Friday 29 April 2016

Olympiad Selections

Picking a team to represent PNG at recent chess Olympiads has been a relatively simple task. Just contact the players who went the Olympiad before and ask if they wish to go again. Since 2000 this has been the usual process, and while it hasn't generated a gold medal winning team, it has managed to at least get 4 players to each event.
For a country like Australia the process is slightly more involved. Players apply, selectors are appointed, data is provided, and a selection is made. This process has just been completed, and the Open team has just been revealed (although I am not sure officially announced).
Before I go on, I should point out that I was a selector this year for the Open team, and so was part of the process. The team is (in ranking order)

  • GM David Smerdon
  • GM Zong Yuan Zhao
  • IM Moulthun Ly
  • IM Anton Smirnov
  • GM Max Illingworth
The remaining players (in ranking order) were IM James Morris, IM Justin Tan, IM Bobby Cheng, IM Gary Lane, IM Junta Ikeda, FM Karl Zelesco

The team is almost the same as the 2014 team, with GM Zong Yuan Zhao replacing IM Junta Ikeda. The board order is also a little different, but overall it is a stronger team than 2014, with 3 GM's on board.
The Women's team has also been picked, although at this stage I am not aware of what the selections are. (And before you ask, the selected team doesn't exactly match my choices, but it is pretty close)

Why Blitz is not Chess (Part 72)

I've just dragged myself out of bed to watch the Ultimate Blitz Challenge from St Louis, involving Kasparov, So, Nakamura and Caruana. The first surprise was that after 7 rounds all four players were on 50% (3.5).  The second was that is seemed Wesley So was Kasparov's nemesis, winning 2 games after Kasparov had started like he was going to own this event.
But watching round 8 it became a little clearer about what was going on. The outcome of the games was not necessarily about who played the best chess. Given that the players are evenly matched, factors uinique to blitz chess come into play. In round 8 Nakamura actually outplayed Kasparov for most of the game, only to see Kasparov turn the tables with less than 20 seconds on the clock. But given the limited amount of time, it was probably fated that it was Kasparov's turn to go wrong, and he soon did. However both players were down to their last few seconds, and it probably was more about who could move fastest, rather than best, and Nakamura emerged with the point.
Very good entertainment BTW, but not in a classical chess way. More in a 20/20 Cricket way.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Forking knight with knight

Magnus Carlsen pulled of the nice endgame trick of forking a knight with a knight, in his win of Vladimir Kramnik at the 206 Norway Chess Classic. Carlsen had been winning from early on, and by the end his advantage was overwhelming, but it still a nice move if you can play it.
The win by Carlsen now puts him a full point ahead with 2 rounds to play.  There are 4 players tied for 2nd on 4/7, and Carslen plays one of them, Lev Aronian, in round 8.

Carlsen,Magnus (2851) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2801) [D35]
4th Norway Chess 2016 Stavanger NOR (7.3), 27.04.2016

Wednesday 27 April 2016

A resource for chess scripts

While looking for some dhtml (Dynamic HTML) scripts related to a software development project I am working on, I came across a site that (a) had a number of good script examples and (b) had some nice chess related code. seems to be a general resource site for web developers, but I suspect the site owner might well be a chess player, as it has a section just for chess scripting. This includes links to browser base chess engines, position viewers, and training software. Not all the software is recent (the site was launched back in 2005) but if you are a programmer looking for chess projects to wotk on, this may be a good jumping off point.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Rise and shine campers

One piece of advice I constantly read about being successful is that successful people wake up 3 hours before they get to work. The idea is that this time is then spent planning/organising the day ahead, leaving more time to be productive.
Of late I have been trying this idea although the results have been mixed. In terms of this blog, the major change is that I don't always post just before (or after) midnight as I used to, instead leaving it until the early morning to write something. As it turns out this does not always work, as when I wake up I am not at my most productive.
So for now, the early rising is always better theory, has a mixed outcome at best.

Monday 25 April 2016

Leading with your chin

When Frank Marshall wheeled out the Marshall Gambit against Capablanca, much was made of the fact that Capablanca refuted it over the board (having never seen it before). Why this was such a big thing I was never sure. Every time a player faces something new (especially at the top level) there is the opportunity to refute the idea, or to go down in flames.
At the current Norway tournament, Nils Grandelius tried to do a 'Marshall', by playing a Nimzowitsch Sicilian against Magnus Carlsen. Despite having been caught unaware, Carlsen figured that sensible moves should suffice, although a piece sacrifice on move 10 stretches that definition a little. However Grandelius overplayed his hand a few moves later, and was forced to return a rook. After that it was smooth sailing for the World Champion.

Carlsen,M (2851) - Grandelius,N (2649) [B29]
4th Norway Chess 2016 Stavanger NOR (3), 21.04.2016

Sunday 24 April 2016

Botvinnik v Keres

One of the great chess mysteries concerns Paul Kere's string of second place finishes in the Candidates Tournaments (1953, 1956, 1959 & 1962). The conspiracy theory is that Keres was not allowed to challenge for the World Championship Match, this being the price he paid to avoid other punishment for playing in German events during World War II. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, and while the general conclusion is that no such 'direct' order was made, there is the possibility that Keres himself felt pressured by the circumstances he found himself in (An Estonian player up against favoured Russian opponents).
In fact against most of his closest Soviet rivals he did not have that bad a score. The one notable exception was Mikhail Botvinnik who was +5 against him.  A lot of this was down to the 1948 World Championship Tournament (where Botvinnik owned Keres), but the following game was a later example of Botvinnik's play against Keres.

Botvinnik,Mikhail Moisevich - Keres,Paul Petrovich [A29]
URS-chT Moscow, 1966

Thursday 21 April 2016

Some magnificent time wasters

If you need a change of pace from 'all chess, all the time' here are a couple of browser games to while away the hours. The first is 'A Dark Room' which is a combination of Text Adventure/Resource Gatherer/Rouge Like game, while almost have a Zorkish feel to it.
The second is Gridland which is a novel twist in the popular 'matching game' genre, combining the traditional '3 in a row' mechanisms, with a 'Candy Box' style combat system.
Both of these games are produced by Doublespeak and are free to play.

Gawain Jones win Dubai

GM Gawain Jones has won the 2016 Dubai Open (on countback), finishing with 7.5/9 alongside GM Vladimir Akopian. Going into the final round Jones was playing leader Boris Savchenko, who was on 7/8. Using an opening novelty suggested by Australian GM David Smerdon, Jones was able to beat his opponent in 37 moves to take over the lead. Of the players who started the round alongside him, Akopian was the only one to catch him, with a win over Levan Pansulaia.  With the prizes awarded on points then tie-break (and not shared), Jones took the first prize of $13000 while Akopian had to be content with $7000.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Giri wins!

I suspect the above headline will be repeated on a number of chess sites, but Anish Giri has started Norway 2016 with a win. For those wondering why this is a surprise, it is because he managed to draw every game he played in the 14 round 2016 Candidates tournament. A possible sign of his new aggressive intentions may have been spotted in yesterdays blitz event where he defeated Magnus Carlsen in the final round (although Carlsen still finished first with 7.5/9)
In slightly less significant news, Carlsen and Kramnik also won their first round games, to be tied for first with Giri on 1/1.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Norway 2016 starts today

The Norway 2016 Supertournament begins in a few hours, with a blitz event to start proceedings. Unlike the previous year, the event is not part of the 'Chess Grand Tour', giving the organisers a little more flexibility in their player selection. Nonetheless it is still a strong field, headed by World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Lev Aronian are the other top 10 players playing, along with a number of players just outside the top 10.
One player missing is Sergey Karjakin, who pulled out after winning the 2016 Candidates event. The organisers were understandably upset with the withdrawal, although they did not invite  Karjakin (winner in 2013 and 2014) to play last year. His replacement, Li Chao (China), was clearly pleased to get a last minute call up, as he has postponed his wedding to play.
The tournament website is here, and given the difference in time zones it is more likely that Australian spectators will see the end of the rounds, rather than the start.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Ganguly wins 2016 Bangkok Open

Indian GM Surya Ganguly has won the 2016 Bangkok Open on tie-break, after finishing with 7.5/9 along with GM Francisco Vallejo Pons. Both won their final round games, with Ganguly beating Loek Van Wely, and Vallejo Pons beating Nigel Short.
Young Australian IM Anton Smirnov made it to Board 4 in the final round, but despite trying an interesting opening novelty against GM Jan Gustafsson, ended up on the wrong side of the ledger. Of other Australian players in the field, FM Tim Reilly and Patrick Gong both finished on 5, while FM Brian Jones was among the group who finished on 4.5

Gustafsson,Jan (2629) - Smirnov,Anton (2479) [D47]
16th BCC Open (9.4), 17.04.2016

Michelago MayFair - Save the date

The annual Michelago Mayfair is being held on Sunday 1st May 2016, from 10am to 3pm. Michelago is a small village south of Canberra, about 25 minutes drive from Tuggeranong.
Every year they hold a chess display there, which normally involves myself (or Lee Forace) playing anyone who fancies a gamer. However for this year I am thinking of running a small tournament instead, to make the display a little more interesting.
'Street Chess on the Road' is the idea, in a slightly abbreviated format. A 5 round swiss (or RR depending on numbers) played with 10 minutes per player per game should last no more than 2 hours, so starting at 10:30am gives everyone a chance to see the rest of the fair. I'll try and pin down all the details in the next week (and gauge the level of interest), and hopefully have something more concrete soon.

Friday 15 April 2016

Sicilian Smashed

A good old fashioned smashing of the Sicilian for your pleasure. It has all the features from years past, with White pushing the f pawn up the board, a knight sacrifice on e6, and the Black king being hunted down in the centre. The winner of the game GM Vallejo Pons also added another nice touch, sacrificing a rook on e6, after the somewhat standard Rh1-g1 plan in this line.

Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2691) - Wynn Zaw Htun (2407) [B99]
Bangkok CC Open (7.2), 15.04.2016

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Old wine, old bottle?

Recently I have played two very quick club games where bad things happened after my opponents moved their f pawns in the opening. The first one was where my opponent unknowingly played Damiano's Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6). The second was when my opponent was too quick to capture on e5 as white in the Kings Gambit. While it was my name that had a 1 next to it after 10 moves, I can hardly claim all the credit as the path to victory had been worked out centuries before.

Not me - Press,Shaun [C31]
My Club, 2016

Monday 11 April 2016

2016 Bangkok Open attracts record field

The Bangkok Open goes from strength to strength, attracting a record field of 320 players. Top seed this year is Franciso Vallejo Pons, with defending champion Nigel Short second seed. The first round had very few upsets (not a suprise given the size of the field), although GM Abhijit Kunte was lucky to escape with a draw against his lower rated opponent.
On interesting pairing was the board 2 match up between GM Nigel Short and WFM Helen Milligan. The official tournament press release did make mention of Short's brain being 'hard-wired differently', although the fact that Helen Milligan holds a PhD in Astro-Physics makes me wonder what effect the hard wiring has. Nonetheless Short proved to be the better player in this game, building up the pressure in the middle game, and then patiently converting his advantage in the endgame.

Short,Nigel - Milligan,Helen [C90]
2016 Bangkok Open (1), 10.04.2016

Sunday 10 April 2016

A little fooling about

When I do take the rare opportunity to play at Street Chess, often the game is more about experimentation than the result. I tend to either try off beat openings or gambits, and my attacks are a little more speculative than at longer time controls.
Today I played 1 game (in round 2) and I may have taken the above a little too far. Sacrificing my knight on move 3 is certainly ambitious, although this line had been introduced to me by GM David Smerdon back in 2006 (NB this was an introduction, not necessarily a recommendation). In fact I was doing all right up until move 10, when I captured on c3 rather than just keep the big centre intact by moving my queen. Fortunately my opponent did not see the drawing idea I cooked up around move 20, which I figured was the best I was going to get out of this game. So inventive yes, sound no, successful maybe.

Patterson,Mark - Press,Shaun [C26]
Street Chess, 09.04.2016

Saturday 9 April 2016

And the bronze medal goes to

GM Surya Ganguly gave a very entertaining lecture at the Canberra Chess Club just after this years Doeberl Cup. During the talk the topic of 'Best Moves of All Time' came up, in the context of a very famous Shirov ending. This particular move wasn't in my top 3, although it was fairly high up.
What is in my top 3 are two games I have posted about previously, plus the one below. My absolute favourite moves is Rashid Nezhmetdinov's 12.Qxf6 followed by Spassky's 14. ... Rh1 But coming in in third place is Vassily Ivanchuk's 21.Qg7 against Alexei Shirov

Ivanchuk,Vassily (2735) - Shirov,Alexei (2690) [D44]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (3), 1996

Friday 8 April 2016

2016 Bangkok Open

There used to be a nice series of tournaments around Easter, with the Doeberl Cup leading into the Sydney International Open followed by the Bangkok Open. Sadly the SIO is no more, and the connection with the Bangkok Open has lessened over the last few years.
However this very popular event is still attractive with Australian players, with 14 players playing in the Open and Challengers events. IM Anton Smirnov is the highest seeded Australian player (15th out of 244 players at the moment), and in an event with 16 GM's and 20 IM's, is hoping to score well enough for a GM norm.
The 9 round event begins on Sunday 10th April and runs through to the 17th. Most rounds start at 5pm Canberra times, and I assume there will be live coverage on Chess24. For more information visit the organisers homepage and click on the links.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Congratulations to GM Max Illingworth

Congratulations to Max Illingworth who has now been officially awarded his Grandmaster title. Having fulfilled the requirements for the title late last year, Illingworth's title was confirmed at the most recent FIDE Presidential Board meeting. This makes Illingworth Australia's fifth Grandmaster (not counting Walter Browne or CC GM's), after Ian Rogers, Daryl Johansen, David Smerdon and Zong Yuan Zhao.
Interestingly there were also two New Zealand players listed for the IM title, Luke Li and Aleksei Kulashko. However the final list of approvals their names seem to be missing (and their player cards remain unchanged) so I'm not sure what has happened there.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Even in death

I have just completed my Tournament Directors exam for the ICCF, and thankfully I passed. The one question I did get wrong is one that is almost unique to Correspondence Chess, although OTB Arbiters might be interested in what it says.
It concerns the occasional occurrence of a player dying during an event, and how to handle uncompleted games. Opponents can either just claim a draw (the default case) or claim a win, submitting analysis to support this claim. The specific question was what score can a player receive if they follow this path. My answer of 'win or draw only' was actually incorrect due to one specific section.
A deceased player is considered to also be claiming a draw but without supporting analysis (obviously). If it turns out that the position is a 6 piece table base win for the deceased player, then the rules state that they are awarded the win. So even in death it is possible to score that one last victory!

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Game Number 1

In the odd free moment I had last weekend I had a quick look at the Australian Chess Enterprises book stall at the Doeberl. I didn't have time to make an extensive choice of books but I did pick up one bargain. "The Best of the Best 1000" is a collection of the Top 10 games from each of the first 100 issues of Chess Informant, and it was going for a song.
For the younger readers, Chess Informant was the thing chess players used before chess databases came along, and was printed on good old fashioned paper. The truly dedicated would by every issue, but I restricted myself to picking up the odd copy here and there. So to get a collection of the very best games is quite a nice find, and hopefully I will find the time to play through some of them.
The game below is historical for a couple of reasons. It was voted the best game from the very first issue of Chess Informant, and is Game No. 1 in the book. It was also the first decisive game from the 1966 Petrosian v Spassky World Championship Match which Petrosian won 12.5-11.5. And finally it is a bit of a nightmare for players who think the Torre Attack is a risk free way of playing 1.d4, and Petrosian neutralised Spassky's play on the kingside, and then swamped him with an avalanche of pawns.

Spassky,B - Petrosian,Tigran V [D03]
Wch26 Moscow (7), 1966

Sunday 3 April 2016

2016 O2C Doeberl Cup - An arbiters persepctive

From an Arbiters perspective, this years O2C Doeberl Cup was one of the better events I have run. This no doubt comes from working with a good team of Arbiters (IA Charles Zworestine, FA Lee Forace, FA Alana Chibnall, Phillip Drew and Miona Ikeda) plus the support of the O2C organising team (Charles & Lara Bishop, Steve Rohan-Jones, Nyssa Zelman and rest of the O2C team). We have been working together for the last 9 years (well most of us) and in that time we have learned how to deal with the most common tournament problems when they arise.
In terms of actual arbiting there were very few issues this year. Surprisingly there were no repetition claims, when in some years we have had 2 or 3 a round. Forfeits were at a minimum with a few registered players unable to arrive for Round 1 due to external circumstances, and only 3 'just did not turn up' cases, although one was due to a confusion about time zones.
Probably the major issue this year was players chatting between moves, either with other players or parents. While there were no evidence that assistance was being offered, it can be off putting to the opponent to see a player continually talking with other players before returning to the board. On the other hand forbidding all conversation goes to far the other way, so the arbiting team tried to keep a balance in this area.
While mobile phones were not an issue with the players this year (although one player did lose when their phone went off), spectators were a little more problematic. For non chess playing spectators, reaching for a phone to while away the time is an automatic process (even for non chess events) and we had to chase away a number of parents in the Under 1200 section who would pull out their phone to play candy crush. Slightly more annoying were spectators who were watching the games through the window of the Major/Minor room while texting/messaging on their phones. One parent in particular had to be warned on a number of occasions not to do it, and eventually the arbiters had to close the curtains to deal with this situation.
There was one high profile withdrawal from the Premier (mentioned in an earlier post), but one thing that has improved over the years is players pulling out. It is almost down to zero these days, when in past years there were a number of withdrawals (especially unannounced ones on the final day). Probably connected to this change was the fact that very few players requested byes during the event (half point byes are offered for up until the final 3 rounds). It seems that everyone wants to get there moneys worth out of the tournament, and play as much chess as possible.
I was especially pleased with how the Blitz went this year, with a field of 116 players filling the playing hall. I did give everyone a stern talking to at the start about how it was going to run and it ran as smoothly as a 100+ Blitz could be expected to run. IM Bobby Cheng was the winner, but for most people it was just about playing in an 'all-in' event.
So I hope everyone who took part found it an enjoyable event (even if I was a bit gruff at times), and on the flip-side, I 'd like to thank the players who did play for making it an enjoyable event for me.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Nasty, brutal and short

As befitting the somewhat aggressive nature of rapidplay chess, I give you a game from today's edition of Street Chess. It was all over pretty quickly, even if it was (a) Black who won and (b) it started with the French Defence. (NB The move order may not be exactly correct as I am showing the game as I remembered it)
** Moves updated to actual score of game **

Forace,Lee - Bennett,Matthew [C00]
Street Chess, 02.04.2016

Doeberl Games posted

If you are after the pgn files for games from the 2016 O2C Doeberl Cup, go to and click on the PGN link for 2016. Only rounds 1 to 7 so far (and not all games), but I will update the files when more games have been entered.