Monday 31 March 2014

Carlsen v Anand II

Just when almost everyone (including myself) thought Anand was passed his prime, he confounded the pundits with a convincing win in the 2014 Candidates Tournament. He finished a full point ahead of Sergey Karjakin, and was the only player to go through the event undefeated. His win sets up a rematch with current World Champion Magnus Carlsen later this year, and gives him a chance to regain the title he lost last year.
Anand's win in the tournament was based on getting away to a good start, and then keeping his head while his closest rivals took points of each other. Both Karmnik and Aronian fell away in the second half of the tournament, with Aronian finishing with 2 losses. Karjakin found form at the right time to take clear second, while Topalov had flashes of brilliance, but ended up at the tail of the field.

Sunday 30 March 2014

2014 ACT Championship - Final Day

The 2014 ACT Championship once again saw a dramatic finish with tournament leader FM Junta Ikeda and IM Andrew Brown finishing in a tie for first, and sharing the title. Ikeda took a one point lead into the final round but was upset by a determined Victor Braguine, allowing Brown to catch up after a quick win over Stephen Priest. Going into the last game Braguine was not confident of his chances, but after Ikeda declined an early draw offer, Braguine's 'nothing to lose' attitude helped him gain the upper hand, with a lead in material and a better position. Braguine kept the resulting position under control, and was rewarded with an upset win.
Braguines win moved him to outright third, with Andrey Bliznyuk, Jeff Suptut, and Brian Butler sharing fourth place. Suptut picked up the Under 1800 prize, while Siddhant Badrinarayan was the best U/1200 player with an impressive 5/9.
Final standings and gaes can be download from

Ikeda,Junta (2338) - Braguine,Victor (1775) [B06]
2014 ACT Championship Canberra, Australia (9.1), 30.03.2014

Saturday 29 March 2014

2014 ACT Championship - Day 4

After 7 rounds of the 2014 ACT Championship, FM Junta Ikeda holds a one point lead over nearest rival, IM Andrew Brown. Ikeda scored 2 wins in today's rounds, over Harry Press and Jeff Suptut, while Brown won his round 6 game, before taking a half point bye for round 7. Third place is shared between Andrey Bliznyuk, Harry Press and Stephen Priest, a point and a half behind Ikeda.
While most results went according to rating, there were a couple of upsets. Stephen Priest dropped a pawn in the opening to Michael Kethro but turned it around to eventually win enough material to win the game. Siddhant Badrinarayan beat Cam Cunningham and Paul Dunn to move above 50%, while Albert Winkelman and Indis Daniswara are also placed well above their seeding.
Full results and games from this tournament can be found here. Tomorrow's first round will see Junta Ikeda  up against 3rd seed Andrey Bliznyuk, while Andrew Brown players Harry Press.

Suptut,Jeff (1723) - Dunn,Paul (1143) [B10]
2014 ACT Championship Canberra, Australia (6.5), 29.03.2014

Friday 28 March 2014

Take my pawns, please

While I enjoy sacrificing material when I can, I am also a 'take the money and run' kind of player as well. If a player offers me a pawn or two, I tend to grab them, as I feel this puts my opponent under greater pressure not to stuff up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
One classic example of this kind of strategy not working, was the game between Paul Keres and William Winter. It was played early in Keres's career and it was one of the games that made him famous. Winter grabbed a fistful of pawns in the opening, but leaving his king in the centre found himself facing a ferocious, and ultimately, successful attack.

Keres,Paul Petrovich - Winter,William [B29]
ol Warschau, 1935

Thursday 27 March 2014

Connect and Participate Expo

The ACT Chess Association is doing a bit of outreach work this weekend, taking part in the Canberra Connect and Participate Expo. The Expo is designed to showcase the various sport, art and cultural groups in Canberra, allowing members of the public to see what the nations capital has on offer.
The Expo is on Saturday (29 March) from 11am to 4pm at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston. There will be a chess display there, and if you get along you can play some friendly games against Miles Patterson or Stephen Priest. There will also be some other chess related activities, including a 'Guess the number of chess pieces' competition.
There is no charge to attend, and you can find further details here.

A relaxing night of blitz

The ANU Masters event is have a break this week, so a couple of the participants decided to play the ANU Autumn Blitz instead. A good sized field of 27 players turned up, which made my job of arbiter a little more challenging. The tournament was won by Michael Kethro on 8/9, with a group of 4 players 1.5 points behind.
Of course blitz chess is pretty forgettable, apart from the final results, but it can be interesting from an arbiters point of view. I had a couple of interesting questions tonight, some involving the touch move rule.
One game was completed, when the winner asked me if you touch an opponents piece (first) and one of yours (which cannot capture it) , what should happen. I explained that you have to capture the opponents piece (with a legal move) as you touched that piece first. He then confessed to breaking that rule and was happy to have the result of the game reversed (as he played an illegal move by not capturing the piece). Weirdly I then received a related question a few rounds later. A different player asked me if you touch an opponents piece, and then one of your own, which cannot legally capture it, do you lose because you have to play an illegal move to fulfil the conditions of 'touch move'. I simply explained you can't be forced to play an illegal move, and you should instead capture the piece with another, legal, move. There was also a game where one player tried to resign, and the other player refused to accept it, but as they were brothers I assumed this was sibling rivalry rather than a misunderstanding of the rules. (I declared the game over btw)

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Never say die

Junta Ikeda has a reputation of being incredibly difficult to beat. Even when he looks like he down for the count, he can always be counted on to keep fighting.
The diagrammed position is yet another example of this. Andrey Bliznyuk was white in this position and had just played 65.Rd6. Faced with a totally lost position, even if the knight is protected Ikeda decided that stalemate was the way out, and gave away the knight with 65. ... Kxa5. After 66.Rxc6 h6 Blinzyuk avoided the first trap by playing 67.Rc5+ Kb6 68.Rb5+ Ka6 69.Nxd4. Now the king has a 3 squares on the a file to move along, so everything should be OK. But ... 69. ... Rh4 encouraged the knight to move and Bliznyuk chose 70.Nc6?? The moment his hand left the piece both players realised that the king had no squares to move to. Ikeda played 70... Re4+ as dxe4 is stalemate. If the king goes to d1 or d2 Ikeda just checks on e1 and e2. Bliznyuk played  71.Kf2 but after 71. ... Rf4+ both players knew the rook could just check across the 4th rank and a draw was agreed.

Monday 24 March 2014

Chess is not dead, it just looks weird

I'm having a difficult time understanding what is going on at the 2014 Candidates Match. Apart from Anand, every other player seems to take turns at self destructing. Pre-tournament favourites Lev Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik both lost horribly in round 9, leaving Anand with a full point lead.
I've seen a number of theories about what is going on, some serious and some not so serious. Top of the "not so serious" pile, is that everyone except Anand is afraid to play Carlsen in a match, so second place is the real goal.
Of the serous theories some claim that Anand's left over opening preparation from his match with Carlsen is proving the difference. I think there is some merit to this idea, although it does not explain everything.
My own thoughts start with the fact that everyone in this tournament is a high class GM, and the difference in ability is not actually that great. Therefore it is experience in tournament like this that can prove the difference, and Anand is simply keeping his head, understanding it is the tournament result, and not necessarily each games result, that is important. As he has only won 3 games, it is his 6 drawn games that separate him from his rivals. Of course Kramnik has as much experience as Anand in situations like this, but he seems to be playing some strange chess. In his case it may just be a form issue, but if he manages to beat Anand in round 11, then the tournament will once again take a strange turning, and all previous theories will have to be rewritten.

Sunday 23 March 2014

2014 ACT Championship - Day 3

The third day of the 2014 ACT Championship stated with the clash of the top two seeds, IM Andrew Brown and FM Junta Ikeda. Both players came well prepared, with Ikeda choosing a line previously tried by Andreikin. However Brown was also aware of this line, and seemed quite happy to face it over the board. It turned out the line wasn't as dubious as it first looked, and Ikeda got a playable position, at the cost of the exchange. He then built up pressure in the centre, and as Brown ran short of time, was able to break the position open. Brown failed to protect all the squares around his king, and an invasion of heavy pieces was enough for Brown to tip his king over.
This handed the lead to Ikeda, and he maintained his half point advantage with a win over Adrian De Noskowski in round 5. Brown recovered from his round 4 loss with a win over third seed Andrey Bliznyuk. Joining Brown in second place was Harry Press, who survived a strong attack against Alana Chibnall. They are followed by a large group of players on 3.5 points.
The final 4 rounds of this tournament will be played next weekend. At this stage Ikeda should be the favourite to win the title, but as recent championships have shown, it is one thing to take the lead, but another thing to hold on to it.

Brown,Andrew (2245) - Ikeda,Junta (2338) [E16]
2014 ACT Championship Canberra, Australia (4.1), 23.03.2014

Saturday 22 March 2014

2014 ACT Championship Day 2

The second day of the 2014 ACT Championship proved a tough one for the majority of participants. In the morning round top seed FM Junta Ikeda was could only draw with Michael Kethro. At one point Ketro was better, but after missing a strong continuation was forced to defend an ending a pawn down, but held on until move 107, when a draw was agreed. IM Andrew Brown had a better day, with two wins taking him to 3/3. In the afternoon round he was worse in the opening against Alana Chibnall, but after Chibnall went pawn grabbing Brown quickly seized the initiative and caught Chibnall's king in a mating net.
Dillon Haithiramani is proving to be the surprise player of the event, drawing with Harry Press in the second round, following this up with a good win over Michael Kethro in round 3. Joining Hathiramani in second place are Junta Ikeda, Brian Butler, Adrian De Noskowski and Andrey Bliznyuk.
Tommorow sees round 4&5, with the top two seeds playing in the morning round. Results from the tournament can be found at, along with a pgn file of the games played so far.

Friday 21 March 2014

2014 ACT Championships - Day 1

The 2014 ACT Championships began this evening, with 32 players taking part. The field was a small increase over previous years, with a mixture of keen adult players and enthusiastic juniors making up the bulk of the field. The top seed is FM Junta Ikeda, with IM Andrew Brown and Andrey Bliznyuk filling the next two spots.
The first round went according to script, with most of the higher rated players untroubled in picking up points off their opponents, but there were a couple of tough games. Sankeertan Bardrinarayan held out for quite a while against IM Andrew Brown, while Paul Dunn had Andrey Bliznyuk on the ropes for much of the game after winning material. However Bliznyuk was able to turn the tables, and a R+2B v 2R ended in his favour. The board 1 game ended when FM Junta Ikeda found a nice finish, sacrificing his queen a'la Philidor.
Standings for this event, as well as the draw for the next round can be found at

Ikeda,Junta (2338) - Mcdonald,David (1328) [B93]
2014 ACT Championship Canberra, Australia (1.1), 21.03.2014

Thursday 20 March 2014

Arbiter videos?

Arbiter videos. Would such a thing work?
What I am thinking of are short online videos that show specific incidents during a chess game, and what decision the arbiter should make. These days such clips are not hard to make, although making them well is the obvious challenge. I might give it a go myself, although I would have to resist the temptation to fall into self parody ("Welcome to the exciting world of chess arbiting. I'm your host, Chess Kingington")

2014 ANU Masters Week 6

FM Junta Ikeda has closed the gap on IM Andrew Brown, after beating him in Round 6 of the 2014 ANU Masters. The game was finely balanced for quite a while, but a couple of misteps towards the end allowed Ikeda to reach a winning rook and pawn ending. The win by Ikeda puts him half a point behind Brown, but Ikeda still has two extra games to play.
At the other end of the table Alana Chibnall scored her first win of the tournament, beating fellow tail ender Adrian De Noskowski. De Noskowski played the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf, which seemed to surprise Chibnall, and she decided to defend the b pawn, rather than gambit it. An exhange sacrifice for attacking chances did not seem sufficient until De Noskowski blundered, and Chibnall scored the point. Wenlin Yin was on the defensive for a lot of the game against Andrey Bliznyuk. With extra space on the kingside Blinzyuk found an inventive rook sacrifice, but at best, this line was probably only enough for a draw. However he missed a perpetual and found himself down material, soon ending up in a lost position. Fred Litchfield and Miles Patterson played a fairly peaceful draw, where a single open file did  not offer  many chances for either side.
So with 1 round (and a couple of catch up games) to play, IM Andrew Brown holds a half point lead over FM Junta Ikeda. Further back are Fred Litchfield and Wenlin Yin who share third place on 3.5/6.

Ikeda,Junta (2338) - Brown,Andrew (2245)
2014 ANU Masters Canberra AUS (6.4), 19.03.2014

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Just take the draw

The 2014 chess year started off quite poorly for me, with a couple of first round losses in club events really throwing me off balance. Since then I've been trying to right the ship, although I'm not really player 'result oriented' chess. An example of this was a game last week where I survived a dubious position in the opening, and was quite happy to take a draw. But every time I found a drawing line, my opponent avoided it, but at the cost of making his position worse. Somewhat exasperated by this turn of events, I finally offered a draw having just won material. My opponent did take it, which was just as well, as I was around +10 in the final position!
Tonight I gave another opponent a chance to take a draw, after sacrificing a rook and a piece. If he took the second piece I had no choice but to repeat, but I did not mind this. Unfortunately he miscalculated a defence, and instead walked into a mating net.

Press,Shaun - Hosking,Ian [B24]
University Cup, 18.03.2014

Monday 17 March 2014

When is a game not a chess 'variant'?

One of the occupational hazards of being on the FIDE Rules Commission, is that you occasionally get sent new variants of chess, which the author hopes will be adopted alongside the current version. Of course this is not going to happen (as FIDE just deals with a very narrow definition of chess), but it makes me wonder about what is acceptable as a chess variant.
Clearly checkers is not considered a form of chess, so the type and movement of pieces is important. Although 64 squares might seem obvious, you might say Transfer is played on 128 squares, but even if you consider that 2 distinct boards, there are variants that use larger boards. There os also the goal of the game, with most variants requiring you to checkmate (or sometimes capture) the King to win the game. Of course this does apply to a game like Suicide chess, and other games like 'One check' chess.
Ultimately I think that games that 'look' like chess seem to be chess 'like'. If we consider chess consists of a board (of a specified size and shape), pieces (which move in a chess defined manner), and a goal (checkmate or something else), then games which approximate these features probably count. But if this is the case, why is a game like 'Feudal' (which I played as a child), not within this realm?

Sunday 16 March 2014

Tournament Rating System

The idea of a tournament rating system has been around for a while, although it has yet to be put into practice. (NB By rating system I mean the same system used for hotels and restaurants, and not the old Category XX system FIDE used for norm tournaments).
Jovan Petronic has revisited the idea on one of the Anti-Cheating Forums on Facebook, and has even suggested some criteria. The problem he is trying to solve is twofold. Firstly, how to pick from the large number of tournaments that now fill the chess calendar (although this may be more of a European problem). Secondly, to both encourage and reward tournament organisers who achieve higher standards. Stars would be awarded for things like: Prize money > $xxxx, conditions offered for titled players, event running for greater than 5 years, offering title norms, etc
The obvious body to police such a scheme would be the FIDE Events Commission, although they might find themselves overwhelmed with the number of events on the list. And while I am sure the job of 'chess tournament inspector' would be a good one, finding the money to fund a flying squad of judges might be a difficult ask.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Age and experience

Age and experience beat youth and beauty (almost) everytime. Certainly this looks to apply to former World Champion Viswanathan Anand , who has charged out to 2.5/3 in the current Candidates Tournament. After beating Lev Aronian in the first round, Anand drew with Vesalin Topalov in the second round. In tonight's game he defeated Shakhtiyar Mamedyarov, recording the first win for the Black pieces in the tournament so far. Possibly Anand feels liberated in not having to play as the World Champion, but whatever the reason, it seems to be working for him. If he keeps it up Carlsen v Anand II might be on the cards.

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar - Anand,Viswanathan [D23]
2014 Candidates Tournament, 15.03.2014

Friday 14 March 2014

2014 ACT Championship

The ACT Chess Championship starts next Friday. The details for this tournament are below. At this stage there are around 20 entries, with the top seeds being IM Andrew Brown and FM Junta Ikeda. Below that there are some promising juniors as well as a group of players in the 1800-2000 rating group. Hopefully ACT players in the 2000+ rating band looking for some extra competition before the Doeberl will be inclined to give it a go. Full details are available at the ACT Chess Association website.


The ACT Chess Championship is a 9 round FIDE Rated Swiss, open to all members of the ACT Chess Association.

It will be held at Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent, Campbell (next to the War Memorial)

The dates for the tournament are: 21 March 2014 (Friday evening), 22 March, 23 March, 29 March, 30 March.

The format will be 1 round on Friday 21 March, and then 2 rounds on each of the other days.

Start times: Round 1 7:30pm (Players are expected by 7pm for registration/fee payment)
Weekend Rounds - Morning 10:30am
- Afternoon 2:30pm

Time limit is G90m+30s

DOP: FIDE International Arbiter Shaun Press
Entry fees for the Championships will be $65 and $45 for concessionals (juniors, etc) to be paid at the venue.
If you are not a current ACTCA member you will also need to pay annual fees of $25 or $15 for concessionals.
The ACT Treasurer will be there on 21 March to collect ACTCA and ACT Championship entry fees.

There will be prizes to be determined by entry fees taken.

Register for the tournament by emailing Cam Cunningham, ACTCA President.

You can also register and pay before 7pm 21 March at the venue.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Candidates starts with 3 draws and a surprise

The 2014 Candidates Tournament began earlier this evening, with 3 drawn games, and one big surprise.
Kramnik -Andreikin was drawn pretty quickly, as both players raced through existing theory before reaching a drawn r+p ending. Karjakin-Svidler finished with a repetition in the middlegame, although I thought Karjakin looked better. I also thought Mamedyarov had the edge against Topalov, but a perpetual check was how that gamed finished.
But the big surprise was the win by Anand over Aronian. Anand seemed to have a small advantage for most of the game, but towards the first time control, Aronian got his knight trapped on the edge of the board. There may have been a complicated line that allowed him to escape with something from the diagrammed position, but he did not find it and resigned after 42. ... Bb5 43.Rb4 Nb2 44.Bxb5 axb5? (44. ... a5 allowed him to fight on, albeit in a worse position) 45.Ke3 Re8+ 46.Kd2 Rd8 47.Kc3 1-0
So Anand leads after 1 game, Aronian is at the tail, and everyone else sits in the middle!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

2014 ANU Masters - Week 5

The 2014 ANU Masters continues to be a combative affair, with another 3 decisive games during round 5. In the first game to finish, FM Junta Ikeda took advantage of Fred Litchfields decision to uncoordinate his pieces, and crashed through the centre of the board with a simple tactic. Miles Patterson quickly gained a good position after some sloppy opening play by Adrian de Noskowski in a Benko Gambit. taking advantage of open lines on the queenside, Patterson was then able to build up a winning attack, despite very few pieces remaining on the board. In the final game of the night, Wenlin Yin used a passed d pawn to eventually break down Alana Chibnall's resistance. A miscalculation at the end cost her a rook and the game.
IM Andrew Broan and Andrey Bliznyuk played their 5th round games a few week earlier, with the game ending in a hard fought draw.
After 5 rounds IM Andrew Brown leads with 4.5 followed by Fred Litchfield on 3. However there a still some outstanding games to be played, meaning the standings are likely to change quickly.

Ikeda,Junta (2338) - Litchfield,Frederick (1898)
2014 ANU Masters Canberra AUS (5), 05.03.2014

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Oceania Open Champion - Chris Wallis

Had a quick trip down to Ballarat yesterday and today, mainly to attend the Oceania Chess Confederation AGM, but also to have a look at the Ballarat Begonia Open. I must say the organisers found an excellent venue this year, with the playing hall at Clarendon College spacious and well lit. Of course there were some players who lamented the move from the previous venue (School of Mines), but I managed to walk to the new venue in around 30 minutes, so it wasn't that far from the centre of town.
I saw of the final round, in between conversations of a political nature, but did see some familiar faces. Going into the final round there were 5 players on 5/6, but it was only Chris Wallis and overseas visitor Kanan Izzat who managed to reach 6 points. The tournament title and trophy were shared between the two, but Chris Wallis had the added bonus of winning the concurrent Oceania Open Championship, as Izzat was from a non Oceania federation (Azerbaijan actually). As the tournament was run as a single 7 round swiss with 117 players, there were multiple ties for minor placings.
There was even some non-chess media coverage from the Ballarat Courier, and you can find the story here, along with a picture of event organiser Patrick Cook.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Rage Quitting

In online video games, if your opponent suddenly disconnects or bails from the game, it is known as "Rage Quitting". This normally occurs in online shooters, or online sports games, and getting your opponent to quit like this is often a mark of success. Of course it is also frowned upon, as there is an expectation that you should play the game to the end.
Oddly, chess often takes an opposite view. To play the game right to the end is often considered an insult, especially if the final result isn't in doubt. This attitude can sometimes surprise new players, and more than once I have been asked in junior events if it is OK to "give up".
But even in chess there is resigning, which we happily accept as part of the game, and "quitting" which is slightly different. Examples of the latter include sweeping the pieces off the board (a definite no-no), choosing to lose on time (only noticeable if you have plenty of time to start with), or simply disappearing from the playing hall. Interestingly, in the days of adjournments, you could resign the game at any stage before the resumption (as Boris Spassky did against Fischer in 1972), and this seemed perfectly OK.
The most famous example of the "disappearing player" was Curt von Bardeleben, against Steinitz in 1895. According to reports, after Steinitz started his brilliant combination, von Bardeleben realised what was about to happen, but rather than resign, simply picked up his hat and left the venue. Steinitz had to wait until von Bardeleben's clock ran out of time before claiming the win. Gaining some small revenge for bad manners, Steinitz then demonstrated the rest of the combination to the spectators.

Steinitz,William - Von Bardeleben,Curt [C54]
Hastings, 1895

Saturday 8 March 2014

Who is to be Carlsen's Challenger?

The 2014 Candidates Tournament starts in a couple of days, and the winner will play Magnus Carlsen in the next World Championship Match. So two questions: (1) Who would you like to see as Carlsen's next challenger? and (2) Who do you think will win this event?
Of course the answers might not be the same, as the last coup,e of Candidates tournaments have thrown up a few surprises.
My own personal answer is Lev Aronian in both categories, although I am more confident about the (1) than (2). Obviously Kramnik is the other favourite for the event, and while a Carlsen-Kramnik match would also be interesting, it might not be quite as exciting. Topalov has the experience to pose a threat, but may be a few years past his best, while Karjakin could be a dark horse. The other players (including Anand) will have a say in the final outcome, but I can't see any of them challenging for first (and this means dropping my usual tip of Peter Svidler for almost any event he is in!)

Friday 7 March 2014

Ballarat Begonia Open

Despite it being one of the largest weekend events in Australia, I've never played (or visited) the Ballarat Begonia Open. But this year I change at least half of the equation, as I am heading down to Ballarat on Monday to see the last day, as well as attend the Oceania Chess Confederations General Meeting.
The tournament has been running for 48 years, which means it started the year I was born. I even lived in Ballarat when I was younger (for six months only), but as a 5 year old, I had yet to take an interest in chess.
Since it started the numbers have gone up and down (the same as most Australian events), but in recent years it has attracted large fields. This year has two extra attractions, with the tournament doubling as the 2014 Oceania Chess Championships, and GM Nigel Short visiting the event to present prizes.
Details of the event are available from the Ballarat Chess Club page, and you can still enter the event tomorrow, at the venue. I'm not sure about game broadcasting and score updates, but the tournament webpage should have some of the details.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Winning the session

In modern day cricket "winning the session" has emerged as an important feature of the game. What this means (for non cricket fans) is that in each 2 hour session, you aim to do better than your opponent (either by taking wickets or scoring more runs than they would like). Chess often has a similar concept, in that you need to win the opening, the middlegame, and the ending.
Of course cricket isn't entirely like chess, in that one mistake normally doesn't lose you the game (unless you get caught ball tampering). But I have seen enough games where a player might be better at one stage, then end up worse going into an ending, before turning the tables one more time, to think it can be a fair comparison.
An example of this is the following game from the current ANU Summer Swiss, being held at the ANU Chess Club. After one mistake in the opening Doug McClure found himself in a bad way going into the middlegame. But having lost the opening session, he fought back in the middle session to reach a probably equal position. But in final stage of the game, when running short of time, he missed a couple of key moves, and Harry Press was able to find the path to victory.

Press,Harry - McClure,Doug [D43]
2014 ANU Summer Swiss Canberra, 05.03.2014

Wednesday 5 March 2014

2014 ANU Masters - Week 4

The fourth week of the 2014 ANU Masters saw 2 pretty one sided games, and one fairly tame draw.
Fred Litchfield continued his good run in the tournament, scoring his third victory after winning Adrian de Noskowski's queen. de Noskowski thought he was winning an exchange, but failed to spot a one move reply which left his queen with no squares to go. With the advantage of queen for rook Litchfield had no difficulty in winning the game.
Alana Chibnall met IM Andrew Brown's Sicilian with a Grand Prix attack. However a moments inattention in the opening resulted in her losing a piece on move 8, although she played on until move 16 before throwing in the towel.
Miles Patterson and Wenlin Yin drew a game where patient manoeuvring resulted in a blocked pawn structure and a bishop of opposite colours  ending. Although the game lasted 52 moves, a draw could have been agreed to earlier.
IM Andrew Brown leads with 4/4 (or 4.5/5 as he has played an extra game), with Fred Litchfield in 3. FM Junta Ikeda still has some catch up games to play, so he may move up the leaders board shortly.

Monday 3 March 2014

European Championship

The 2014 European Chess Championships kicks off a couple of months of high level chess. The Championship is being held in Yerevan, Armenia and has attracted its usual strong field of GM's and other titled players. The games start tomorrow evening with live coverage being organised through the Chessdom website. You can probably get more details here.
Following that (with some overlap) is the 2014 Candidates tournament, which is being held in Khanty-Mansiysk. This event starts on the 11th March and you can follow the action at
Then rolling into April, a couple of important Australian events take place. The O2C Doeberl Cup starts on the 17th April (and finished on the 21st), with the Sydney International Open starting on the 23rd April.
So a busy two months for chess watchers, and chess players.

Sunday 2 March 2014

The kiss of death?

A couple of weeks ago GM David Smerdon dropped in to Street Chess in Canberra. He was in town to attend a wedding, and was having a holiday before returning to his PhD studies in The Netherlands. It must have been a reasonably short holiday as today he is playing in the final round of the 6th Batavia Chess Tournament, in Amsterdam.
Going into the final round he holds a half point lead over IM Twan Burg, and they are the only 2 players who can win the event. Interestingly, both players are paired against the back markers in the 10 player Round Robin, if ever IM's and GM's can be called back markers.
As I type this I have been watching the last round action on the tournament website, and was hoping to see a result before I posted this entry. However the game is still going (and I am not sure who is better), so I hope I haven't put the 'kiss of death' on David by publishing too early!

**Update** Looks like I pulled a double "kiss of death", with not only Smerdon losing, but Burg losing as well. As a result Smerdon still wins the event with 6/9, Burg on 5.5, and everyone else finishing closer to the top.

Would Fischer lose to the current generation?

GM Hikaru Nakamura is well known for speaking his mind. His twitter feed is often quite entertaining/controversial, and he can usually be relied upon to give a good quote or two during an interview.  In his latest interview (during a Reddit "Ask me anything" session) he was asked how Bobby Fischer would do against the current generation of top players. His reply that "Fischer would certainly lose to all of us" is the kind of answer that headline writers love, as it is guaranteed to provoke an animated discussion. Nonetheless, even if that was his entire answer, I would be inclined to agree with him.
But of course as with most headlines, there was more to the answer than that, and Nakamura did qualify his reply. He sensibly pointed out that the game has changed since Fischer played (the rise of computers being his main observation) and if he availed himself of these tools, he would soon catch up. I also think another factor to be considered is the increased competitiveness of top level chess these days. The era of the short draw is over, and even in games where a draw is the desired result, it is often a hard fought draw. So if Fischer was to challenge the new generation, he would have to lift the intensity of his game to match theirs. Of course Fischer was a player who strived to win each game, so he might have found the transition a little easier than his contemporaries, but I suspect he still might have been surprised out how much extra effort was required.

** Correction: As pointed out in the comments section, Nakamura's actual quote was "Fischer would almost certainly lose to all of us", which is less emphatic than what I've presented in the body of the article.