Thursday 31 December 2015

In my 50th year

Once the clock strikes midnight, I become eligible for a new category of competition. 2016 is the year I turn 50 and as a consequence I am able to play in Seniors competitions. Under the FIDE regulations there is no requirement for me to actually be 50, just to turn 50 in the year that the competition takes place. Whether I take up this opportunity in the near term has more to do with how busy I am, but it is nice to have more competitions available to play in, especially international ones.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Fantastic Computer Chess resources

If you are a programmer looking for literature on computer chess, then the Springer publishing company have just released a small treasurer trove for you. It seems that they have decided to drop the price of their electronic publications to $0.00 for titles published over 10 years ago.
Doing a quick search for chess I found a number of important Computer Chess titles including "Chess Skill in Man and Machine" and the "Computer Chess Compendium" and some newer titles (for me at least) like "Scalable Search in Computer Chess". Apart from the chess titles, there are publications that cover a lot of areas, and after I am done with chess, I will probably dive into the Number Theory section.
To find the books go to and search for Chess (or any other topic of interest). Books that you still have to pay for have a little padlock symbol on them but otherwise you can juts click on the download link and get them for free
(Thanks to Arjang Assadi for alerting me to this)

If you have lots of boards

As an intellectual exercise, I find chess variants interesting. Some work, some don't, but it is still interesting to see what can be done with 32 pieces and 64 squares. Or more.
As a practical exercise I am less of a fan though. Probably because I find standard chess hard enough, and often think that variants are just a way of making the game easier (cf a recent post of mine). The variants I really don't like are the ones where multiple sets get used and at the end of the session the sets are totally mixed up.
This of course can be dealt with by playing online or on a PC/tablet. While hunting around Steam to see what was on offer, I came across a game that might work on computer, but I would outright ban at my chess club. Regimental Chess involves multiple sets and multiple boards. It even involves multiple players in some versions, but 1v1 is the default case. It looks like normal chess (from what I have seen) except that groups of pieces can be moved in formation, and capture multiple pieces. Kings can be captured, and doing so knocks out that entire army.
It looks like a fun game (and too be honest might work as a party game irl), but is probably best experienced on a PC. The complexity of managing formations may be the hardest thing about it, but on the other hand, may also destroy the balance.

Monday 28 December 2015

Hastings 2015-2016

There are more than a few big events starting post-Christmas, including the Australian Championships, New Zealand Open, and of course the Hastings International. While not quite as grand as its glory days (no GM RR anymore), Hastings is still a significant and historic event. This years 81 player Masters has attracted 13 GM's and 10 IM's, so players looking for titles are in with a decent chance (assuming they play well).
The tournament begins this evening (Canberra time) and details can be found at the tournament website. Along with results etc, the top boards are also being broadcast via the Live Games link.

To get to 2000 you have to play 2000's

GM Ian Rogers gives the advice to players trying to reach a rating of 2000. "Try and play as many 2000+ rated players as possible". This advice could of course be extended to any level, including players aiming to become 2600.
IM Moulthun Ly is certainly making the most of his experience at the 2015 Qatar Masters, having played 3 2600+ players in the first 7 rounds. After losing to the first 2, he played a lovely attack against GM Daniil Dubov (2655) to win his round 7 game. This moves him to 4/7 overall, and gets him another strong opponent (GM Denis Khismatullin 2654) in round 8.

Ly,Moulthun (2462) - Dubov,Daniil (2655) [B69]
Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (7.29), 27.12.2015

Sunday 27 December 2015

What would make chess easier? (And would it ruin the game?)

I have been spending my Xmas break watching far too much television. On one of the shows, "8 out of 10 cats", there was a survey statistic quoted about what would make chess more enjoyable. Apparently 68% of the respondents replied "If it was easier".
I'm not sure about the source and accuracy of this response (as it is a comedy panel show), just as I'm not sure exactly what would make chess easier. Do the respondents mean that they find it easier to play better, or do they mean that the rules should be changed to make it easier.
If it is the first case the obvious solution is to simply let everyone use computers. But I'm sure this would make the game less enjoyable, as we would would be reduced to typists, transferring moves from board to screen and back.
If it is about changing the rules of the game, then I can't think what might help. Reduce the size of the board is a possibility (6x6 dropping a knight and bishop). The risk though is that a change like this increase the number of drawn games. The same outcome might occur of we under power (or over power) the pieces (eg pieces can move a max of 4 squares).
Indeed the more I think of this the more I wonder if what the respondents really meant is for chess to be easier for them, but for no one else. If so, the best solution I can think of is good old fashioned hard work!

Friday 25 December 2015

Beast Mode

After his slow star in the 2015 Qatar Masters, Magnus Carlsen has gone full 'beast mode' and now leads the event after 5 rounds. After playing a few opponents who could be described as 'unfamiliar' he came up against his first 2700+ player in round 5, in the shape of Li Chao (a former Doeberl Cup winner btw). As there was only an 84 rating point difference between the two players, it might have been plausible for Chao to draw the game, or even cause an upset. However Carlsen seemed quite determined to not let that happen, and basically tore him apart on the kingside. As with games that involve opposite side castling, pawns and pieces tend to rush up the board, but Carlsen's attack carried a lot more force.  He was clearly better by move 20, and totally winning a few moves later.
The win moved him into a half point lead over a group of 8 players. Tonight there is no play, but in tomorrows round he will be up against Wesley So.

Carlsen,Magnus (2834) - Li,Chao b (2750) [D70]
Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (5.1), 24.12.2015

Thursday 24 December 2015

Nigalidze banned for 3 years, loses GM Title

Gaioz Nigalidze, famously caught using a mobile phone to assist his play in the 2015 Dubai Open has been banned from all FIDE controlled chess for 3 years, and has been stripped of his GM title. The decision by the FIDE Ethics Commission is the first case heard under the new FIDE Anti-Cheating Regulations, that were adopted late last year.
As a first (proven) offence the 3 year penalty is the maximum under the guidelines, although the loss of title is probably a little bit more surprising to anyone unfamiliar with the new regulations. It is included in the list of punishments, although Nigalidze was a little lucky that the Ethics Commission felt he co-operated with the investigation, as he has kept his IM title (which could have been stripped as well).
As the first major case, this will of course provoke a degree of discussion on the appropriateness or effectiveness of the punishment. I suspect for top level players the loss of title is likely to be the greater deterrent, along with the ensuing bad publicity. For lower ranked players (those without titles), it is the length of suspension that will obviously hurt.
The FIDE website has the story here, including a link to the EC judgement.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

It is tough at the top

After 3 rounds of the 2015 Qatar Masters, only 2 players are left on a perfect score. Anish Giri and Li Chao have won all their games, and play in tonight's 4th round. As for the other players in the field, points and half points have been dropped in various ways.
The first round saw two interesting results on the top boards. World Champion Magnus Carlsen drew with WGM Nino Batsiashvili in a game where Batsiashvili made Carlsen work hard for the draw. Wei Yi had a nightmare finish to his game against IM Shardul Gagare, resigning in a position where he could have still played on. Round 2 saw Vladimir Kramnik draw with GM Kacper Piorun on board 1, while round 3 saw a number of draws, including GM David Howell halving the point with Wesley So.
Of the top players, Anish Giri looks in good form (continuing his run from the London Chess Classic) and beat Radoslaw Wojtaszek in a game that had a nice finish. Normally the ending sees rooks at their strongest, but with the very clever 60.Bd7, Giri reduced the mobility of his opponents rook almost to zero, and forced an immediate resignation.

Giri,Anish (2784) - Wojtaszek,Radoslaw (2723) [B91]
Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (3.1), 22.12.2015

Monday 21 December 2015

Izzat wins Australasian Masters

IM Kanan Izzat waited until the final round before overtaking IM Max Illingworth to win the 2015 Australasian Masters. Benefitting from the slightly easier run home, Izzat defeated FM Luke Li in Round 8 to secure a GM norm, before finishing with a quick last round draw with IM James Morris. Illingworth drew his round 8 game against Vasily Papin to reach 7/8, but a final round loss to top seed Arturs Neiksans allowed Izzat to win the tournament with 7.5. Neiksans finished in3rd place on 6.5, with Morris in 4th on 5.5.
In the IM event, IM Igor Bjelobrk destroyed the field, scoring 8.5/9, finishing 3 points ahead of FM Chris Wallis and FM Eugene Schon who tied for 2nd on 5.5.
Full results and tournament bulletins can be found at the tournament website.

2015 Qatar Masters

The strongest Swiss of the year (and maybe even ever) has just started in Qatar. The 2015 Qatar Masters has World Champion Magnus Carlsen as top seed, with Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin filling the next 4 slots. The bottom half of the 132 player field starts at 2500, and includes IM Moulthun Ly from Australia, who is seeded 83rd.
Play begins at 11pm Canberra time, and live coverage is available via Ly has drawn Ruslan Ponomariov as his round 1 opponent, on Board 17. The tournament runs from today until the 29th of December, with the 25th being a rest day.

Sunday 20 December 2015

IM Junta Ikeda wins 2015 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship

The 2015 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship attracted a record field of 42 players, with IM Junta Ikeda once again emerging victorious. This is his 5 victory  in the last 7 years, winning from 2009-2012 plus this year (he did not play in 2013-14).
Despite the 36 degree heat the field was both sizeable and strong. Apart from Ikeda, Michael Kethro and Roger Farrell were rated over 2100, while a number of rapid chess veterans filled out the top half of the tournament. However Ikeda was unstoppable, scoring 7/7 in a dominant display. This left a very tight battle for second place, which was decided in the final game of the tournament, with Matthew Bennett and Willis Lo drawing their game and finishing on 5.5/7. A number of strong players finished on 5, which was only good enough for rating prizes. Probably the best performer based on rating was WFM Megan Setiabudi, who started with 4/4 and finished on 5/7. Surprisingly for an event like this, the various rating prizes were evenly split between juniors and adults, rather than going exclusively to the younger players.
Due to the generous sponsorship of King O'Malley's and Chicken Gourmet, the total prize pool was $500.  Apart from open prizes there were 4 other rating groups, and each section was hard fought. The large field reflected what has been a good year for ACT Chess, beginning with a record turn out for the 2015 Australian Junior Championship, successful events like the O2C Doeberl Cup, the ANU Open and the Vikings Weekender, plus well attended ACTCA activities.
The first official ACTCA event in the new year will be the ACT Lightning Championship which will be held mid January.

Friday 18 December 2015

Illingworth scores final GM norm

IM Max Illingworth has scored his 3rd Grandmaster norm, after beating IM James Morris in the 7th round of the 2015 Australasian Masters. The win by Illingworth moves him to 6.5/7 and he currently has a TPR of over 2800. With Illingworth playing GM's Papin and Neiksans in the last two rounds interest now turns to see if he can hang on to first place.
His closest rival is another GM aspirant, IM Kanan Izzat. Izzat also won today and only needs 0.5/2 to secure a GM norm. He also has a slightly easier run to the finish, facing IM's Dale and Morris in the final two rounds.
In the IM tournament that is running alongside the Masters, IM Igor Bjelobrk is dominating the event, starting with 7 straight wins. He holds a 2 point lead over FM Chris Wallis, and with 2 rounds to play, looks like a certainty to win this event.

Morris,James (2407) - Illingworth,Max (2499) [D38]
2015 Australasian Masters GM Norm Event Melbourne Chess Club (7.2), 18.12.2015

Thursday 17 December 2015

2015 ACTCA Rapidplay

The last official ACT Chess Association event, the 2015 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship is on this Saturday in Canberra City. It is being hosted by Street Chess and is a 7 round G15m Open swiss. Over the years this event has proved popular, with a number of strong ACT players playing in this traditional pre-Christmas event.

Details are:

Event: ACTCA Rapidplay Championship
Time & Date: 11am Saturday 19th December 2015 (registrations from 10:45 am)
Venue: City Walk, Canberra City (outside King O'Malley's)
Entry Fee: $10 Adults, $5 Under 18 years
Prizes: At least $350 in total prizes with first prize usually $120+
Format: 7 round swiss
Time limit: G15m
Arbiter: IA Shaun Press

The Force Awakens

Missed last nights post as I was off to a midnight screening of the new Star Wars movie. Quite enjoyable, although it was bit of a homage to the original. Of interest to chess nerds, there was a brief appearance of the holographic chess game on the Millennium Falcon, although it was all over in 10 seconds.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Lost on move 6!

Another salutary lesson about the perils of non-engine Correspondence Chess.
As one of my reasons for playing CC is to work on my openings, I am using the Leningrad Dutch against 1.d4 in a number of games. Clearly my opponent was up for some fun, as on move 4 he threw his h pawn up the board. Now this is certainly dangerous for Black, but most of my references seemed to indicate that it isn't impossible to meet (otherwise huge chunks of the Dutch would be out of commission). I also checked the line in HugeBase and found there was one line that looked good for Black.
So on move 6 I played the recommended e6, which had been used by Movsziszian among others, and seemed to be OK for Black. In fact I only lasted another 8 moves, as the roof fell in after 12.Be7+ and 13.O-O-O
After I resigned the game I fired up Stockfish, only to discover that 6. ... e6 was in fact a blunder and White is winning from this point onwards. While I thought I was OK up until move 11 (Be7+ was the first new move in the database), my opponent saw a lot further than me.
Of course one take away from this game is that this might be a useful variation to try if you have the White pieces against the Leningrad Dutch, as the trap takes a little while to spring, and there may be plenty of Black players waiting to fall into it.

Gibbons,Andrew - Press,Shaun [A85]
Aus v Wales, 13.10.2015

Monday 14 December 2015

We must have a winner

Tie-break systems are fraught with difficulties, and there is often no good way to separate players who finish on the same scores. The latest example of this is the finish to the London Chess Classic, where tie-breaks were used to determine both the playoff seedings, and the final standings to the Grand Chess Tour.
In the final round Magnus Carlsen beat Alexander Grischuk, after Grischuk missed a strong exchange sacrifice and then found a terrible rook sacrifice a few moves later. With the other 4 games drawn, Carlsen caught up to Giri and Vachier-Lagrave, to share first place on 5.5/9. The win for Carlsen was doubly fortuitous as Grishuk had scored more points than the players beaten by Giri and MVL, and so Carlsen finished on top with a better SB score (the first two tie-breaks being equal).
As the regulations required a playoff, Carlsen also got to watch MVL and Giri battle it out, before playing the winner. Vachier-Lagrave beat Giri 2-1 but then lost to Carlsen 1.5-0.5.
Now here's where it gets weird. The Grand Chess Tour regulations also award the finishing points based on tie-break as well, so Carlsen scored the maximum points (12) and won the overall event. Having beaten Giri in the playoff it might be assumed that Vachier-Lagrave would have finished 2nd, but the playoff was only for the London prizes (not placings!) and so Giri score 10 points and Vachier-Lagrave 8. This relegated MVL to 4th place in the overall standings (instead of =2nd if he swapped points with Giri), and also means he doesn't qualify for next years series (only the top 3 automatically re-qualify, with the next 6 places being based on rating).
If on the other hand the finishing places had simply been shared for players who finished on the same scores in each event (which is especially sensible in a RR), then the standings would have been both different, and probably fairer.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Moving the same piece 6 times in the opening

I'm not convinced chess is entirely fair. Sure both sides start with the same pieces, and play by the same rules, but all to often, my logical, sensible play gets refuted by seemingly random and bizarre moves by my stronger opponent.
So I was gladdened to see that Aronian Topalov game from round 7 of the London Chess Classic. Topalov played a strange (but by no means unknown) line of the Symmetrical English, where his knight moves 6 times before move 10. The logic behind this is the disrupt the White king, forcing it to move a couple of times, and preventing White from castling. Of course if I was showing this to a class of juniors I'd be waving my hands around at this point saying "and White wins", when of course this isn't quite true. White had a slight advantage, but it still took some energetic play from Aronian (and a pawn sacrifice) to convert. If you had to point the finger at any one move, then 20 ... Rd8 is the real culprit, allowing White to win the pawn on g5 and establish his queen on a strong square. After that it was all pretty straightforward for Aronian, and Topalov resigned  just before his position was about to get wrecked by an exchange sac on c6.

Aronian,Levon - Topalov,Veselin [A34]
London Chess Classic Olympia, London (7.5), 11.12.2015

Saturday 12 December 2015

2015 Australasian Masters begins with a bang

The 2015 Australasian Masters began today and the first round provided enough action to keep all the spectators happy. Four of the 5 games produced a winner, and there were a number of upsets as well.
The stand out game of the first round was IM James Morris win over GM Vasily Papin. Morris's exchange sacrifice on move 13 might not have been completely sound, but Papin missed the strongest defence and Morris was able to sacrifice more material to expose Papin's king and leave him facing mate in 1 by move 28.
IM Max Illingworth beat GM Daryl Johansen in the longest game of the round, where Johansen's knight could not hold back Illingworth's pawns. FM Luke Li defended well to draw with GM Arturs Neiksans, and IM Bobby Cheng sacrificed two exchanges to force a pawn promotion against IM Ari Dale. IM Kanan Izzat also started with a win, beating IM Anton Smirnov, in a game we held an edge for quite a long period.
Coverage of the event is at and contains links to live broadcasts of the games.

Morris,James - Papin,Vasily [B30]
2015 Australasian Masters, 12.12.2015

Partner Up

The annual ACT Junior Chess League Transfer Championship is on this Sunday (13 December) starting at 12:30pm. Although organised by the ACTJCL it is in fact open to players of all ages. You can either form a team prior to registration, or just turn up on the day and find a partner there and then. Cost is $20 per team ($10 for individuals) and there are trophies on offer for successful teams (plus rating categories) as well as such novelty categories as best adult team, oldest team, best sibling team, and anything that springs to mind.
Standard Transfer (Bughouse) rules apply, although there will be some leeway for players and teams who are new to this chaos.
The event is at Campbell High School (next to the War Memorial) and registration is from Noon. At the completion of the event there will be both prize giving, and free pizza for everyone who takes part.

Friday 11 December 2015

Risk free play?

Someone at my chess club asked me who was winning the current London Chess Classic after round 5. "Whoever has played Topalov" was my flippant reply. To this answer I can probably add Anand's name, as between them they have been involved in all the decisive games so far.
The current win rate of 16% (5 from 30) is extremely low and already discussions about why this is so have started. Probably the most popular theory is that all the players are so close together in strength that risk-free play is the optimal strategy. Of course the downside of this is that if neither player takes a risk, then a draw is the likely outcome.
This theory seems to be supported by what happened in the Grischuk - Anand game today. If you look at the position after move 22 you might think that Anand was on top. However there is a difference between dynamic features and static features, and after the exchanges on f3, it is the Black c pawn that is the real target in the position. White's bishop is out of play on h1, but this is only a short term disadvantage, and after a further 20 moves, White repairs his position, and then converts the ending.
So Anand may have tried to mix things up with his kingside play, but this came to naught, as Grischuk was able to weaken the c pawn as far back as move 12, before defending for as long as necessary. 

Grischuk,Alexander - Anand,Viswanathan [A20]
London Chess Classic Olympia, London (6.1), 10.12.2015

Wednesday 9 December 2015

2016 Doeberl Cup - Registrations Open

Registrations for the 2016 Doeberl Cup are now open. With Easter being very early next year (24-28 March) there isn't as much time to get organised as usual. So rather than leaving it to the last minute and missing out on accommodation etc, better to register now and put those worries behind you.
Once again the tournament will be held at University House on the grounds of the Australian National University and there is accommodation on site. This proved very popular this year, so booking early is recommended.
Once again the prize pool is over $20,000 with $4000 on offer as first prize in the Premier. Early entries include GM's Ganguly and Johansen, but expect a few big names to be announced over the coming months.
All the tournament details can be found at  There you can enter the tournament, check out who else as entered, try for free entry by entering the T-Shirt competition, or subscribe to the tournament newsletter.

(Disclaimer: I will be a paid official for this event)

Aussies abroad

One of the great things about the London Chess Classic is that the organisers put on a large number of subsidiary events that caters for almost every level of chess player. There is a FIDE Open Swiss, which would normally be a headline event on its own, given the field of 247 players contains 28 GM's and 34 IM's. There was a successful Weekend Swiss event as well, run over a number of grading sections. The weekday swiss has also attracted a sizeable field, while the Rapidplay event at the end will probably have a couple of hundred players taking part.
In amongst these events are a number of Australian players. In the Open, Pengyu Chen is on 3/5, with Yi Liu on 2.5 and Emma Guo on 2. Chris Skulte and Derek Roebuck took part in the Weekend Under 2000 event, with Skulte finishing on 3/5. And finally Stephen Jago is playing in the Weekday Under 2000 event, which began last night.

Monday 7 December 2015

Kirsan steps (slightly) aside

After a week of silence over the US Treasury sanctions concerning FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the FIDE website finally makes mention of it. The short of it, is that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has withdrawn from any "legal, financial and business operations of FIDE" and has authorised Georgios Makropoulos (FIDE Deputy President) to carry out the functions of President.
In the statement FIDE say that Ilyumzhinov will stand down until his name is removed from the sanction list,   which I suspect will be a lot longer than he imagines it will be.
In terms of how this effects FIDE itself (or more importantly, FIDE governance), probably not at all. Makropoulos pretty much runs FIDE on a day to day basis anyway, with Kirsan mainly being responsible for "blue sky" ideas and securing funding for FIDE events in the old Soviet Bloc.  As the actual sanctions simply prevent US citizens from having any financial dealing with Ilyumzhinov, this is less of an earth shattering change, and more of a move to allow FIDE to legally do business with the US.
Where this might end up being a more permanent change is in the context of the Russia - Turkey dispute over who is buying and selling ISIS oil. Turkey has made mention of the involvement Russian "chess champions" in their claims about Russia, although it is assumed that they are referring to Ilyumzhinov. It may well have been politically convenient for Kirsan to assist the Syrian government at some point in the past viz-a-viz oil supplies, but it may now turn out to be an embarrassment to the Russian government, and if it is, they may try and argue they had no knowledge themselves, and cut him loose.

(** Full disclaimer: I have worked on a number of FIDE commissions in the past, and know a number of members of the FIDE Presidential Board and Executive. However this working relationship ended in August 2014 after the FIDE Elections, as a consequence of me refusing to commit the PNG Chess Federations vote to Ilyumzhinov. I was asked to do this by a senior FIDE official in March 2014 and when I informed him that it was a decision for the entire PNGCF board, he said to me "If the PNGCF does not vote for Kirsan, then it will not be good for you". Despite being re-nominated for the commissions I was previously on, I was not appointed to any of them **)

Sunday 6 December 2015

Know when to hold them

Despite the recurring hoo hah about draws in chess, there is a certain appeal to games that end in "exciting" draws. By "exciting" I mean positions where won side is materially losing or facing imminent death, except for that one drawing resource they have.
Of course for the experienced professional a draw is a draw, no matter how its achieved, and what may be flashy to the spectators is simply a means to an end for the players.
Round 2 of the London Chess Classic saw all the games drawn, but at least in the Carlsen v Caruana game, the rather dry play out of the opening was somewhat redeemed by the last few moves.

Carlsen,Magnus - Caruana,Fabiano [C67]
London Chess Classic Olympia, London (2.4), 05.12.2015

Saturday 5 December 2015

When does the ending start?

While the start point of openings is pretty straightforward (Move 1!) and the middlegame starts when your memorisation of opening theory runs out, the start point of an ending can be a little trickier. When I was writing chess engines (which evaluate positions differently in the ending), I had an arbitrary rule that the ending started when there was less than a Q+R in material (excluding pawns) for each side. The other possible definitions include "when pawn promotion becomes a goal" or "when the king can move about without the risk of getting checkmated".
It is the last definition that I use most often when coaching. Of course it does depend upon on recognising all the threats in the position, and there are plenty of endings that have ended in checkmate.
A kind of counter-example (in a different sense) turned up from last nights first round of the London Chess Classic (the reason why this post is late btw). The Grischuk - Nakamura game started off with a Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez (which is an opening known for a quick transition to an ending). On move 18 Grischuk decided that the king could be used as a fighting piece and moved it up the board. This was a brave decision as there were still plenty of pieces on the board (2R+3 minors each), and it was no surprise that found itself surrounded 10 moves later. However Grischuk had just enough the avoid getting mated and in the end Nakamrua had a repetition but no more.

Grischuk,Alexander - Nakamura,Hikaru [C67]
London Chess Classic Olympia, London (1.5), 04.12.2015

Thursday 3 December 2015

Poor AN Other

Flipping through some of my old games I came across a game I seemingly played against a very famous, and very prolific opponent. The opponent in question was AN Other, the hero of many a spectacular loss, often at the hands of some of chess's greatest players. And in the game we played he certainly lived up to his reputation, allowing me to sacrifice a piece for a a winning attack.
At first I wasn't sure why I Mr Other deigned to play me, but digging a little further I realised that it was played outdoors in Garema Place Canberra, and he just happened to be wandering by the giant chess board. The other interesting facts about this game was that it was played on my birthday, and it was in fact one of two games he lost to me (The other is noted here)

Press,Shaun - Other,A.N. [C33]
Casual, 09.10.2009

London Chess Classic

The 2015 London Chess Classic is already up and running as I type this, although the main event (the 10 player RR) does not begin until Friday. Today is the 2nd day of the British Knockout Championship, with David Howell up against Gawain Jones and Nicholas Pert playing Luke McShane. There is also a 9 round FIDE Rated Open, as well as  rapidplay's, simuls and other events.
Also of interest is the Chess and Education Conference which is being held on the 5th & 6th of December. John Adams (from Australia) is presenting a paper at this conference, looking at the direct economic benefits that chess can bring to a country.
The home page for the tournament is and from there you can find all the tournament goodies.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Some big improvement

The release of the 2015 December Australian Ratings threw up a somewhat remarkable occurrence. On the list of most improved players there were 8 players (out of 30), all from the one club. The Belconnen Chess Club recently became a bit of a mecca for improving juniors, and this is now being shown on the rating list.
To be absolutely honest,  in a lot of cases the players who joined the club were already on the improve, and would have jumped up the list anyway. But there are also some players (with higher ratings) who's improvement has been helped by the step up in competition. Of course the trade off for the club is that some existing members ratings have taken a bit of a hit, although this hasn't been too drastic (due to the use of the Glicko 2 System in Australia).
So congratulations to the young Belconnen members for their improvement, and it will be interesting to see how far this improvement extends.

Monday 30 November 2015

Accelerated pairings - what do we want?

The FIDE Swiss Pairings Commission is having another stab at  defining a good method of accelerated swiss pairings, although it has already run into some predictable problems. The first is one of defining what a 'good' system is while the second is find a method.
For most people a 'good' system is one that minimises 'junk' rounds, although how this is measured can be tricky. Reducing the average difference of ratings in the early rounds seems to be a good measure, although this may cause unintended side effects. Another measure might be getting approximately the same standings in a N-2 round event as you would in an N round event. And coming at it from a slightly different direction, increasing the number of norms in the event might also be a goal.
As for the method a number of different systems are being trialled. The somewhat discredited bonus point system is being looked at, although the issue of 'bad' pairings when the acceleration stops is already apparent. Graduated bonus points systems (eg 1 bonus for the top half for 2 rounds, dropping to 0.5 for the next 2) are also being trialled, although the results aren't conclusive. Slightly more complicated systems are also being investigated, but for know it is still a work in progress.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Comparative chess interviews

The Telegraph newspaper has done a large piece on Magnus Carlsen. It is both a profile and interview, and has already attracted some comment, mainly due to his comments on past World Champions (he could beat Tal 'easily'), and the quality of his current rivals.
Of course he isn't the first chess player to attract attention for such claims, with a young Bobby Fischer making similar claims in his infamous 1962 interview with Ralph Ginzburg. Of course Carlsen is more measured (and polite) in his comments, but is still an interesting exercise to read both interviews side by side. While both interviews show the level of confidence needed to reach the top in international chess, I am sure that Carlsen's interview won't have the same end result as Fischer's interview, which was Fischer refusing to do interviews ever again.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Frankenstein-Dracula Part II

While writing yesterdays blog post about losing on the white side of the Frankenstein-Dracula, I remembered an interesting game I had previously played on the black side of the same opening. It was from the 2006 Chess Olympiad, and was played as part of the PNG v Bermuda match. We lost the match 2.5-1.5, but if I had taken my chances (instead of a repetition), then 2-2 would have been the result on the day.

Faulks,Nick (2104) - Press,Shaun (2098) [C27]
Turin ol (Men) 37th Turin (7), 28.05.2006

Thursday 26 November 2015

Some good old fashioned patricide

Competitive games between myself and my son tend to follow the same script these days. I look for the sharpest opening possible, try and hack him off the board, he defends until I make a mistake, and then he moves in for the kill. On rare occasions he either slips up in defence, or I manage to find the right attacking moves, but this is increasingly rare.
The latest example came from a rapidplay game played earlier this week. The Frankenstein-Dracula variation of the Vienna, gives White material at the expense of development. To be honest I think Black has better chances, although in this case once I castled I was more than OK. However I overplayed my hand with a discovered check, and when there was no good followup, Ra1+ just destroyed me.

Press,Shaun - Press,Harry [C27]
ANU Summer Rapid, 25.11.2015

Wellity, weillity, wellity

Earlier this year there was talk the the next World Championship Candidates tournament might be held in the United States. It was an attractive proposition, with two US players in the field (Caruana and Nakamura), and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov even going so far as announcing it would be in the US (at the closing ceremony of the 2014 World Championship).
However, when it came to finalising the details, the US option disappeared, and the tournament will now be held in Moscow. At the time of the announcement it might have been safe to assume that the US option was just posturing and was never a serious contender, but it may now be for another, far more serious reason.
The US Treasury has announced sanction on a number of individuals, for "providing support to the Government of Syria, including facilitating Syrian Government oil purchases from ISIL". One of the individuals on the list is FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  While these dealings are (I assume) in his private capacity as a businessman, the press release does highlight his role as President of FIDE, and also the murder of Larisa Yudina in  1998.
Given the serious nature of these charges, it is of course unthinkable that Ilyumzhinov would have been allowed to travel to the US, and that the source of any funding for the event would have come under very close scrutiny.
I assume at some point FIDE will release a statement on this matter, although for now there is nothing on its official website.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Russia win ETCC Open

Russia has won both the Open and Womens Sections of the European Teams Championship. For a long time this sort of news would be in the same category as "sun rises in east" and "water is wet". However in recent times the Open team has struggled to match its individual talents, with wins in World Teams (2005, 2009, 2013) being the main exception.
The last time Russia won this event was 2007, and the drought is even longer for the Chess Olympiad (2002). There have been a few theories put about why this is so, but the two I lean towards are (a) the pressure of expectation and (b) they still haven't quite mastered the team oriented approach (+1=3 match results).
On the other hand the Womens Team has bee far more successful. They have won all the events since 2007, with the exception of 2013, and have won the last 3 Olympiads as well. In this case the I suspect the gap in talent between Russia and other teams is a little greater than in the Open section, so individual ability counts for more.
As for the other teams, Armenia finished second on tie-break, ahead of Hungary and France. England seemed happy with their top 10 finish (despite being 5th seed), while Norway had the services of Magnus Carlsen on top board, although the mid table finish, and his own score of 50% showed that it is not only teams that have trouble in this format.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

English chess under the spotlight

The article "Grandmaster crash: The inside story of how English chess pawned its future"  has caused a bit of a stir in English chess circles. Coming soon after a somewhat bizarre AGM (mentioned in the article), it highlights the effect that problems with the English Chess Federation have on English chess itself.
Written by Stephen Moss from the Guardian (who is an active player as well), it has already attracted a bit of blowback in the English Chess Forum, as well as some choice comments below the story itself.
I might be tempted to draw parallels with the Australian chess scene, but in all honesty I would struggle to. The governance systems are different (although Nigel Short's comments on small organisations ring true), but the major reason is that Australia never fell from any great heights in the first place. The ACF has always been a "limited government" style organisation, so the list of things it has failed to do well is actually quite small.
I suspect this will probably blow over in a week or two, and it will be business as usual. Those involved will point out that their small bit of English chess is running well, extrapolate that to "what needs to be improved" and potentially miss the broader picture.

Monday 23 November 2015

Bashing openings you like

I always have mixed feelings when I come up against opening system I have a fondness for. While it doesn't happen that often (due to my somewhat narrow opening repertoire) I have been on both sides of the Blackmar, the Marshall Gambit, and the Frankenstein-Dracula over the years.
Back in 2003 I must have been on a bit of a 1.d4 d5 bender, as I had a couple of games against the BDM with the Black pieces (not sure where I had stashed my Griuenfeld). One of the games was against many times ACT Champion Milan Grcic, and was essentially decided by one move. On move 13 Gricic chose to attack my Knight and threaten my f pawn with Qf3, but I realised that I could let f7 fall with check as he did not have a decent follow up. I on the other hand had lots of good moves after capturing on d4, and his position fell apart after I played Qxe5 and then Nf3+. A sad defeat for the BDM (which is my main weapon against 1.e4 d5) but an enjoyable win for me.

Grcic,Milan - Press,Shaun [D00]
Ginninderra Cup CCLA (10), 11.04.2003

Saturday 21 November 2015

Someone who did not mess up his attacks

Having lamented my inability to spot the necessary and spectacular yesterday, today I came across a game by a player who did no miss much when attacking. Alexander Alekhine is rightly regarded as one of the greatest attacking players in history, and has a number of brilliant wins to his name.
The following game is quite famous, and Alekhine considered it one of his best games. The key move is 26. ... Re3 which at the time he thought won in all variations. It turns it it doesn't quite (27. Bf3! gives Black no more than a very complicated draw), what after Reti played 27.Nf3 Alekhine does not miss a trick.

Reti,Richard - Alekhine,Alexander [A00]
Baden-Baden Baden-Baden, 25.04.1925

Friday 20 November 2015

The hack that never was

Play through the game below, up until move 19 (which is where I've stopped the game). Up until this point most of White's moves have been either natural or thematic, although the sacrifice on b5 (and the counter sac on f2) are not the most accurate. Now White would love to sac the queen on h7 but obviously at this stage it does not work. On top of that the rook on d1 is under attack, leaving White with a bit of a choice. But it is exactly the fact that the rook is threatened that should provide White with a clue about what to do. Can you find the crusher for White here?
(NB This position comes from a recent game of mine and I missed the best move. I limped in with 20.b3 and after my attack ran out of grunt eventually won an ending with k+2p v k+p!)

Press, Shaun - Cunningham, Cam
ANU Summer Rapid, 19.11.2015

Thursday 19 November 2015

Gluing it together

A few months ago I posted about an online replay system for DGT broadcasts. At the time it  was still in development, although it has now reached a stage where it is at least useful. Somewhat further back I also posted about javascript chess engines, although at the time I hadn't really found any.
Over the last few days I have been gluing both of these ideas together, to provide a game replay system with online analysis.
An example of the current state of the project can be found at Currently it is using the Garbochess engine which you can start and stop by clicking on the 'Click for analysis' tag. As it runs in the browser, speed often depends on the desktop machine it is running on, but searches 12 or 13 ply fairly quickly on my machine. However, I have come across a couple of javascript versions of Stockfish, which run significantly faster. Over the next day or two I will test integrating stockfish into the system, and if it goes well, will update the pages.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

A less successful king walk

One of Nigel Shorts most celebrated game his his famous win against Jan Timman, where he marched his king up the board to assist in a mating attack. However, for every successful king walk, there are probably 100 times as many king 'drags' where the unwilling monarch is forced to walk the plank.
An example of such a situation occurred yesterday in the European Teams Championship, and Short was on the wrong end of the score line. Playing Hrant Melkumyan from Armenia, Short had his king forced up the board, starting on g2 on move 39 and reaching f8 by move 48. After that it was not long for this world, getting checkmated on e6, and move 50.

Short,Nigel D (2686) - Melkumyan,Hrant (2632) [A10]
European Team Chess Championship 2015 - Reykjavik (4.3), 16.11.2015

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Sliding towards retirement

Chess is one thing you don't retire from due to age (well, not normally). You might choose to give the game away for other reasons, but just being old is not a barrier to continuing to play. Evidence of this is in the World Seniors Championship currently underway in Italy. The tournament is running in 4 sections and interestingly the 65+ section has attracted more entrants (185) than the Over 50 section (100). The Over 50 events is a little stronger in terms of GM's (10 v 7) but both events show that there is a capacity for seniors chess. The Women's section are substantially smaller (27 for both events) but the odd statistic from these events is that there are more titled players than untitled players in both tournaments.
There is the odd Australian and New Zealand player in these events, and you can check out the results here if your wish (the link is the the 50+ Open, but the other tournaments can be found there as well). As someone who reaches 50 years old next year, I suddenly become eligible to play from Jan 1 and depending on work/finances etc I may add the PNG flag to those hanging over the tournament hall.

Sunday 15 November 2015

2015 Vikings Weekender - Ly and Smirnov tie for first

The 2015 Vikings Weekender has finished in a tie for first place between IM Moulthun Ly and IM Anton Smirnov. Starting the second day on 3.5/4 (along with Michael Kethro), Ly drew with IM Junta Ikeda, while Smirnov could only halve the point with Kethro. Ly then defeated Kethro in Round 6, while Smirnov beat young Canberra player Albert Winkelman.  Final round wins over Litchfield (by Smirnov) and Jason Hu (by Ly) left them tied on 6/7 and earning $725 each. IM Junta Ikeda finished outright third on 5.5, while Albert Winkelman finished his excellent tournament with a win to be the best Under 1800 player on 4.5.
The Under 1600 event saw a 4 way tie for first place when draws on the tops boards in the final round saw Thomas Johnston, Jamie-Lee Guo, Tim Pearce and Bazli Karattiyattil all end up on 5.5/7. One other meritorious result in this event was that of local club legend Karl Galli who finished on 4/7, winning the Under 1200 prize.
While numbers were slightly down from last year (52 v 60) the tournament once again proved enjoyable for those that took part. Certainly the tough schedule of 7 games across two days (at 60m+10s) left a number of players looking frazzled by the end, although surprisingly this included some of the younger players as well.
The event was sponsored by the Tuggernanong Vikings Sports Club (Open plus junior prizes) and O2C (Under 1600). The tournament was jointly organised by the ACT Chess Association and the Tuggeranong Chess Club. The tournament will once again be held next year, although it might be slightly later in November, to avoid a clash with end of year school and university exams.
Full results plus DGT games can be found at

Ikeda,Junta - Smirnov,Anton [A01]
2015 Vikings Weekender Tuggeranong ACT (3.1), 14.11.2015

Saturday 14 November 2015

2015 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2015 Vikings Weekender started with a field of 52 players, down 8 players from last year. Worryingly the drop occurred mainly in the Open section, where despite a prize pool of nearly $2000, only 16 players entered. One theory is that players rated between 1600 and 1800 are staying away because it is too tough, but if this is true, then it isn't a good outcome for Canberra, or even Australian chess.
The small field in the Open means the event is much more cut throat. With very few easy games each point has to be fought over, and a number of players are already looking nervously at the field to come.
After 4 rounds IM Anton Smirnov, IM Moulthun Ly and Michael Kethro share the lead on 3.5/4. Smirnov and Ly drew a 99 move game in round 4, while Kethro scored 3 straight wins after starting the event with a half point bye. IM Junta Ikeda is half a point behind the leaders, his only loss coming at the hands of Smirnov.
In the Under 1600 event, 4 players share the lead on 3.5. Jamie-Lee Guo, Thomas Johnston, Oscar Hellmann and Tim Pearce are all undefeated so far, and look forward to a tough morning round.
Full results and live coverage can be found at You can even replay the live games from earlier in the tournament to see how the leaders made there way to the top. Tomorrows action begins at 10:30am (Canberra time) with Smirnov and Kethro featuring on the top board.

Friday 13 November 2015

2015 Vikings Weekender - Online Coverage

The 2015 Vikings Weekender begins tomorrow and hopefully a last minute rush of entries will lift the field above 60 players. If for some reason you aren't able to make it you can follow it online via
The page contains links to the standings plus live coverage of the top 2 or 3 boards. I have also added a link to the dgt replay system which I am developing, and so you can see games from previous rounds (I have also put up last years round 7 games from the event). This system is still in beta so it is both a service and a test run!
Currently the field is headed by IM's Ikeda, Ly and Smirnov although the $1000 1st prize may lure a few more titled players to the national capital.

Random Selection

A few years there was a marked improvement in the strength of Go playing programs, with the development of the 'Monte-Carlo' search. In a Monte-Carlo search, a move tree is generated to a certain depth (using all legal moves and replies) but when evaluating the leaf nodes a fixed number of games are played to the finish (using random legal moves) and the percentage number of wins is used to score the start position.
On first inspection this looked like it should not work, but for a number of games (including Hex and Lines of Action) it produced good results. However the results when applied to chess have been less promising. I suspect that the reason for this is that in chess all it takes is one mistake to lose, and such a search routine does not overly weight losses. For example, a given position might have 24 moves that lose for player A and 1 that wins, and a random selection would only find 4% of the games winning for player A. On the other hand a human player should find the win 100% of the time, making their opponents previous move bad. For the other games, such dramatic swings are less common (due to the rules of the game) and so an advantageous position  more closely matches the eventual outcome.
Of course an engine that plays randomly could theoretically play an absolute masterpiece. Assuming an average of 40 legal moves in a position, there is a 2.5% chance of choosing the best move each time. So for a 40 move game such an engine would be unbeatable every 40^40 games (which is approximately 12 followed by 63 zeros!). At 1 second per game such a game should eventually occur after 3.8x10^58 years

Wednesday 11 November 2015

We are all just prisoners here

Another 'remember the position' exercise from a game at the ANU Chess Club. White had been under a lot pressure earlier on, but after the exchange of rooks and some minor pieces, had avided the worst of it. In fact the Black queen, which had come to a4 to threaten the queenside pawns now found itself in a cage, after White blocked the retreat with b5.
Of interest to the kibitzers was how White could attack the imprisoned queen, especially as he only had 10 seconds left (although with a 10 second increment as well). In the end he found the following moves, which while not winning the queen outright, was good enough to win the game (again based on my imperfect memory).

1.h3 Bd7 2.Kd2 g5 3.Kc1 h5 4.Kb2 c6 5.bxc6 Bc8 6.Ne2 Ba6 7.Nc3 Qxc4 8.Qxc4 Bxc4 9.c7 Ba6 10.Na4 Bc8 11.Nxb6 Bxh3 12.c8Q Bxc8 13.Nxc8 h4 14.gxh4 gxh4 15.Nxd6 h3 16.Nf5+ Kf6 17.d6 
(And thanks to Fred Litchfield for suggesting I put this on my blog, even though he was on the losing end of it)

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The month of no love - 2015

Ah November. In Canberra this is when Spring really starts. Not only do flowers bloom, but there is also an outbreak of facial hair. For November is also Movember, when men can grow some very ugly moustaches, and claim it is for charity. (There is a trade-off of course, mentioned in the title to this post)
This year is my 8th year of growing my usually voluminous mo, and as the picture to the right shows, I am already off to a good start. However, unlike previous years I will be going for quality over quantity, although for now I am aiming for a huge block of marble, before I chip away to reveal the masterpiece within.
It is of course for a good cause, and I am taking donations. You can visit either to make a donation, or just to see my somewhat sporadic updates.  And thos who wish to check my mo out in person, don't forget to drop into the Vikings Weekender!

Monday 9 November 2015

Fearful symmetry

One stage that a lot of chessplayers go through when starting out is the 'copy cat' stage. Trying to play risk free chess, they think that copying their opponents move can't hurt. The only problem with this is that chess isn't a symmetrical game, and there are of course some moves that can't be copied (You normally can't meet a check with a check, unless it is chess on TV).
Some openings do lend themselves to symmetry more than others, with the Four Knights Opening and the Symmetrical English springing to mind. Even then one player usually breaks the symmetry around move 10 or so.
The longest "symmetrical" game is the following between Rotlewi and Eljaschoff (according to Tim Krabbe). Even then it is not truly symmetrical (symmetry is broken as early as move 2), although from move 3 the moves match (although if the only condition is that the final position is symmetrical then I have seen plenty of endgame's that end this way.) The other issue with this game is that is was apparently just a very long agreed draw between the two players in the final round of an event. In fact White missed a much stronger continuation on move 13 (demonstrating the danger in copying) with the line 13.Bxe5 Bxe4 14.Bxg7 Bxg2 15.Bxf8 Bxf1 16.Qg7# stopping Black from replying.

Rotlewi,Georg A - Eljaschoff,Moissei Zacharowits [C49]
All Russian St Petersburg (19), 1909

Saturday 7 November 2015

Korchnoi's complaint

A number of years ago I heard a story about Viktor Korchnoi having to ask an arbiter if he could castle when his rook was attacked. It was one of the 'ha ha Grandmasters don't know the rules' stories that you hear every now and then, without knowing whether it is actually true or not.
It turns out there is some doubt about the story, and I have seen a few different versions told. There is less doubt a similar story concerning Yuri Averbakh, who when playing CJS Purdy, thought that Purdy had castled illegally queenside as his rook passed over an attacked square (b8 in this case).
Amazingly, I saw examples of both of these situations in the one game that was played at Street Chess today. On move 13, Alana Chibnall castled kingside while her rook on h1 was attacked by the bishop on c6, and then 9 moves later Miles Patterson castled queenside, with the rook passing over the b8 square that was attacked by the bishop on f4.
When I pointed this out after the games both players simply shrugged, as while unusual, they both knew that castling was perfectly legal in both cases.

Chibnall,Alana - Patterson,Miles [C00]
Street Chess (4.1), 07.11.2015

Friday 6 November 2015

2015 Vikings Weekender - 1 week to go

Only a week before the 2015 Vikings Weekender begins. It is already shaping up as a strong event (in the Open), and a competitive one (in the Under 1600). The $1000 1st prize in the Open (sponsored by the Vikings Club) is certainly attractive, and apart from IM Junta Ikeda (current top seed), it is expected a few other titled players will be taking part. Thanks to generous sponsorship from O2C the Under 1600 is also offering $500 for first, which is a tidy some for a weekends chess.

The tournament runs over the weekend of the 14 and 15th November at the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa. It will be a 7 round swiss with a time limit of G60m+10s (for both sections). Entry fee is $65 ($45 for juniors & concessions).

You can register for the event (no payment reqd) at If you do not know your ACF ID (or even rating), just put something in, as all the ratings and ID's will be checked prior to the start of the event.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Back in the day

Digging through my old score books I cam across the following game. I can remember being quite pleased with this game, although at the time I knew I was lucky to get away with the win. The exchange sacrifice was of course unsound, but paid off when my opponent moved his king to the wrong square, allowing me to execute a smothered mate a la Philidor. The other thing that stood out was the look of surprise on my opponents face when the Queen went to g8. I'm not sure whether this was because he had never seen this checkmate before (unlikely), or simply that he missed the finish in this case.

Press,Shaun - Southwell,Terry [D85]
Tuggeranong, 15.08.1988

La petit combination

One of the features of the play of Jose Capablanca was his use of the 'petit combination'. This was a short tactical sequence that was designed to create a positional advantage. It usually involved a brief investment of material, which was then won back a few moves later, with an improved position being the ultimate reward.
Here is a more recent example of such a combination (based on a game I saw last night, but I suspect not an exact replica). White has just swung the rook to b1, offering the knight on c3. After 1. ... Qxc3 2. Rxb8+ Nxb8 3.Qe8+ Bf8 4.Qxe6+ Kg7 5.Bf1 White has a much better position, and won soon after (I think the Black king was checkmated on h4 at the end).
Interestingly, more recent examinations of Capablanca's games has shown that in some instances his opponents missed better defences, which would have thrown some doubt on the soundness of the combination. And so it was in the position (although maybe not the actual game). Instead of recapturing on b8, Black could have surrendered the exchange with 2. ... Bf8 gaining an extra tempo to capture the pawn on d3 (Qe1+ is also a threat),  with plenty of play.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

This seems legit

Inspired by the Anand - So game from the Bilbao Masters (where 6 queens were used at various stages), I went looking for games where 6 queens were on the board at the same time. In the past such games were as rare as rocking horse poop, and the ones that did exist were considered either faked or arranged. Despite the vast number of games played, and recorded in databases over the last 20 years, the number of games has not really increased. I only found 3 games, from 1992, 2000, and 2009. The game from 1992 seemed real up until a point, but the triple promotion to end the game looked entirely contrived. The game from 2000 certainly looked pre-arranged, as the game was drawn after 16 moves. This left the following game from 2009. While it was also a draw the length of the game, and indeed the moves at least makes it look like the only genuine 6 queen game on record.
(** Apologies for the error in the replay. Did not check all the data like I should have **)

Szalanczy,Emil (2354) - Nguyen Thi Mai,Hung (2213) [B90]
Budapest FS10 IM-B Budapest (2), 04.10.2009

Monday 2 November 2015


When FIDE implemented faster times for the Chess Olympiad a number of years ago, there was quite an outcry against it. Chess was a serious game requiring serious thinking time, and a push to faster time limits was just a gimmick.
These days the outcry seems to have died down, and it seems that almost every big event is introducing their own time controls. Only having increments after move 40 (or even 60) seems to be a thing at the moment, as time scrambles are back in fashion.
The latest tournament to try a faster time control is the Zurich Challenge, which is moving to the even faster time limit of 40m+10s per game. So spectators won't feel cheated, they are planning to play two rounds a day under this format, so there will be around 4 hours of chess.
In my opinion this is veering very close to a rapidplay event, and in fact is rated as such. A number of years ago I experimented with 40m+30s per move (for a weekend event) but a number of players felt that this was too fast for "real" chess and the experiment was not repeated.
But it is the sponsors right to organise events however they wish, and if a player does not like the time controls they can always pass on the event. However looking at the invite list (Anand, Nakamura, Kramnik, Aronian, Giri and Shirov) it seems that the fast time control is something they can live with, although it is also a time control they all look comfortable at.

Sunday 1 November 2015

2015 ACT Interschool chess wrap

The final event of the 2015 ACT Interschool Series was held today, with Lyneham High qualifying to represent the ACT at the 2015 Australian Schools Teams Championship. They are joined by Radford College (Secondary Girls), Kaleen Primary (Primary Open), and Caroline Chisholm (Primary Girls) as representatives from the ACT.
The ACT Junior Chess League Interschool events ran over the last 8 months, in 4 divisions. The preliminary events attracted 180 teams (of 4 or 5 players), with 70 teams going on to the finals. The list of winners for each division and zones are:

Girls Primary

  • Caroline Chisholm (South Canberra)
  • Turner (North Canberra)
  • Turner (ACT Champions)

Girls Secondary

  • Radford College (ACT Champions)

Open Primary

  • Kaleen (Belconnen)
  • Rosary (Gungahlin/ North Canberra)
  • Caroline Chisholm (Tuggeranong)
  • Turner (Central Canberra)
  • Curtin (Woden/Weston)
  • Grammar (ACT Champions)

Open Secondary

  • Grammar (South Canberra)
  • Lyneham (North Canberra)
  • Lyneham (ACT Champions)

Full results can be found at the ACT Junior Chess League web page.

Saturday 31 October 2015

It's all downhill from here

I may have (or may not have) solved a mystery involving certain brands of DGT clocks. At Street Chess the DGT Easy and Easy+ models sometimes suffered from a defect where even after pushing the lever, a players time continued to run down. It didn't happen with all the clocks, but it happened often enough so that players simply did not trust them.
What was particularly annoying was that when we tested them elsewhere, they seemed to work fine. Some had been used at other clubs without problem, but at Street Chess they seemed to misbehave. So what was it about Street Chess that was different?
Now it turns out there are a few things that a different (outdoor play, fast time controls etc), but one thing I had not previously considered is that we play on a slope! Not a steep slope. but the tables ar off level by 1 to 3 degrees. And this has me wondering whether the switch mechanisms in the clock do not operate properly under those circumstances. Even after being pressed the lever may tilt back just enough to restart the first players clock, and robbing them of their time. Further investigation is still be done, but if it turns out to be the cause, it will be spirit levels front and centre.

Friday 30 October 2015

Monopoly player gets arrested - 'get out of jail free' puns abound

Some chess players are notorious for having bad tempers, although I assume the ratio of angry chess players is no better or worse than the ratio of angry people in society. There have of course been occasions where games have resulted in violence (eg at the Doeberl Cup some years back), so it is always interesting when similar incidents happen in similar (but non-chess) environments.
For example, a monopoly player has been arrested for starting a brawl at a Monopoly tournament in the United States. In a scenario that chess organisers might be able to sympathise with, the player concerned had previous 'form', including being expelled from the previous years event. Despite being asked no to attend, the player turned up anyway, and predictably, trouble ensued.
Oddly, when tracking down the link for this event (using the search teams 'monopoly player arrested') I came across a number of other cases where playing Monopoly lead to trouble. In a few cases knives were involved, although the most hilarious case involved a game of 'strip monopoly' getting out of hand, with a jealous girlfriend landing one on a fellow player who was making eyes at her boyfriend.
So while chess isn't perfect in the behaviour stakes, it is at least good to know we aren't alone with the crazy!

Thursday 29 October 2015

The earliest Greek Gift

The 5th round of the 2015 ANU Chess Club's Spring Swiss saw a brevity in one of the games. White was checkmated on move 16 (unfortunately for him), but what gave the game a particular interest was that Black sacrificed his bishop on h2 as early as move 7. The sacrifice (known as the Greek Gift) was entirely sound, and after the game the winning player and myself went searching for games where the sacrifice occurred earlier.
Theoretically, the earliest it can occur (for Black) is on move 4, as White needs 4 moves to castle. However my attempts to construct a game where this happens (eg 1.e4 e6 2.Bc4 Bd6 3.Ne2 Nf6 4. O-O Bxh2+) just leads to White getting a better position, as White can defend by bringing the king to g3.
Our searching turned up lots of games where Bxh2+ was not a real sacrifice, as White has a bishop on g5. There were also games where Black sacrificed and lost, so we discarded those games as well. In the end we found one game where Black sac'ed on move 6, but that was about it. So the following game goes very close to equalling a record, missing out by 1 move.

Jochimsen,Erik - Litchfield,Fred [D00]
ANU Spring Swiss, 28.10.2015

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Bike chess?

I've been doing a lot of riding recently, so a story about "Bike" chess attracted my attention. It was one of a couple of variants tried during the Hoogeveen tournament in The Netherlands last week. Loek van Wely and Jorden van Foorest played each other while riding stationary bikes. Now I am not sure what the rules of "Bike" chess are (and the article on doesn't explain), but if the actual riding doesn't affect the play, then I am missing the point. One suggestion in the comments to the article was that the faster you ride, the less your time goes down, which does make sense to me. Just like chess boxing (or 'round the house' chess) there would be a trade-off between not tiring yourself out, and gaining an advantage via physical means.
The other form of "bike" chess that I would one day like to see is cyclists in one of the grand tours (eg The Tour de France) playing blindfold chess in the peleton. I am sure that there would be more than a few professional cyclists who are chess players, and a game of blindfold chess (with the players shouting the moves to each other), would help break up the monotony of staring at the bottom of the cyclist in front of you.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

One dimensional chess

There have been a lot of attempts at designing 3 dimensional chess, but what about going the other way. There is at least 1 version of 1-D chess, played on a ring, as well as variations on a theme, where the boards are almost 1-D.
I'm not sure how playable such games are, although the rules seem to make sense. There is no queen (doesn't quite fit, although it could still be R+B), and the knight seems crippled. On the other hand the bishop moves are logical.
One test is to get two 1-D chess engines to play each other and see what sort of games occur. If there is an obvious winning strategy (or the games look stupid) then it is of course a bust!
If you are interested in giving 1-D chess a try then the rules for each of these games can be found here.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Bilbao Masters 2015

The 2015 Bilbao Masters begins tomorrow, following its recent format of a 4 player double round robin. While initially set up as final for the Grand Slam series of chess events, these days it is simply a very strong Super GM event. This years edition features Anand, Giri, So and Ding. Despite being the oldest player in the tournament, Anand is the top seed, although at this level, ratings seem to matter less.
While the invite list may have changed, the tournament is still sticking to some other traditions. It is using the 3-1-0 scoring system, and draws can only be agreed with the permission of the arbiter. The rate of play is also a kind of fast/slow hybrid, with 40 moves in 90 minutes (fast-ish), followed by 60 minutes (a larger than normal bonus), with a 10 second increment from move 41 (a fast increment).
Live coverage of the event is at the tournament website, although with only 6 rounds on offer, blink and you may miss it.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Another non-trap claims a victim

One of the regular complaints about Correspondence Chess is that 'everyone uses a computer'. Now this is of course not true (the 'everyone' bit that is), but the use of engines is reasonably common, at the international level.
However there are times when clearly this is not the case, as shown in the following game. It is from a recent ICCF event, although I have removed the names of the players as the game in question is not publicly visible yet .
At first glance Black has walked into a trap, with 11. ... Ke7 leads to 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.Rd1+ Ke7 14.Nxa8 with a clear advantage. I assume Black saw this and resigned. However if Black is brave and plays 11. ... Qxc7 12.Bxc7 bxa1(Q) 13.Qxa1 Black has a RBNP for a Q and is not that badly off. I again assume that Black just did not look at this line, indicating an all too human failing of not looking at *all* checks and captures!

White - Black [A33]

Friday 23 October 2015

Someone still loves you Nick

The 2015 ACT Secondary Schools Open Teams Championship ended in a run away victory for the Lyneham High School Team. There score of 27 points from 28 games showed the depth of the team, with all 4 boards being fairly high rated (and experienced) players. They finished 7 points ahead of the second placed team from Radford, with Canberra Grammar finishing third.
It was an enjoyable days chess, and by the looks of it, everyone had a good time. But the real highlight of the day for me was the choice of name of one of the other Radford teams. Taking a cue from this recent story, they decided to salute a sports star who previously attended their school. To the players who fronted up as "Radford Kyrgios" I say, well played!

The anti-corruption broom begins to sweep through FIDE

Former World Champion Garry Kasparov and Former FIDE General Secretary Ignatius Leong, have been hit with a two year ban from activities related to chess administration, over their conduct in last years FIDE election. The ban was handed down by the FIDE Ethics Commission, who had found them guilty of breaches of the FIDE Code of Ethics a few weeks earlier. The case concerned a contract between Kasparov and Leong which in part listed a set of payments in return for Leong securing votes for Kasparov in the 2014 FIDE elections.
Opinion on this verdict is of course divided, mirroring last years election. Comments on have not been flattering to FIDE (which is to be expected). On the other hand a few people have defended the decision, arguing the evidence is pretty straight forward.
Of course this could be the start of a wider investigation of alleged corruption around FIDE. With FIFA in the spotlight it may be the case that FIDE wants to get its own house in order before external investigators start sniffing around.
Or it may not.

Thursday 22 October 2015

And on board 3 we have ...

The European Club Championship is currently running in Skopje, Macedonia, and once again sees a number of phenomenaly strong teams taking part. Perennial favourites for this event, SOCAR, have found a spot for Fabiano Caruana on Board 3(!), behind Topalov and Giri. But he won't be lonely there because (as GM David Smerdon has pointed out), he will be fighting for the board 3 prize with Nakamura, Grischuk and Jakovenko.
At the other end of the tournament are the more 'journeyman' teams, including the team I support, White Rose (ENG). Seeded 34th (out of 50) they do have 1 GM and 2 IM's playing for them, and while they may terrorise some of the lower ranked teams, top board glory will probably elude them for another year.
Full results from the tournament can be found at while the tournament web page is here.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

If you think one rook pawn is bad

Continuing my recent theme of tough endings, here is a position that occurred last night at the Belconnen Chess Club. White had earlier won a piece with a pawn promotion tactic, but Black had made the ensuing ending as difficult as possible. In the diagrammed position, White had just played c5 to try and get the Black king away from the pawns.
Even though White is a piece up, the win is a little tricky, and in the end White failed by a single tempo to achieve it.  Despite the widely separated pawns on the board, once the bishop left the board, Black had just enough time to either trap the White king on the h file, or capture the h pawn and trap the king on the a file (which is what happened).  It turns out the missing tempo wasn't some clever zugzwang idea with the bishop, but simply by pushing the h pawn, before taking on f4. However by the time this position was reached it was almost midnight, and with both players close to zeitnot such a miss, while unfortunate, is understandable.
The moves from this position (with some analysis tossed in) were:  1...e3+ [1...f3 2.Bxf3 exf3 3.c6+-] 2.Ke2 Kxc5 3.Bb7 [3.Kd3 Kb4 4.Bc6 Kc5 5.Bb5 Kd5 6.Bd7 Ke5 7.Bg4 Kd5 8.Bf3+ Ke5 9.Kc4 e2 10.Bxe2 Ke4 11.Kb5+-] 3...Kd4 4.Kf3 Kc3 5.Ba6 Kd2 6.Kxf4? [6.h5 Kd1 7.Kxf4 e2 8.Bxe2+ Kxe2 9.Kf5 Kf3 (9...Kd3 10.Kg6 Kc4 11.Kxh6 Kb4 12.Kg6 Kxa4 13.h6 Kb3 14.h7 a4 15.h8Q) 10.Kg6 Kg4 11.Kxh6 Kf5 12.Kg7+-] 6...e2 7.Bxe2 Kxe2 8.Kf5 Kf3 9.Kg6 Kf4 10.Kxh6 Kf5 11.Kh5 Kf6 12.Kh6 Kf5 13.h5 Kf6 14.Kh7 Kf7 15.h6 Kf8 16.Kg6 Kg8 17.Kf5 Kh7 18.Ke5 Kxh6 19.Kd5 Kg6 20.Kc5 Kf6 21.Kb5 Ke6 22.Kxa5 Kd7 23.Ka6 Kc8 24.Ka7 Kc7 25.a5 Kc8 26.Ka8 Kc7 27.a6 Kb6 28.a7 Kc7 1/2-1/2

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Pawns on the 6th

White to play and win
All other things being equal, adjacent passed pawns on the 6th normally beat a rook. This is because when one is pushed, it is still supported by the other, and covering the back rank leads to two adjacent pawns on the 7th.
But in chess, all things are often not equal, with other factors such as the placement of kings coming into play. The given problem demonstrates this is a nice way, with the position being a win for White (who is on the move). While there is some exact play required, the big takeaway from this puzzle is that there are circumstances where having pawns on the 6th and 7th rank aren't a problem, as long as the enemy king is on the 7th as well. But how do you get to such a position?

Saturday 17 October 2015

Oh, this really is a thing

In between rounds of today's Street Chess event, weird and wonderful opening theory was being discussed. Matt Radisich's favourite Halasz Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 ed 3.f4?) was the kick off point, but it quickly shifted to the Mason Gambit (IIRC). Stephen Mugford was the source of a line that seemed so bizarre that at first I assumed he was just making it up. 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 c5 3.e4!? were the first few moves and the main line he then showed us continued 3. ... dxe 4.d5 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Qe2 In response to my incredulity, he mentioned that Luc Winants was a practitioner, at which point I figured it probably was a real line.
It looks like a cross between the London System and a reversed Albin Counter Gambit, but does contain a few drops of poison. The main line (as given above) seems to score well for White, and has been played by a number of strong GM's. But based on the (few) games in my database, developing with 3. ... Nc6 seems to be the best choice, as White scores poorly.
On the other hand, here is an example of what can go wrong for Black if he does take on e4.

McShane,Luke J (2625) - Illescas Cordoba,Miguel (2624) [D00]
EU-chT (Men) 15th Gothenburg (3.1), 01.08.2005

Bridge is not a sport (in the UK)

The English Bridge Union had attempted to get the definition of what is a 'sport' changed by the UK High court, so as to access extra funding from the UK Government (through the National Lottery). If successful this would have had implications for chess, as it was highly unlikely that chess would have excluded under a redefinition.
Sadly for Bridge (and Chess), the application was rejected, as it could not be considered a physical activity. So for now chess/bridge/backgammon/scrabble are out, while dwarf tossing and bog snorkelling are (presumably) in!

Thursday 15 October 2015

Carlsen loses his Faen

The 2015 World Blitz Championship has ended in a win for Alexander Grischuk. Grischuck, who has a propensity to get into time trouble in long time control games, used this problem to his advantage to win the event with 15.5 points, half a point ahead of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik.
Defending champion Magnus Carlsen had a bad finishing run to end up on 14 points, but the bigger story was his animated reaction to losing. He used a recognisable Norwegian expletive after one game, and left the board quite agitated. As with similar incidents in tennis there is now a debate about whether such behaviour is unacceptable, or whether it brings some extra colour to chess.
Carlsen himself recognised that his behaviour wasn't a good look, describing it at the post tournament press conference as "pretty stupid".

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Create a weakness, exploit a weakness

The following game was played tonight at the ANU Chess Club, between tournament leaders Harry Press and Fred Litchfield. Both players may have mixed up their opening lines (5.Nf3 instead of the intended 5.f4, 9. ... Qb6 instead of 9. ... Bc5) but after that the game turned into an interesting exercise in using the initiative. White exploited the location of the Black knight on b6 to play a4-a5-a6, with the idea of creating a weakness on c6. He then landed his knight on the now weakened square, before bringing his rooks into play. Black probably played the position a little too passively, although paradoxically he may have survived if he had "turtled" in the position with moves like Nb8 and Be7. As with games of this type, the decisive moment came when the White rooks reached the 7th rank, and after that all White needed to do was avoid back rank tricks to secure the victory.

Press,Harry - Litchfield,Fred [C11]
ANU Spring Swiss, 14.10.2015