Sunday 31 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup - Caruana cruises

Fabiano Caruana has continued his perfect start to the 2014 Sinquefield Cup with a 4th round win over Lev Aronian. It was a thoroughly 'modern' game, with Caruana firstly looking for play on the queenside, before breaking through on the kingside. A nice piece sacrifice on move 29 was just one of the many good moves he found the defeat Aronian.
Meanwhile the other two games ended in draws, with Carlsen recovery some equilibrium after yesterdays loss, while Nakamrua handled his second black in a row by drawing with Vachier-Lagrave.
Even though they have yet to reach the halfway point, Caruana already looks like a lock for first place. Not only will a win here cement his place as Carlsen's biggest threat, it also sets up another possible opportunity. If FIDE do carry out their threat to strip Carlsen of his title if he does not sign a contract for a match against Anand, then a Carlsen v Caruana match might become the headline act. Not for the World Championship of course, but certainly for the title of the Worlds best player.

Caruana,Fabiano (2801) - Aronian,Levon (2805) [C84]
2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 Saint Louis USA (4.1), 30.08.2014

Saturday 30 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup - Favourites crash and burn

The third round of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup saw the three games in which the rating favourites went down in a screaming heap. While wins by Topalov over Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave over Aronian were newsworthy enough, it was Caruana's win over Carlsen which has really set the tournament alight.
Once again Carlsen tried an offbeat opening line (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4), which posed little problems for Caruana. At move 15 Carlsen then played a piece sacrifice, but when the smoke cleared, Caruana had a comfortable advantage. He maintined this edge simply aiming his pieces at the white king, and while looking for counter play, Carlsen played the wrong move in a line he previously calculated, and lost a few moves later.
The win by Caruana leaves him 1.5 points clear after only 3 rounds. Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave are on 1.5 points, while Carlsen, Nakamura and Topalov are all back on 1.

Carlsen,Magnus (2877) - Caruana,Fabiano (2801) [C24]
2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 Saint Louis USA (3.1), 29.08.2014

Three new IM's (all from Canberra!)

It is a rare day for Australian chess when 3 players become International Masters at the same time. Despite what was a shambolic FIDE General Assembly, the subsequent Presidential Board meeting at least ratified the titles earned in the previous 3 months, and the list of title holders included 3 young Australian players.
Junta Ikeda earned his title with his final norm at the 2014 O2C Doeberl Cup,with an extra one at the 2014 SIO for luck. Anton Smirnov was a little more suprising, getting his third norm at the 2014 Politiken Cup just before the Olympiad, although FIDE seems to have used his IM performance at the 2014 Olympiad in its place, and accepted his rating will top 2400 on the September 2014 Rating List. The third title has been awarded to Rishi Sardana, who like Smirnov and Ikeda was born in Canberra, but mainly plays his chess away from Australia, and currently lives in India.
With both Smirnov and Ikeda playing on the Olympiad team, and Sardana not far off, it is looking like the next decade of Australian chess will see they, and a number of up and coming players, be the new force on the local and international scene.

Baramidze,David (2612) - Smirnov,Anton (2334) [D85]
41st Olympiad Open 2014 Tromso NOR (11.4), 14.08.2014

Thursday 28 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup - Day 1

While there was only one decisive game in the first round of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, it certainly looks like the spectators got their monies worth. The Aronian - Nakamura game was the first to finish, when the players felt that repeating the position around move 40 was the best plan. The Vachier-Lagrave - Carlsen game was probably the most interesting, with Carlsen showing of a bit of opening prep with a novelty in the Scotch Game. The idea involved a temporary piece sacrifice, but clearly it was all 'computer checked' at home, as Carlsen won back the piece and even held a slight edge. Vachier-Legrave kept his head and the game ended in a draw after Vachier-Lagrave sacrificed a rook for a perpetual.
In the only decisive game, Caruana beat Topalov after Topalov tried a speculative attack and then fell apart when it did not succeed. After move 23 Caruana had an advantage and it seemed to grow with every move, until finally Topalov realised his position was totally lost.

Topalov,Veselin (2772) - Caruana,Fabiano (2801) [A35]
2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 27.08.2014

Wednesday 27 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup

The 2014 Sinquefield Cup is being billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess. With Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave all in the worlds top 10, it would be hard to find a recent (post 1970) event that matches it in strength.
The tournament is a double round-robin, so each player gets White and Black against their opponents. While this removes the luck of the draw re colours, I have seen players adopt a 'draw with black, win with white' strategy in such events, which can bog the tournament down a little. However the assembled field looks top heavy with chess 'fighters' so this may not be a problem.
In terms of who I am tipping to be the winner, I am going to move away from my usual prediction of Carlsen. He seemed a little out of sorts at the Olympiad, and I am not sure he has recovered from the pressure of that event. The player who I think is still on the rise is Fabiano Caruana, and even though he lost to Carlsen at the Olympiad, I think he might just have enough to pull off a famous victory here.
The tournament starts early tomorrow morning Canberra time (5am!), which isn't the greatest time to start watching chess. However I'm assuming that most of the games will still be happening while I am eating breakfast, and work may see me distracted by some tough endgame play! Event details can be found here, and follow the links to the live coverage of the games.  

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Freaky chessboard graphic

While at the Olympiad a number of people asked me what my normal job is. While at some previous Olympiads I could impress them with 'Roboticist', these days I am more of a web programmer (CMS systems being my thing). As a result I do like to play around with html and css, especially now they can create some pretty cool websites with nary a line of program code to make them work.
An example I came across is a rotating chess board, with the animation handled entirely by css. You can see a demo here, and the author is kind enough to list the html and css code that made it all happen.

Monday 25 August 2014

Mating the queen

As the queen is such a powerful piece it is often hard to completely trap it. When it does get trapped it is usually because it has wandered off to the edge of the board, or ends up in a tactical unfavourable position. It is less common to see it caught in the middle of the board, with nowhere to run.
Hrant Melkumyan (well known to Canberra players), pulled this off on his way to 6/6 at the Riga Tech Open. Capitalising on his doubled rooks, he found the clever Rd6!, which forced Q-Mate! Melkumyan finished the event with 3 draws to take equal first with Richard Rapport. Melkumyan has been on a bit of a tear over the summer, winning a number of big swisses on the European circuit. If he continues this form he may get close to (or over) the 2700 mark, and into consideration for the next Armenian Olympiad team.

Melkumyan,Hrant (2655) - Iturrizaga Bonelli,Eduardo (2653) [E15]
Riga Tech Open A 2014 Riga LAT (6.1), 21.08.2014

Saturday 23 August 2014

Saving the day

In the BC (before computer) era of Correspondence Chess, a lot of effort was needed to make sure every move did not suffer a tactical refutation. Of course under such conditions double oversights might occur, but clearly it was better to be safe than sorry. An famous example of this was the game between Frank Vaughan and Cecil Purdy, played in 1945. Purdy plays a combination that looks like it is winning material, but it turns out to be a trap by White. However Purdy had already analysed the position and new that he one final escape, which was to force a perpetual check. Strangely, this opening variation was repeated in around 20 subsequent games, with both White and Black scoring the occasional win. The last was played in 1999, and I suspect it won't be played much in the future (unless to deliberately halve the point) as any modern engine spots the first draw as far back as move 7.

Vaughan,Frank L - Purdy,Cecil John Seddon [D82]
corr, 1945

Friday 22 August 2014

Back to club chess

While watching the worlds top chess players go round at the Olympiad has been enjoyable, my return to the club chess scene has not been without it's charms. I saw a number of nice attacking games at the ANU Chess Club on Wednesday night, and while not quite up to 2700+ standard, at least I could predict most of the moves in advance. At least in the chess circles I normally move in, the aim of checkmating the opponents king is still front and centre, and so there is a lot of attacking chess on display.
As I don't have some of the more interesting games from Wednesday night to hand, here is a game from earlier in the same tournament. Dillon Hathiramani played a text book kingside attack with the Kings Indian Defence, and while Adrian De Noskowski tried to find counterplay on the other side of the board, Hathiramani got his attack in first. After De Noskowski missed the correct reply to 24 ... Nxg2 (25.Kh1) the game was all one way traffic.

De Noskowski,Adrian - Hathiramani,Dillon
2014 ANU Winter Swiss ANU Chess Club (3), 06.08.2014

Thursday 21 August 2014

Chess Olympiad - Chess players wanna go bad?

I missed the opening ceremony of the 2014 Chess Olympiad (for reasons explained elsewhere), and as a result missed the nice video they put together to celebrate the event. Fortunately it was played at the closing ceremony as well, and I must say, it was very well done. There are a number of famous faces in it, as well as scenes from Tromso, and the wider chess world. It also has a nice soundtrack, which has already proved a hit with the chess club at my local school.
So for those who haven't seen it, here is the 2014 Chess Olympiad Opening Ceremony Video

Wednesday 20 August 2014

2014 ACT Women's and Girl's Championship

The ACT Junior Chess League is holding the ACT Women's and Girl's Championship this weekend (23rd and 24th August). This event has been run successfully for a number of years, and often draws a larger field than comparable event in the bigger Australian states.
It is being held at the Campbell High, Treloar Crescent, Campbell (the ACTJCL HQ), from 10am Saturday. It is played over 2 days with a time limit of G60m+10s. There will be 6 or 7 rounds (depending upon numbers), and players can request half point byes if they need to fit it in with other activities.  It is open to female players of all ages (not just juniors), and each year sees a few veterans take on the younger brigade.
You can register before 9:45am on Saturday. For further information, visit the ACT Junior Chess League web page.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

2014 Olympiad - Accuracy

Harking back to a post I made a month or two ago concerning best moves versus accurate moves, I had a quick look at who might have been to most 'accurate' player at the Olympiad.  The simplest way to measure this was to see which players made moves which 'damaged' their position least, at least according to various computer engines.
Having had a look at the numbers it is no surprise that a number of very strong GM's headed the list. The top 10 all came in below .035 pawns per move, which means you would have to wait 29 moves before they dropped a pawns worth of evaluation. At the other end of the table there were players who did damage at a far quicker rate, with 6 moves being around the average wait for moves that dropped a pawns worth of position.
The player who came top of the list for accuracy was Vietnamese GM Ngoc Truong Nguyen. Playing board 2 he scored 8.5/10 and won the Gold Medal for best performance on board 2. In the following game he defeats GM Emilio Cordova in an almost flawless game.


Ngoc Truongson Nguyen (2634) - Emilio Cordova (2629) [E32]
Chess Olympiad Tromso NOR (9.15), 11.08.2014

Monday 18 August 2014

2014 Chess Olympiad - (small) Oceania Teams

The 2014 Olympiad saw a fantastic result for the Australian team (=24th seeded 60th), while the New Zealand team would be disappointed with their result (=97th seeded 76th). As for the smaller Oceania nations, the results were somewhat mixed.
Fiji finished top of the Oceania "2nd Division" with 7 match points. They turned it around after getting 'blanked' in the first 3 rounds, winning 2 matched and drawing 3. CM Sam Goundar was the best performer, with a 50% score (4.5/9). PNG could not repeat there performance from 2 years ago, scoring 3 wins for 6 match points. The team was well placed going into the last 4 rounds but a couple of bad results left them short of the 8 point mark. FM Stuart Fancy was the outstanding performer for the team, scoring 7.5/11 on board 1.
Guam had a promising debut, also finishing on 6 points. They scored a lot of their points in the first half of the event, but were made to pay for this with a tough finish. Board 4 Jonathon Molod did enough in the early rounds to earn a CM title, and finished as top scorer on 4/10. Palau had a tough event, with only 4 match points. Jeffrey Balbalosa was the best performer, scoring 3/8 on the bottom board. The Solomon Islands finished at the tail of the tournament, but 3 drawn matches gives hope for the future. They were also ham strung by travel arrangements that meant they had to miss the final round.
Overall, the small Oceania teams (with the possible exception of Guam), ended up in the same places as previous events. This reflects that other developing countries are on the improve, while Oceania is yet to see a new wave of players coming through. Nonetheless, experience in playing in the Olympiad is an invaluable one for helping develop chess in these countries, and hopefully the next decade will see these countries keep pace with the rest of the world.

Saturday 16 August 2014

2014 Chess Olympiad Day 11 - China and Russia

The 2014 Chess Olympiad ended in victory to China in the Open Section and Russia in the Women's section. Both were leading going into the final round, and avoided any last minute problems to take the top spots.
With Hungary and India taking 2nd and 3rd in the Open, it was an interesting trifecta, which would have paid out big for anyone having a punt. The Chinese team is a relatively young team, while Hungary is based around some experienced stars. The Indian team is somewhere in the middle in terms of age, although a resurgent Anand would have made it stronger still.
The final round was overshadowed by the tragic death of Kurt Meier, who collapsed during the game, and a second player after the round had finished. I met Kurt on a number of occasions at Olympiads ( as PNG had played the Seychelles a few times ) and hope to do a bigger post on him a later date.
Currently flying into London, and spending a day there before heading back to Australia. When I am on solid ground below the equator I hope to do a better summary of what was an interesting Olympiad.

Thursday 14 August 2014

2014 Chess Olympiad - Day 10

The win by China over France in round 10 leaves them in the box seat to win their first ever Open Olympiad. The 2.5-1.5 victory leaves them with a 1 point lead over Hungary and a 2 point lead over a large number of teams tied for third. In the final round they are paired with Poland, and barring a last round accident they should end up either in first or tied for first. However Hungary are holding out hope that they can defeat Ukraine while Poland steps up to take down China. The third scenario involves both China and Hungary slipping up and then a whole raft a teams ending up on 17 points. While the Olympiad tie break rules are a little complicated, I suspect that China would probably end up in first place in this case anyway.
In the Women's event the Russian team look good for first place. The lead by a point ahead of China and the Ukraine, and with China and Ukraine playing each other in the final round, the Russian have an easier path to victory.
The Australian team has a difficult task with Germany in the final round. Obviously a win would give them a fantastically high finish, while a loss will probably drop them to their seeding level. Nonetheless, apart from a few early hiccups, the team has pretty well, scoring a number of good wins in the run home. The Australian Women's team is currently sitting around their seeding, but a last round pairing against Malaysia gives them a good opportunity to achieve a much higher placing.
Round 11 starts early today, and is probably underway as you read this. There is live coverage at the Chess24 website, while Chessbomb has also had live games available there as well. The presentations and closing party take place this evening, and tomorrow will see the exodus from Norway begin.

Fressinet Laurent (2708) - Yu Yangyi (2668) [A37]
WCO2014 Tromso (10.27), 12.08.2014

Wednesday 13 August 2014

2014 Chess Olympiad - This thing happened

For context click here.

Fumey Enyonam Sewa (1833) - Skehan Craig [B10]
WCO2014 Tromso (10.26), 12.08.2014

Tuesday 12 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 9 - No change at the top

While round 9 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad was taking place, another game was being played on the other side of town. The 2014 FIDE Presidential Elections took place during the 1st day of the 2014 FIDE General Assembly. It brought to an end a 2 year campaign between the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the challenger Gary Kasparov. The campaign was noted for its level of vitriol, which as in all 'good' campaigns, was far worse by 'other side' (no matter which side that happened to be),  and only happened as a response to the other sides 'misinformation and lies' (again the side did not matter).
But once all the shouting and arguments were finished, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov won the election 110-61. The result wasn't far off the low-ball figure of 58 votes for Kasparov, but the margin was still bigger than most people expected. While the Kasparov campaign probably succeeded in securing more votes in Africa (and the continent most likely was split 50-50), they failed to pick up many more votes elsewhere. Once again the Americas was continent that contributed most to Kirsans victory, with Kasparov picking up at most 3 votes.
The Kasparov team was understandably disappointed, while the Kirsan team was very happy with yet another election win. It is not clear who will turn up in 4 years time to run for President, but if they do, history may be the best guide to what they will be up against.

Monday 11 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 8 - Another change at the top

The leader board at the 2014 Chess Olympiad changed once again, with China moving into first place after a win over Azerbaijan 3-1. They are now on 14 points (+6=2) a point ahead of France, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic and Romania. Although there are a number of big guns lurking further back, there are only 3 rounds left to catch up in.
The Austrlian team had there chances against the higher rated Uzbekistan, but ended up going down 3-1. The team played their top 4 players, deciding to rest FM Anton Smirnov on the grounds that players often lose the first game after they achieve a title!
And speaking of change, today is election day for FIDE. Kasparov v Ilyumzhinov is the big battle to see who will run world chess for the next 4 years. I have stayed away from this one in terms of politics (as it has been an awful campaign on both sides), and so will soon be off to the General Assembly to watch the action and witness the claim and counter claim from both sides. Would be enjoyable if it wasn't so venal.

Sunday 10 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 7 - Two big wins

Day 7 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad saw two results which stopped me in my tracks. The first was Russia losing 1-3 to the Czech Republic. Grischuk and Svidler lost to Navara and Lanicka, and the 16th seed held the top seed t draws on the bottom two boards. This has severly dented the Russian teams chance of winning the tournament as they are now 3 points behind the leaders (Azerbaijan) with 4 rounds to go.
The other result was the 3.5-0.5 demolition of Mexico by the Australian team. The Mexicans had a rating edge on each board, but Smerdon drew on the top board and Ly, Ikeda and Smirnov all won. The win for Smirnov may also be enough to push his rating past the 2400 mark, which he needs to do to receive an IM title (subject to confirmation).
The Australian Women's team also had a good result, beating England 2.5-1.5.Again this was an underdog victory, as the English were seeded 12 places above the Australians.

Smirnov Anton (2334) - Torres Rosas Luis Carlos (2351) [E94]
WCO2014 Tromso (7.25), 09.08.2014

Saturday 9 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 6 - A little rest, a lot of pain

Changes to the top of the Olympiad standings seemed t come about via some big results. The two leaders are now Azerbaijan and Cuba, who whacked Georgia and Kazakhstan by 3.5-0.5 margins. As a result they will meet in round 8, with Azerbaijan the slight favourites on rating.
Behind these two are still a large number of teams including Russia, China, Netherlands and Armenia.The rest day seemed to recharge the batteries of the top teams as there were a number of 3-1 and 3.5-0.5 results. Both Australian teams seem to enjoy the rest as well, as the Open team beat Botswana 3.5-0.5, while the Women's team dispatched Norway 2 by the same margin. This round the Open team are up against Mexico, while the Women play England for the (chess) Ashes.

Friday 8 August 2014

2014 Olympiad - PNG Team (plus others) Day 5

The first rest day of the 2014 Olympiad sees the PNG team both where it usually is, and where it expected to be. After another narrow loss in round 3 to Saudi Arabia (1.5-2.5), the team scored their first match win over Swaziland 3-1. Stuart Fancy continued his winning run on the top board, while Nigel Marko scored his first ever win at a Chess Olympiad, coming 4 games into his career!. The fifth round saw the team face Kuwait, and despite some promising positions, the only point was once again scored by Stuart Fancy.
At this stage the team is on 2 points, with a total of 7 game points. Stuart Fancy is on an impressive 4/5, while Helmut Marko, Rupert Jones and Nigel Marko have score a point each.
Of the 'small' Oceania countries (sorry NZ), Guma is having an impressive debut. The beat North Pacific rivals Palau quite handsomely, and followed it up with a 2-2 result against a strong Puerto Rico team. Despite a 0-4 return to earth against Finland, they are on 3 points and in 139th place.
Palau are also on 2 points, scoring their first win in round 5 over the British Virgin Islands. The normally well performed Fiji team is still struggling, having only picked up a point via a drawn match against the Bahamas. Newcomers Solomon Islands has yet to win a match, but Chris Kaituu at least has the honour of scoring the first win for the Solomon Islands in a Chess Olympiad, in the 3-1 loss to Tanzania.

Marko Helmut Jr - Sbonelo Dlamini [C41]
WCO2014 Tromso (4.25), 05.08.2014

Thursday 7 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 5 - And now there are none

Round 5 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad saw the last of the teams with a perfect score drop at at least 1 point. The top board match between Azerbaijan and Serbia ended 2:2 with Radjabov being upset by lower rated GM Milos Perunovic. Board 2 saw a something of a grudge match between Russia and Bulgaria, and although Kramnik beat Topalov in their individual game, this was cancelled out by Karjakin's loss to Iotov, so another 2:2. Armenia scored a 2.5-1.5 win over host country Norway, with Sargissian beating Agdestein in the only decisive game of the match. Aronian - Carlsen was a draw.
As a result 7 teams share the lead going into the first rest day. Included in this group are Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, along with Cuba and Georgia.
Australia ran into Italy (seeded 40 places higher) and went down 3-1. Anton Smirnov proved his worth on the bottom board by drawing with GM Danyyil Dvirnyy, while David Smerdon score the other half point against Alberto David. The next opponents are Botswana, who scored a 2:2 against neighbours South Africa in today's round.

Kramnik Vladimir (2760) - Topalov Veselin (2772) [D37]
WCO2014 Tromso (5.21), 06.08.2014

Wednesday 6 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 4 - Down to three

Today was the first day I did not get along to the playing hall, as I was tied up in meetings all day. Unfortunately for me it looks like I picked a bad day to be away, as going by the results there were a number of good matches.
The top group of the Olympiad is now down to 3 teams. Azerbaijan beat yesterdays heroes France 2.5-1.5, with the decisive game coming on the top board. Serbia also kept a perfect match score with a win over Czech Republic by a similar margin, and the third team in the group, Bulgaria beat Romania.
Just behind this group is a mass of teams on 7 points. Among these teams are Russia and China (2-2 today), Netherlands and Israel (also 2-2), and England, who beat Latvia 3-1.
The Australian team recovered from yesterdays game with a narrow win over the ICCD team. David Smerdon lost to GM Yehuda Gruenfeld, but wins by Illingworth and Smirnov (now 3/3), moved them up to 5 points on the table. The Women's team also bounced back scoring a 4-0 win over Jamaica. This leaves them placed above their seeding, although the have a challenge against Latvia in round 5.
The headline match today is the Norway v Armenia pairing, as worlds no 1 (Carlsen) and 2 (Aronian) square off. It should kick off 10pm Canberra time, and I suspect the spectators area will be packed.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

2014 Olympiad Day 3 - Tough going

Round 3 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad saw some tough matches, and some surprising results. The win by France over Armenia was probably the biggest news, coming as it did on the top board. Movsesian lost to Fressinet and with the rest of the games drawn it was 2.5-1.5 to the French. The Dutch team also had a good result, beating the US team 2.5-1.5 with 3 decisive games. After the match Anish Giri commented that his draw by repetition was only correct if his team won the match.
Further down the Australian team slipped in a banana peel in the shape of El Salvador. Wins to Smerdon and Smirnov were cancelled out by losses to Illingworth and Ikeda, leaving the match 2-2. The Australian Women's team suffered a similar fate, drawing 2-2 with Monaco. Both results keep Australia further down the table than they would like, and it may be a couple of rounds before they reach the heavy-hitters again.
In good news for the host country, World Champion Magnus Carlsen scored his first win for the event, leading the team to a 3-1 win over Montenegro.

Carlsen Magnus (2877) - Djukic Nikola (2521) [B01]
WCO2014 Tromso (3.29), 04.08.2014

Monday 4 August 2014

2014 Olympiad - PNG Team (and others) Day 2

With the shift to match points at the Olympiad, the 'minnows' have found it harder to score points early in the event. This is because it is possible for a team on 0 to play a team on non-zero points in the early rounds, as long as neither team has won a match. So yesterdays performance by the PNG team was quite impressive, taking 1.5 points off the higher rated Puerto Rico team. FM Stuart Fancy played an excellent game to win on the top board, while Rupert Jones drew his board 3 game. In fact with a bit of time and confidence Jones may have found the winning plan, giving PNG an extra half point. So while the result does not add anything to the scoreboard for PNG at this stage, it has given the team a real confidence boost for the rest of the tournament.
Of the other Oceania teams, Guam is doing well, especially as it is their first Olympiad. They have scored points in their first two matches, and currently have 1.5 game points. Palau, Fiji and the Solomon Islands have had much tougher starts, and are yet to struggle the scorer. New Zealand have had an above average start, following up 4-0 over Burundi with a fighting 1-3 loss to Poland. NZ actually had their noses in front at one stage, and the Poles were looking decidedly scared.

Fancy Stuart (2036) - Almedina Ortiz Edgardo J. (2277) [A00]
WCO2014 Tromso (2.1), 03.08.2014

2014 Olympiad Day 2 - Settling in

The second day of the 2014 Olympiad saw most teams and players settle into a regular routine. However a few got caught out in the shift to an earlier start, with both Burundi and Alexander Beliavsky thinking is was 3pm rather than 2pm for the start time (lost games were the consequences).  
Day 2 was also a big day for a couple of reasons. For the host country it was the first appearance of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, in the Norway v Finland match. For Australia, both teams (Open and Women's) were on the top boards, with the Open team against Armenia, and the Women's team against Ukraine).
In the case of Carlsen, his game wasn't that straightfoward, with Finnish top board Tomi Nyback holding the draw. In fact all 4 games of that match were drawn, which was a good result for the outrated Fins. And to prove that chess is a spectator sport, straight after the Carslen game was drawn, a significant number of spectators left the stands and exited the venue!
Both Australian teams lost 1-3 to their significantly stronger opponents, but it was a good result any way. Against Armenia, the games looked even for a while, before the Armenian's took the upper hand in most of the games. But while Ikeda and Ly did eventually lose, Illingworth held the draw, while Smerdon fought back, and achieved his second draw against Lev Aronian at Olympiads.
The Women's team actually had a chance to tie the match, as they had the Ukranians on the ropes on the top 2 boards. But in the end draw agreements meant that the tournament 3rd seeds survived  a potential accident.
There are still plenty of teams on a perfect match point score (36 in total), and 8 teams who have started 4-0,4-0. So a few more rounds until the real leaders emerge, but even now, there are plenty of good matches to follow.

Smerdon David (2513) - Aronian Levon (2805) [B07]
WCO2014 Tromso (2.5), 03.08.2014

Sunday 3 August 2014

2014 Olympiad - PNG Team Day 1

The Olympiad would be a much poorer event without teams like PNG, and in fact much poorer without PNG itself. For wherever we go, excitement is not far behind. The team got off to a cracking start, with our fantastic captain GM Dejan Bojkov scrambling to make the start of the round, due to a missed flight the day before. So at one point we had either 0 captains, 1 captain or 2 captains, much to the confusion of the match arbiter. Fortunately the delayed start meant the Bojkov arrived moments before the clocks were started.
As for the match against Singapore, 0-4 was not a surprise. However Nigel Marko fought hard on debut, while FM Stuart Fancy made IM Kevin Goh Wei Ming work for is point. I fact he was equal for quite a long while, and even offered a draw around move 25. However the tournament rules allow no draw agreements before move 30, and by the time the players had reached this mark, Fancy's position had begun to deteriorate.
The PNG team have Puerto Rico today which is another tough pairing. Also, I am uploading lots if pics from the event to my chess photo collection. Just click the link on the left hand side of this blog.

Goh Wei Ming Kevin (2433) - Fancy Stuart (2036) [C23]
WCO2014 Tromso (1.13), 02.08.2014

2014 Olympiad Day 1 - Things looking up

The Chess Olympiad definitely undergoes a change once everyone sits down and starts playing. The hassles of travel, finding hotels, dealing with missing players etc becomes less important once the clocks start ticking. And the Tromso Olympiad is no exception, as the general mood after round 1 seemed a lot better than before.
Of course some recent traditions were maintained, starting with the usal scrum to register team lists before the first round. The organisers are using the online registration system that was first used (successfully) in Istanbul. But not all team captains had log ins, so members of the Technical Administration Panel were besieged by captains all wanting to fix their problems. 
The next tradition (that people really should cope with by now), is the huge queue to get into the venue on the first day. Due to security screenings, getting through the door does take time, and people were in the line for over 45 minutes. Interestingly I got to the venue about 90 minutes before the round start, and waltzed straight in. The long lines meant the round did start late, but to the organisers credit, it was only a 20 minute delay, which was a big improvement from 2 years ago.
The round also began with missing teams and players. Although the dreaded 'zero tolerance' rule is in place, this was more to do with non-arrivals in Norway. I don't think any player who was at the venue lost by default, but it may have happened.
Once the play was underway, it felt like a real Olympiad. The organisers are good about access to the playing areas, so I was able to wander quite freely among the games. As an accredited media person I could take pictures for the first 10 minutes, but after that I was still able to get close to the action. (It may have also had something to do with the fact I was wearing a suit, and they just thought I was important).
You get a different coverage of the Olympiad from outside the event than inside, and in fact I suspect people reading this blog know more about the results and upsets than I do from actually being there. The website looks good, and I was able to download games without trouble. The game on Match 1, Board 1 resulted in a interesting miniature by Grishchuk, while David Smerdon had a similar kind of game against the US Virgin Islands (a tactical shot rebounding on his opponent). 4-0 to Australia was a good start, with first up wins to debutantes Ikeda and Smirnov.
The press facilities are quite good, although they do get confused with my accreditation ('It says Press twice on your card, but what is your second name'). So if I have the time and access, I may make a number of different posts per dy, concerntrating on different facets of the tournament. (Women's Olympiad, Oceania teams, the mighty PNG, general impressions etc).

Smerdon David (2513) - Van Rensselaer William (1908) [B01]
WCO2014 Tromso (1.5), 02.08.2014

Saturday 2 August 2014

2014 Olympiad - Day 0

The 2014 Chess Olympiad starts in a few hours. For the first round the start time is 3pm Norway time (11pm Canberra time), but for the rest of the rounds (except the last round) it will be a 2pm start.
The first round is normally the chance for the higher seeded teams to give the lower seeded ones a good kicking, but sometimes upsets do occur. For the Papua New Guinea team, Singapore is a tough opponent in round 1, but there might be a chance of something. Australia probably has it easier with the US Virgin Islands there first up opponents, but Australia has not always 4-0 the first round (the other Virgin islands scored a first round point against Australia in 2004 iirc). In the Women's section Australia is playing Kenya, who I know very little about (as a chess team). Obviously  4-0 result would be the goal here, to get everyone off to a good start.
I also attended the captains meeting this morning, and there were a couple of important things to note. Despite 0 default time being removed from the Laws of Chess it will be in effect for the Olympiad. Also no draw agreements in under 30 moves is in effect. Captains are restricted in how they interact with players, and how they can deal with draw offers etc.
The place to catch all the action is and click on the Olympiad tab. Assuming the last minutes fixes I saw being applied don't bugger anything up, all games should be live.

Olympiad - disorganised and chaotic

At some of the previous Olympiads I have been to, weeks out from the event there were all sorts of predictions of calamity. This was most pronounced before the 2010 Olympiad, when it actually turned out to be one of the best Olympiads organised.
On the other hand the lead up to the Tromso Olympiad was more notable for spats between the organisers and FIDE, but the assumption was that the Olympiad itself would be fine.
Unfortunately it hasn't got off to a good start, at least where I am concerned. Despite being required to register months in advance, basic information concerning accommodation and accreditation was very slow in coming. I did not find out which hotel I was staying at until just before I left Australia, although this information did contain quite a hefty invoice. So imagine my surprise when I turned up to my designated hotel, to find they had never heard of me. A trip across to the registration centre found that although they may have heard of me, they could not find my accreditation (which I was charged for months ago), and that I had to speak to other people concerning the hotel. This next group of people were slightly more helpful in that told me I had been sent the wrong information, and that I was staying in a different hotel. Of course when I arrived at the new hotel, they had not heard of me either (which was by now not a surprise), but at least the receptionist was able to find me a room only slightly larger than me. (Oh, and the accommodation office forgot to return my passport).
To me what I am seeing (and I witnessed a number of other people with similar issues), is an event that has the potential to overwhelm the organisers, with a large volunteer staff who have not been given adequate information to do their jobs. They have been polite an well meaning, but have not been able to solve what I would regard as fundamental problems.
Of course my mood hasn't been helped by the somewhat casual attitude that Norwegian Air has to airline schedules, arriving in Oslo an hour late this morning, so that any hopes of making a connecting flight were torpedoed. Although even if they were on time, the somewhat slow pace of passport control and luggage delivery may have made this an inevitability. So I (and a few others) missed the opening ceremony, while I may spend the rest of the night trying to sort out a shed load of issues.

Friday 1 August 2014

3rd IM Norm for Anton Smirnov

Showing very promising form going into the Olympiad is young FM Anton Smirnov. Playing in the Politiken Cup (along with most of the Australian team), Smirnov finished with an impressive 7.5/10, and scored his third IM norm. In the last round he was paired with the current Danish champion GM Allan Rasmussen, and despite the pressure of needing a win, scored a nice tactical victory to leave him with a 10 game norm and a PR of 2462. Looking at the results it paradoxicly did not seem to be an easy norm, as Smirnov seemed either be playing strong GM's (including the tournament winner Bu Xiangzhi) or untitled 2100 players. Somtimes it can be difficult to shift gears when playing such a field, but Smirnov seemed to do it well (1.5/4 against the GM;s, 6/6 against the rest)
GM David Smerdon and IM Moulthun Ly also finished on 7.5/10, performing at about their current ratings. FM Junta Ikeda finished on 7 points, but played above his rating, with an IM norm performance, which of course is not needed at this stage, as he has already earned the title.