 2 games, Kramnik has climbed back to the top board after 4 straight wins. This has set up the rather juicy Kramnik v Giri pairing in tonight's round. Kramnik has the white bits for this game, and as I write this they are just getting into a Catalan middle game.
I'm not sure what Kramnik thought of the experience of playing in the middle tables of a tournament, but it seems that he wanted to get out of there pretty quickly. An clear example of this was his 5th round game against Sanan Sjugirov. The game only lasted 25 moves and looked like 'hack v hack'. In the end Sjugirov tries to finish of Kramnik with a piece sac, but it turned out that Kramnik was the one with the mating attack.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2760) - Sjugirov,Sanan (2673) [A05]
Qatar Masters Open Doha (6.2), 01.12.2014

Monday 1 December 2014

A successful Movember

For the last 7 years I have tormented friends and family by participating in the annual Movember fundraiser. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to spend November growing a moustache. You start on November 1, and do not shave your upper lip until December 1.
This year was a very successful fundraising month for me, with a large number of donations. I also managed to grow a mo good enough to make the finals of the Canberra Movember judging, in the Ulti-Mo section. I did not win this year, but next year some creative clothing might be enough to put me over the top.
I was not the only chessplayer taking part btw. IM Guy West also took part, and Michael Freeman braved the Northern Territory heat to grow his own tache.
But all weird things come to an end, and I spent the morning hacking off my months growth. I wont scare you with the pics taken during my facial hair surgery, but I will give you the classic before and after shots.

Saturday 29 November 2014

King of the lounge room

Getting into competitive chess can be tough, especially if you start as an adult. There is a pretty big step between playing with your friends, and turning up to a rated competition where everyone is super serious. As I have noted preciously, this can turn into a big disincentive for new players, as getting beaten in every game can be discouraging, no matter how close you came to winning.
One piece of advice I give to new players is not to worry about their initial tournament results. The rider I attach to this is that even if they don't win any competition games, they will learn enough to at least beat their casual chess opponents. "King of the lounge room" is a term I have coined to describe this.
I do like to quantify things though, so I do wonder what skills you need to be "King of the lounge room". Based on what I have seen over the years, being alert enough to capture pieces for free, and knowing when to capture the last moved piece is a pretty good place to start. I would also throw in a couple of basic checkmating ideas, namely Q+B mating patterns (ie target f7) and Q+N mating patterns. At this level I don't think openings really matter (e4, Nf3, B somewhere is normally fine), but endgame knowledge does help. Nothing too in depth, but certainly knowing when to push your passers, and how to promote them, would provide plenty of 'fluky' wins. Mating with K+Q v K is also helpful, although I have seen enough 'accidental' checkmates to make me wonder if it is essential.
Feel free to suggest other skills in the comment section, noting that this is for players whose ambitions don't extend much beyond bragging rights over a few beers.

Kasparov v Habu

Yesterday Garry Kasparov made one of his rare returns to OTB chess, playing a 2 game rapid match with Japanese FM Yoshiharu Habu. While Former World Champion V FM does not sound like much of a match up, Habu is also the strongest Shogi player in the world. He also one of Japan's strongest chess players, but his earnings and recognition from Shogi far exceeds what he would receive as a chess professional.
The 2 game match was played with a time limit (25m+10s), and Kasparov won 2-0. In the first game Habu lost a couple of pawns in the middlegame, in part due to a weakened pawn structure. The second was a lot closer, and was one of the games where White seems to be ok right up until the point he was not. Probably the decisive mistake came on move 40 when a pair of rooks were exchanged, leaving Kasparov with the better R+P ending.

Habu,Yoshiharu (2415) - Kasparov,Garry (2812) [B06]
Dwango Habu vs Kasparov Rapid Match 2014 Tokyo JPN (2), 28.11.2014

Thursday 27 November 2014

Not according to plan

Having gushed a little about Kramnik's decision to play in the Qatar Masters, I can see why he might be having second thoughts about the whole excursion. Normally the first round of any swiss is a bit of a massacre, but for such a strong event like the Qatar Masters, this isn't always the case.
For Kramnik, used to knowing his opponents (and their openings) in advance, Stelios Halkias (2519) might have been a bit of an unknown quantity. Doubly so when Halkias played the Evans Gambit, still a popular choice for club hackers, and the odd World Champion (G. Kasparov).
It turned out to be an inspired choice, as Kramnik never got more than equality in the game, and Helkias was possibly a bit better when he went for a draw by repetition. As a result of the slow start Kramnik ends up on Board 31(!) for the second round, and it may be a few rounds before he catches up with the leaders.

Halkias,Stelios (2519) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2760) [C51]
Qatar Masters Open Doha (1.2), 26.11.2014

Wednesday 26 November 2014

2014 Qatar Masters

The 2014 Qatar Masters starts this evening. It is billed as the strongest Open for 2014, and the field does look very strong. The top half of the 154 player field is rated above 2520, and the top 14 players are all 2700+. The event is offering a first prize of $25,000 and with a total prize pool of $100,000 it is no surprise that the tournament has attracted a stellar field.
Top seed is Anish Giri, just ahead of surprise entrant Vladimir Kramnik. While his participation in this event has been known for quite a while, it has been a long time since he has played an Open Swiss. While some of the top players will occasional play in an event like Gibraltar, Kramnik has previously not been part of this group. Of course the overall strength of the field might help him avoid the problem of playing an uneven strength field, but even then, it will be interesting to see how he copes with preparing for unfamiliar opponents.
Australia has one participant in the tournament IM Rishi Sardana, although WIM Emma Guo will also be there, but only as a spectator. Home page for the tournament is and you can find links to live coverage, games and results from there.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Know the classics

In yesterdays post I mentioned the game Selzniev v Alekhine from 1921, which contained a similar idea to Anand's exchange sacrifice against Carlsen. This game was used as an example of the exchange sacrifice in  Euwe's and Kramer's "The Middle Game Volume 1". Annotating the game, the authors said the sacrifice (20 ... Rb4) was perfectly sound as in return for the material lost Black has (a) A protected passed pawn, (b) the two bishops, (c) White's weak a and c pawns as targets and (d) the c5 square. Alekhine himself thought this was in fact worth more than the exchange.
Nonetheless it took quite a while for Alekhine to covert his position into a winning one. He had to trade one advantage (position) for another (material), but in doing so he was able to retain enough of an edge to eventually wear his opponent down.

Selezniev,Alexey Sergeevich - Alekhine,Alexander [A47]
Triberg-A Triberg (3), 09.07.1921

Monday 24 November 2014

2014 World Championship - Carlsen Wins

Magnus Carlsen has retained his World Championship title, with a win over Viswantahan Anand in the 11th game of their match. The final score of 6.5-4.5 (predicted here) was closer than the 2013 Match, which Carlsen won by a 3 point margin.
Game 11 saw Anand try and play more aggressively, after the by now familar Ruy Lopez Berlin Variation. Sensing that this was his final chance Anand played an exchange sacrifice on Move 27. While both players criticised the decision after the game, the idea did have an historical precedence, being played by Alekhine against Selesniev in 1921. In the current game Carlsen was able to find enough tactics to neutralise Anand's hoped for counterplay, and then win the subsequent endgame.
With this win Carlsen holds the title for the next 2 years. The next candidates tournament is 18 months away, and while Anand is eligible to play in that event, most of the early money is going on Fabiano Caruana to be Carlsen's next challenger.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [C67]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (11), 23.11.2014

Sunday 23 November 2014

A 'blogworthy' game

One of the juggling acts you have to perform when writing a blog is decide what is content worthy of publishing. It is a little easier writing a chess blog, as chess has a built in ranking system which attaches importance to players, tournaments or games, based on the ratings of the subjects. So news about the World Championship is going to be a big deal no matter what happens, but more local events have to be judged a little more closely.
This also goes for the games I publish on the blog. I usually try and publish at least one game a week, as the front page only keeps the last 7 articles posted. I try and keep the choice fairly broad but I do have 2 distinct biases. One is games from Super GM events and matches, especially from players I like (such as Aronian or Svidler). The other is of course my own games, as essentially this is a blog about what I find interesting in chess.
Apart from what I find myself, I also get helpful suggestions from chess playing friends. Often at Street Chess or the ANU Chess Club a game is finished with a suggestion to 'put it on your blog'. 'Bloggable' or 'blogworthy' are other adjectives attached to games in which the winner is particularly proud. Usually I need to independently confirm that the game is indeed publishable, although I will sacrifice quality for curiosity.
For today's game I am actually choosing one of my own, played on Saturday at Street Chess (G/15m). It was an opening that I usually am on the black side of (The Two Knights) but I decided to try it from the other side of the board. 8.Qf3 is unusual but sound, although 8. ... Rb8 is considered the best reply. The idea behind Nc4-a3 was to try and pick up the exchange, but it left the c pawn unprotected, allowing the tactical shot 15. Nc5 Black thought for quite a while trying to find a way out of the mess, but failed to find a escape route. She decided to resign at that point only to be met with the annoying 'I think I will put that on my blog'

Press,Shaun - Chibnall,Alana [C58]
Street Chess, 22.11.2014

Saturday 22 November 2014

2014 World Championship - Games 9 & 10

It seems that the early excitement has passed in the 2014 World Championship Match, and we are seeing a slow slide to a Carlsen victory. Both games 9 and 10 were drawn, with Anand not putting Carlsen under any serious pressure. There was some excitement in Game 10 when Carlsen allowed Anand to make a seemingly strong pawn push, but Anand passed up the opportunity, deciding to play it safe. Once this moment passed Carlsen had no trouble equalising and a draw was agreed on move 32.
Tomorrow sees Game 11 and it may be this is where the match ends. Anand needs to try something to claw back his point deficit, but in doing also gives Carlsen greater winning chances. On the other hand there is a school of thought (espoused by the denizens of Street Chess) that Anand may be happy to finish with -1, as a way of saying that he is still a credible threat to Carlsen. I lean towards the former scenario btw.

Anand,Viswanathan (2792) - Carlsen,Magnus (2863) [D97]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (10), 21.11.2014

Friday 21 November 2014

2015 Australian Junior Chess Championship - Early birds

The 2015 Australian Junior Championship is starting in a little under 2 months. Currently there are 74 entries for all events, but that number will grow substantially in the next few weeks. One important milestone coming up is the cut-off for early entries. To take advantage of the early bird discount entries need to be received by the 3rd of December 2014, and paid for on the 6th. After that the entry fee goes up by $20 for most events. If you are planning to book accommodation through the organisers, you will also need to get onto this early, as space at the tournament venue (Canberra Grammar School) is limited.
Full information on the tournament, including online entry forms and accommodation booking forms, are available at the tournament website

Thursday 20 November 2014

Grischuk wins Petrosian Memorial

With all the attention being focussed on the current World Championship match. the 2014 Petrosian Memorial ended up being a little overlooked. The early news was the 3-0 start by Alexander Grischuk, and in a 7 round event, this proved to be decisive. He beat Peter Leko in the 5th round to go to +4 and finished with 2 draws, to score 5.5/7. His final round draw against Vladimir Kramnik allowed Kramnik to take second place on 4.5/7, half a point ahead of Gelfand and Aronian.
While Aronian's result continued a run of 'not quite top' finishes, he did manage to play a nice final round game. After an aggressive opening by Black, the game quickly reached an ending where Aronian increased his advantage with a few nice tactical moves. It eventually ended in a charge of pawns where Black was always winning, the interest in being exactly how he did it.

Inarkiev,Ernesto (2688) - Aronian,Levon (2797) [C65]
Petrosian Memorial 2014 Moscow RUS (7.4), 11.11.2014

Wednesday 19 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 8

Game 8 of the 2014 World Championship match saw a lot of home preparation from Magnus Carlsen, although this failed to catch out Viswanathan Anand. While the game was drawn in 41 moves, it only lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, showing how much up it was prepared beforehand. Possibly the most interesting part of the game was when Carlsen appeared to doze off, resulting in a number of excited twitter posts from people following the match online.
With 4 games to go, the odds of Carlsen retaining his title increase. He still holds a one point lead and could just cost to victory by drawing the remaining games, which is the exact scenario Bobby Fischer campaigned against in 1975. Of course this relies upon his opponent not being able to come up with something in the next 4 games. Possibly Game 10 will be the be indicator of Anand's frame of mind, as it is the next game he has white. Of course if Carlsen comes out of the rest day with a win in Game 9, then everyone will be packing their bags for an early departure.

Anand,Viswanathan (2792) - Carlsen,Magnus (2863) [D37]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (8), 18.11.2014

Tuesday 18 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 7

Game 7 of the 2014 World Championship  ended in a draw after 122 moves, and over 7 hours of play. Anand played the Berlin Defence as black, but Carlsen was clearly prepared for this. Despite being a pawn down Carlsen had plenty of play, and most commentators (and computers) gave him an advantage. Anand then made the brave decision to sacrifice a bishop for 2 pawns and defend a R+N+2P v R+4P ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board. Anand was confident he could build a fortress with his rook and pawns, and so it turned out. However Carlsen kept probing for a weakness, as the game went on and on. Eventually all the pawns came off, leaving a R+NvR ending, which was duly drawn (but not always).
Both players will take something away from this game, with Anand being able to defend a position most players could not, while Carlsen will hope the effort tires Anand out just that little bit more.

Carlsen,M (2863) - Anand,V (2792) [C67]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (7), 17.11.2014

Monday 17 November 2014

GM Ian Rogers speaks!

While no longer active as a player Grandmaster Ian Rogers is still heavily involved in the chess world. He is still a sought after journalist, writing for a number of publications  around the world (including the Canberra Times), and is also a well respected coach and trainer.
Just as importantly for Australian chess he spent a lot of his career promoting chess in this country, both as a player and a journalist. And even in retirement (as a player) he is still carrying out this role.
Just today he gave an interview on ABC Classic FM. The host, Margaret Throsby, spent an hour talking with Ian about chess, chess history, his mown career, and the current state of World Chess. Interspersed throughout the interview was music chosen by Ian, starting with "Smoke gets in your eyes", which he sais was a tribute to his early years playing at the Melbourne Chess Club.
Even if you missed the interview, you can hear it again, either as a podcast or in streaming format at Do to copyright restrictions you may miss out on all the music, but the rest of the interview more than makes up.

Sunday 16 November 2014

2014 Vikings Weekender - IM Moulthun Ly wins

IM Moulthun Ly has won the 2014 Vikings Weekender, with an undefeated 6/7. He finished half a point ahead of IM Anton Smirnov, with IM Junta Ikeda in third place on 5. Ly and Smirnov were tied for first on 5 points going into the final round, but Smirnov drew with Ikeda, while Ly defeated Michael Kethro. Alana Chibnall and Andrey Bliznyuk shared the Under 2000 prize, after a hard fought last round game. Dillon Hathiramani finished an outstanding tournament by tying  for 4th place and winning the Under 1700 prize.
In the Minor tournament (Under 1600) , Tim Pearce was the runaway winner with 6.5/7. Bill Egan finished in 2nd place on 5.5, ahead of a group of players on 5. Cam Cunningham took the Under 1200 prize with an impressive 5/7, while young William Rumley won the Under 900 prize with 3.5/7. Newcomer Yafei Zhang shared the Best Female prize with Aniska Jain, both on 3/7.
Overall the tournament could be considered a success. Numbers were up on last years tournament, and with 3 current Olympiad players taking part, it did not want for strength. For an arbiters point of view it was one of the easiest events I have run, as there were no disputes or problems, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Internet coverage was trouble free, with the dgt boards showing all the games from the top 2 boards, and the results being posted to the net in a timely fashion.
Full results from both tournaments are available via The final two games from the tournament are also available under the live games link.

Ly,Moulthun - Chibnall,Alana [C63]
2014 Vikings Weekender (6.2), 16.11.2014

2014 World Championship Match Game 6

Game 6 of the 2014 World Championship match will probably go down as a 'game for the ages', but not in a good way. On move 26 both players seemed to overlook the advice (from CJS Purdy) that your should look at 'all checks and captures', and produced an astonishing double blunder. After 26. Kd2 Anand missed 26. ... Nxe5 27.Rxg8 Nxc4+ 28.Kd3 Nb2+ when the knight escapes and he recaptures on g8 with a couple of pawns in the bag. Instead he though for a minute before playing 26. ... a4 and Carlsen avoided any further danger with 27.Ke2 It was only after playing his 26th move did Anand realise what he had missed, and this probably affected his play for the rest of the game. Although Carlsen was only a little better after this, he quickly improved his position and Anand resigned on move 38.
After the first half of the match Carlsen lead 3.5-2.5.  And once again momentum seems to have shifted, with Carlsn getting a clear boost from this game. While mistakes of this nature have occurred in previous World Championship matches, the shift to fewer games does make it harder to recover from.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [B41]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (6), 15.11.2014

Saturday 15 November 2014

2014 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

After 4 rounds of the 2014 Vikings Weekender, IM's Moulthun Ly and Anton Smirnov share the lead with 3.5/4. Smirnov got off to a slow start, drawing his first round game with Canberra junior Dillon Hathiramani, before winning his next 3. Ly started with 2 wins before drawing his third round game with Jason Hu. In round 4 he took a share of the lead, beating previous leader IM Junta Ikeda in a game that went right down to the wire. Ikeda shares third place with Alana Chibnall and Jason Hu.
In the Minor event (Under 1600) Shay Keinan is the sole leader on 4/4. Close behind are Jamie-Lee Guo and Tim Pearce, who draw there top board clash in the final round of the day.
The tournament has attracted a good field of 60 players, with 22 in the Open and 38 in the Minor. Clearly the battle for the top prizes should be between the 3 IM's but a there are a couple of other players in the field capable of causing an upset.
Results from the tournament are available at Just click on the links to take you to the tournament required. Live coverage of the top 2 boards is also available from this page.

Ly,Moulthun - Ikeda,Junta [B42]
2014 Vikings Weekender (4.2), 15.11.2014

2014 Vikings Weekender - Day 0

The 2014 Vikings Weekender begins tomorrow. So far 52 players have pre-registered for the tournament, and with further entries expected tomorrow, both divisions (Open and Under 1600) should see a healthy turnout. Top seeds for the Open are Australian Olympians IM Anton Smirnov, IM Moulthun Ly and IM Junta Ikeda.
The tournament will have healthy prize fund with the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club sponsoring the $1000 1st prize in the Open, O2C sponsoring the $500 1st prize in the Under 1600 event and other sponsors providing junior and female prizes. It is not too late to enter, and you can do so at the venue, Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Waniassa, ACT.
There will be live coverage of at least the top board, and possibly the top 2 boards. Last minute testing of my wireless DGT system has shown problems with slow wireless routers, but I still have a wired solution as a backup. The address for the live games is and I will have tournament pairings and results up at

Thursday 13 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 4

After the excitement of games 2&3, the 2014 World Championship slowed down a little bit with a solid draw in Game 4. In a much more positional games, both players were vary careful to keep their positions safe, and at now stage did either player have a clear advantage. The game ended in a draw by repetition, after both sides had exhausted any practical winning chances.
So after 4 games the match is tied 2-2, which was the same score in the 2013 match. However in that match all the games were drawn, while so far this match has shown both strengths and weaknesses from both players. If there is going to be change in the rest of the match, it may well come from Carlsen's openings, as the perception is that he has not been focussing on tht part of the game as strongly as Anand. So far the idea of getting a playable middle game has been good enough, but he may need to take that extra step to ensure he keeps his title.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [B40]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (4), 12.11.2014

Wednesday 12 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 3

Game 3 of the 2014 World Championship Match saw Viswanathan Anand immediately strike back after his loss in round 2. Anand chose a much more aggressive strategy in this game, playing a very sharp opening line that left with a passed pawn on c7 after 14 moves. This forced Carlsen to calculate very accurately in the position, as one misstep would have seen drop material. Anand was aided by the fact that this was all covered by his opening preparation, up to move 26! In the end Carlsen chose the wrong plan, and was forced to surrender an exchange to avoid the loss of a piece. However the piece was still falling off the board a few moves later, forcing Carlsen to resign.
The win has put paid to the worries that Anand was going to collapse after Game 2, and has put some real fight into the match. Clearly playing for sharper positions has delivered better results for Anand (both here and in 2013) and so now it is Carlsen who needs to look at his match strategy.

Anand,V (2792) - Carlsen,M (2863) [D37]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (3), 11.11.2014

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Closed Sicilian - Still doing the job

Of the recent changes to my opening repertoire, I am finding the Closed Sicilian the opening that is collecting me the greatest number of points. I normally get a comfortable position after the first 10 or so moves, and then I can normally whip up some sort of king side hack. Lately a few opponents have cottoned on to the fact this is now my main anit-Sicilian weapon, and seem a little more prepared.
The game below is an example of this. For the first part of the opening my opponent follows theory, but around move 10 plays a couple of moves that seem a little slow. On the other hand my impulsive  15. h4 forced me to think, as Ne5 caused problems for the bishop on h6. It was only after I spotted the chance to sacrifice my queen on e7 (beginning with 18.Nc4) that I was happy with my position, although in my initial analysis I did not spot the rook hanging on b8 and just planned to pick up lots of wood for the queen. In the end I played the same idea a couple of moves later, and my opponent walked into a mate.

Press,Shaun - Badrinarayan,Sankeertan [B26]
Swiss Festive Fun, 11.11.2014

Monday 10 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 2

Magnus Carlsen scored the first win of the 2014 World Championship match, with a nice win over Viswanathan Anand. Anand played the Berlin Defence against Carlsen's Lopez, a solid choice, but one that gave Carlsen the simple positions he excels at.  14.Ra3 was an interesting idea by Carlsen, and one that caused Anand some difficulty in meeting. In fact Anand did not seem sure quite how to play against Carlsen's kingside attack, and by the time he avoided the direct threats, his position was compromised. The game ended with a blunder by Anand (34 ... h5??) but most commentators were already predicting a Carlsen win by that stage.
'Ominous' was the term used by Mark Crowther at TWIC, and this seems apt. In both games Anand has lost his way in simplified positions, seemingly playing the kind of game that better suits Carlsen. Before the match I thought that Anand was going to continue his strategy from the second half of the 2013 match (taking the game to Carlsen), but he has not done this so far. Today is a rest day, but I suspect there will be little rest as Anand and his team look at the best strategy for the remaining games.

Carlsen,Magnus (2863) - Anand,Viswanathan (2792) [C65]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (2), 09.11.2014

Sunday 9 November 2014

2014 World Championship Game 1

The first game of the 2014 World Championship Match between champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Viswanathan Anand has ended in a hard fought draw. The game began with 1.d4 and Carlsen played the Gruenfeld Defence. Anand chose 5.Bd2 and maintained a slight edge into the middlegame. However Carlsen had a position where he does well in and slowly the game went to equal and then slightly in Carlsen's favour. Probably the key moment was on move 43 when Carlsen chose Re2, when Re3 posed the challenger more problems.The position was then equal and the game was drawn in a few more moves.
As an opener for the World Championship match this was an interesting game, with both sides taking something from it. For Anand the opening could be considered a success, and holding the final position a plus, while Carlsen showed that he will try and wring every advantage out of the position. Hopefully the rest of the match will contain similar fighting games.

Anand,V (2792) - Carlsen,M (2863) [D85]
WCh 2014 Sochi RUS (1), 08.11.2014

Saturday 8 November 2014

2014 World Championship under way

The 2014 World Championship started a little under an hour ago in Sochi Russia. Game 1 has seen Magnus Carlsen meet 1.d4 with a Gruenfeld Defence. Anand countered with the relatively rare 5.Bd2 line in the exchange variation. As I type this the game has reached move 13, with 3 sets of minor pieces traded off. The players have castled on opposite sides of the board, and Carlsen is looking to open up lines on the queenside, against Anand's king. I suspect that Carlsen is already happy with the position in front of him, as it gives him greater 'grinding' chances. While I think this game will still be drawn, if there is a result it will be in Carlsen's favour.
There are plenty of places to follow the games online, but for now I am trying  It seems pretty quick, although I have not tested the live feed.

Friday 7 November 2014

On the attack - Part 2

This is the 2nd game I saw this week that featured a nice attack. It was played in the final round of the ANU Spring Swiss (and the ANU Chess Club), and helped determined second place in the tournament. Adrian de Noskowski chose a slightly unusual line in the Nimzo-Indian, although there are plenty of games from GM practice. After he chose the bishop manoeuvre Bg5-h4, Black seized the initiative with g5, Ne4 and Qf6. 11 ... h5 looked double edged, but after 12.h4 Black never looked back, with his well placed queen targeting weak points everywhere. 21 ... Qxe3! was a nice find, and after that White was unable to avoid losing material.

De Noskowski,Adrian - Press,Harry [E23]

Thursday 6 November 2014

On the attack - Part 1

During the last week I saw a couple of nice attacking games. The first was played at the Hjorth Open in Melbourne, by Alana Chibnall. The game started as a Center-Counter, not normally noted for attacking play on either side, but the fireworks start at move 11. White sacrificed a piece on e6, and after Black took the piece, the attack really took off. Regaining material with interest, White then proceeded to push Black back and back, and by move 30 the game was essentially over. While Black may have had a better defence at move 12 this game shows that at this level (1900), creativity often beats accuracy!

Chibnall,Alana - Dizdarivich,Mehmet [B01]
Hjorth Memorial, 03.11.2014

Wednesday 5 November 2014

2014 Petrosian Memorial

The 2014 Petrosian Memorial almost began without me noticing. Squeezed in between 2 Grand Prix events, and the World Championship Match, it kind of just appeared. Organised in memory of Tigran Petrosian (9th World Champion) it is being held in Moscow, and is a successor to the Tal Memorial.
While it is a strong 8 player round robin, it does provide a little bit of variety with Morozevich, Liren and Inarkiev joining familiar faces like Aronian, Kramnik and Grischuk.
The tournament began yesterday evening (Canberra time), but the only decisive result was Grischuk over Inarkiev. Tonight the most interesting game might be between Morozevich and Aronian, although at this level I'm pretty sure all the games will have something to watch for.
Live coverage from the event is being carried by Chess24, including a video stream. The tournament page, which looks very stylish, is here.  It is worth paying a visit, not just for the tournament coverage, but also for the background on Petrosian, and the history of the tournament itself.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Happy birthday, Gary Lane

In these modern, always connected to the internet times, there is no excuse for missing a birthday. Once you start using a calendar app on your phone/tablet/pc any social network you are connected to will happily remind you of the 4 or 5 friends/acquaintances/people you accidentally 'friended' on facebook who are having a birthday on any particular day.
It turns out that today's birthday boy is Gary Lane, the Australian (formerly English) IM. Gary fills an interesting niche in the chess world, being noted as more as chess playing author, rather than a professional who writes the occasional book.  That is not to overlook that he is still a very strong player on the Australian circuit, but his fame does rest with his books and columns.
One column he regularly writes is "Gary Lane's Agony Column" for Kingpin magazine. This is a kind of humorous antidote to the more serious "What do I do next?" kind of columns seen in other forums, although it should be noted that Gary himself writes such a column for Chess Cafe.
The latest column has just come out (the day before his birthday it seems) and contains the usual mix of satire, biting wit and bizarre positions. Hidden inside is some serious chess (usually in the form of a brilliant but overlooked combination) but the main focus seems to be taking the P.
So if you are looking for a break from serious chess study, I highly recommend having a look at Gary's Agony Column for a little light relief.

Monday 3 November 2014

2015 O2C Doeberl Cup

The website for the 2015 O2C Doeberl Cup has just gone live, which means registrations are open for next years events. There have been some changes from the 2014 tournament, the most significant being a change of venue.
Despite the fantastic support that the Woden Tradies Club gave the tournament, they are unable to host next years event. So the tournament is being shifted to University House, at the Australian National University. This venue is well known to a generation of Canberra juniors, as it has been the venue for the ANU Schools Chess Championship for the last 20 years. The Premier is being held in the spacious Great Hall, while the other tournaments will be held in adjoining conference areas. As an added bonus there is accommodation on site, and the venue is within walking distance of Canberra City.
While it is unlikely that the event will match the numbers for this year, the new venue and facilities will make it a very attractive tournament. As in past years there will be a limit on the number of places available in each event, so I recommend entering early. All the tournament details, as well as online entry forms are available at

(Note: I am a paid official for this event)

Sunday 2 November 2014

How do you bounce back from this?

I saw two very interesting games from the 2014 Hjorth Open currently running at the Melbourne Chess Club . Both involved Tony Davis, and demonstrate the agony and ecstasy of chess.
The first is quick enough that you can almost play it in your head. Tony Davis v Chris Wallis 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.Qd2?? Bxc3 7.bxc3 Ne4 0-1 (White loses the bishop on g5).
But having lost that disaster Davis recovered a few moves later to beat IM Ari Dale in a game that combined cool defence with an eye on the counter attack. As a result he is tied for third place on 4/5 and still has a good chance of picking up a prize.

Dale,Ari - Davis,Tony [D10]
Hjorth Open, 02.11.2014

Saturday 1 November 2014

World Championship Match - just a week away

Only a week to go until the 2014 World Championship Match begins. After his surprise win n the 2014 Candidates Tournament, former World Champion Viswanathan Anand is looking to regain his title from Magnus Carlsen. The match is being held in Sochi, Russia, utilising a spare venue left after the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Unlike the previous Carlsen v Anand match, I believe this will be a little more exciting. Anand isn't shackled by being the defending champion, and the last few games of the last match showed that taking the game to Carlsen is probably the way to go. On the other hand Carlsen had a very ordinary Olympiad, and was eclipsed by Caruana in St Louis, but I suspect he will be back in form by next week.
I am tipping Carlsen to retain his title, but only by a 2 game margin. I think Carlsen's willingness to spend as much time at the board as possible will be the deciding factor, with a couple of grinding endgame wins on the menu.
The tournament website is The opening ceremony is on the 7th of November, with the first game on the 8th.

The very first tournament?

For various historical reasons, the London Tournament of 1851 is generally considered the first international chess tournament in history. Before that, chess was either played casually, or as matches between players.
But it shouldn't be a surprise that there were tournament events organised prior to 1851. While not attracting the stellar field of the London event, they would certainly match the definition of a tournament, at least in a rough sense.
The earliest such tournament I could find was held in London in 1788. While mainly consisting of English players, the star attraction, and event winner, was Philidor. The tournament records (from Chessbase) show that he played in the vast majority of games, so I wonder if it was a series of short matches involving Philidor, with a few side games between the other participants.
From this event I have chosen one such side game, between Bowdler and Conway. It is a game of that time, as Bowdler  disregards material to focus on a mating attack, while Conway obliges by taking everything, and getting mated.

Bowdler,D - Conway,M [C23]
London London, 1788

Thursday 30 October 2014

ICCS 2014

The 2014 International Conference Chess in Schools (ICCS) was held in Armenia a couple of weeks ago. As in any good academic conference there was a mixture of speeches, social activities, but most importantly, paper presentations. The main topic was chess in the educational system, covering both the practical aspects, as well as assessing the benefits of chess in the classroom.
The conference papers and presentations are available from the conference website. Most of the papers are short enough to be easily digestible, so if you are involved in mainstream classroom teaching, it may provide a new source of information to assist you in your work.And if you aren't teaching chess in class (but want to), it may provide supporting evidence for you request to the school principal for chess classes during school hours.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

A board of chess players?

While idly chatting away at a chess coaching class, the topic of collective nouns came up (as it does from time to time). It occurred to me that I was not aware of a collective noun for chess players, or if I was, I had forgotten it. My initial suggestion was a 'set' of chess players, an obvious reference to a chess set.
Looking online I found at least one reference to a 'board' of chess players. This can be taken to refer to either the chess board, or a group similar to a board of management. Unkind souls may even use an alternative spelling and describe the group as 'a bored of chess players'. The same source also mentions a 'brood' of chess players, but I find this less appealing.
Nonetheless, I find both choices unimaginative, but at the same time cannot think of anything better than my initial suggestion. Possibly an 'asylum' of chess players might work, but this may be more suited to a private joke than public presentation.

Failing upwards

Despite some very sketchy chess, I managed to finish equal first in the latest tournament at Belconnen Chess Club. I won a few lucky games, lost one pretty horrible effort, and had some last round results go my way. Finding a game worth showing was difficult, as they all seem to have their flaws, but in the end I picked my win from last week. I missed a clear win on move 21, and at one point after that my opponent was even better. But a combination of luck and the randomness of the position meant I was able to regain the advantage and eventually win the game.

Kethro,Michael - Press,Shaun [A80]
Belconnen FDK, 21.10.2014

Monday 27 October 2014

Chess has been solved, apparently.

"Person invents improved version of chess" is a familiar and yet somehow boring headline that I see quite often these days. The latest version that this headline has been applied to is XYQ4, which seems to deal with the issue of reliance on learning and memory by making everything random.
But what is truly special about this version it that it seems to have been built on an entire erroneous basis. In this article the games creator, Damien Sommer, thinks chess is broken because "Chess is either a draw or White wins. There is no situation where Black wins". Now this claim fails on both a practical level, where Black wins quite a number of chess games that I have witnessed, and on a theoretical one. No such proof exists of the outcome of a perfectly game of chess, and for Sommer (or the reporter) to make a claim like this is difficult to understand. This is even pointed out in the comments to the liked article!
I suspect this variant will go the way of the other versions of "New Chess", attracting a brief level of interest before fading away. But having said that, I have a version you might be interested in ....

Sunday 26 October 2014

Does Tournament Theory apply to chess?

I was recently pointed in the direction of an area of Economics called "Tournament Theory" (thx Leron Kwong). It is a theory in personnel economics (human resource management) that tries to explain that rewards (pay and compensation) is not based on additional productivity, but on the relative difference between individuals.
The situations it tries to explain do appear in chess, but I wonder if this is coincidental. For example, normally  tournaments are structured so that 1st prize is significantly larger than 2nd prize (normally twice as much). But the winner of a tournament is not normally twice as good as the player that came second. So the reason for the difference is not based on performance, but on tournament ranking. This also occurs on the field of business, where the President of a company earns a great deal more than Vice-Presidents.
As this theory was only first proposed in the early 1980's, chess practice clearly pre-dates it. I assume that the method of dividing up prizes in a chess tournaments probably arose through trial and error, before a model that the majority of players seemed happy with was developed.
Nonetheless, there may be some ideas that chess could use. I have seen events where 1st prize greatly exceeds the other prizes (1st $1000, 2nd $100), and this seems to have skewed the performance of the top players. Given that one of the goals of tournament theory is to maximise the effort of the tournament participants, it may turn out that there is a theoretical "better way" to divide up prize money in events.

(NB I know a number of economists read this blog, so if I have got anything wrong on this topic, feel free to correct or expand)

Saturday 25 October 2014

Many versus Few

White to play and win
As I get older I am suffering the affliction of increased confusion, especially at chess. It is particularly noticeable when I am faced with a position with lots of scattered pieces on the board. I had an example today where I was material up , but my opponent had  knights, bishops and rooks scattered around the board. Trying to keep track of all the threats turned out to be quite difficult, and I felt fortunate to eventually swap enough pieces off and win the ending.
The position on the right is much more to my liking. While there are plenty of bits on the board, they are all focused on a very narrow set of targets. White is trying to queen a pawn, Black is trying to stop this, and so the play is pretty direct. Of course calculation is required (and quite deep calculation), but it is of a specific type.