Wednesday 30 November 2016

Mark Taimanov 1926 - 2016

Mark Taimanov, Grandmaster, former USSR Champion, and noted concert pianist, has passed away at the age of 90. One of the worlds top players from the 1950's to the 1970's he qualified for two Candidates series, but famously lost to Fischer in 1971, 6-0. For a while after that match he was on the outer with the USSR government, but after Fischer beat Petrosian and Spassky, was somewhat rehabilitated.
Born in 1926 he became a GM in 1952 and was an active player until 2003. Away from chess he was also an acclaimed concert pianist, often performing with his first wife, who he met as a 19 year old music student.
Taimanov was also noted as an opening theoretician, with a number of opening lines baring his name. The Taimanov Sicilian is the most well known, but he also had lines in the Gruenfeld, Modern Benoni and the Nimzo Indian named after him.
In the following game he defeated Walter Brown with a nice attack, possibly because Browne did not play the Taimanov variation (4. ... Nc6). After wrecking Browne's pawn structure, Taimanov found some nice attacking moves and Browne's position eventually collapsed.

Taimanov,Mark E (2500) - Browne,Walter S (2555) [E54]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee, 1981

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Off to the playoffs

Thinking I would have plenty of time to follow Game 12 of the World Championship Match, I resisted the urge to set an early alarm. In a sense I'm glad I did, because although I missed all of the final game, I missed all of the final game.
As dramatic last round battles go, this wasn't it. The opening was familiar (Ruy Lopez Berlin), the middlegame was perfunctory (the ending was reached by move 21), and the result almost pre-ordained (shaking hands on move 30).
So playoffs tomorrow, which in my opinion, has never been a satisfactory way of determining a world champion.

Monday 28 November 2016

Last game strategy

So the World Championship Match comes down to game 12, although playoffs are a distinct possibility. And it is the existence of playoff games that have certainly changed how final World Championship games are now played.
In an earlier time, a tied match meant that the Champion retained the title. Therefore, if the match reached game 24, it was a do or die game for at least one player. In the case of the Karpov v Kasparov matches, Kasparov won the title in 1985 by winning game 24 (and the match 13-11), and retained the title in 1987 by repeating the feat, but in this case drawing the match 12-12.
In both cases there was a sense of anticipation about what strategies both players would employ, but in both games, Kasparov did not deviate from his normal style, a wise decision as it turned out.
I suspect this will also be the case for game 12 of Carlsen v Karjakin, as a switch to rapidplay games may be agreeable to both sides. Probably 1.e4 will be played although there is also scope for a real surprise. Back in 1987 I can remember see "Guess the Opening for Game 24" competition at the Melbourne Chess Club, and while most choices were pretty main stream, one enterprising soul plumped for 1.g4!

Saturday 26 November 2016

The one Castro game?

With the passing of Fidel Castro, I did a quick search to see if he had played any recorded games of chess. Turns out I could only find a single game, and one in which both players seemed to play poorly. Usually the existence of a single game for a person rings some alarm bells as well, as games like this often turn out to be faked. However I've seen the same game in a couple of sources, and while not ruling out that they both came from the same source,  I've decided to show it here.
It looks like it was played during the 1966 Olympiad in Havana, although not as part of the Olympiad. Castro had black and was losing for most of the game. But whether by luck, or his opponent realising who he was playing, the game turned on a single move, when his opponent allowed a mate in 1!

Terrazas - Castro,Fidel [C34]
Havanna, 1966

Even Stevens

The 2016 World Championship Match is now back on level terms after Magnus Carlsen beat Sergey Karjakin in Game 10. Like most of the games in the match it involved a lot of patient manoeuvring, but unlike previous games, Karjakin was not able to defend a worse position. That is not to say it was all one way traffic, with Carlsen once again running the risk of over finessing the position, rather than pushing for a more direct win. However Carlsen created too many weaknesses for Karjakin to defend, and eventually the pawns began to fall.
Tomorrow is another rest day, before Karjakin starts with the White pieces for the last time (unless the match goes to tie breaks). This may be his last big chance to claim the title, as anything other than a win would leave Carlsen better placed going into the final game.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [C65]
WCh 2016 New York USA (10), 24.11.2016

Friday 25 November 2016

Just a little puzzle

Here is a little puzzle that came from a real game. It is White to play and find the shortest path to victory.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Not what Carlsen wanted

After 7 drawn games the 2016 World Championship sprung to life after Karjakin beat Carlsen in the 8th game. Once again Carlsen played a surprise opening as White (Colle-Zuketort) but the choice backfired on him as Karjakin built up a small advantage. However Karjakin passed up some aggressive choices in the middlegame, content to nurse a small advantage instead. Just before the first time control, Carlsen found a tactic to keep him in the game, and most of the commentators predicted another draw. Instead, Carlsen tried to push a little too hard and suddenly Karjakin spotted a winning line that involved a running 'a' pawn. Carlsen realised far too late he had no decent moves to save the ending and resigned on move 52.
This is the first time Carlsen has fallen behind in a World Championship match. With 4 games left to play he will need to find a way of creating more winning chances than he has so far in the match. Karjakin on the other hand can now continue his 'rope a dope' strategy, as the onus is on Carlsen to make the running. Of course the psychological aspect should not be overlooked, as sometimes taking a lead can disorient a player.
Tomorrow is a rest day, and I assume both Carlsen and Karjakin will be spending most of it planning a startegy for the last 4 games.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

A couple of chess stories in the national media

I cam across not one, but two chess stories that made it to the pages of the national media (in Australia).
The first highlighted the girls chess teams from Caroline Chisholm School, who are off to represent the ACT in the Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship. As a K-10 school they qualified both their Primary and High School teams for the finals, which will be held in Perth early next month. A lot of the credit to the improvement at the school is down to the hard work of Steven Sengstock, who is a teacher at the school, as well as being a strong chess player himself.
The second story featured IM Gary Lane, who opened a new giant chess board at Cambridge Park primary in Sydney. The school won it's local interschool chess competition in just its second year of play, and with the big board to inspire the players, is looking for further trophies to add to the cabinet.

Sunday 20 November 2016

2016 Vikings Weekender - Day 2

IM Anton Smirnov has won the 2016 Vikings Weekender, with a score 6/7. He went into the last round with a half point lead over IM Junta Ikeda, and a draw with FM Jason Hu guaranteed him at least a share of first place. However Ikeda was not able to overcome IM Andrew Brown, and had to settle for a draw. This left Ikeda on 5.5, tied with Fred Litchfield who continued his good tournament form with a win over Brown in round 5.
The Under 1600 event finished in a tie between Mark Patterson and Amol Kiran. Patterson started the event with 6 wins, before being beaten by Kiran in the last round. Curiously Kiran lost his opening game, but finished the event with 6 straight wins.
Final results can be found at You can also download the pgn file for the top 4 games in the open for every round. (NB A couple of games look weird, as the DGT boards had dicciculty in keeping up with some of the moves when players were in time trouble)

2016 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2016 Vikings Weekender is underway, with 4 of the 7 rounds played today. Numbers were good this year, with 65 players across both events, with 25 (or 23) in the top section, and 40 in the Minor.
Joint leaders after 4 rounds are top seed IM Anton Smirnov, and Fred Litchfield. The two drew there third round game, and have won all the rest. Smirnov had a couple of quick wins in rounds 2 and 4, beating me in 12 moves after I blundered a piece in the opening, and IM Junta Ikeda in 20 moves in a very sharp Sicilian. Litchfield started off with wins over Kevin and Fiona Shen, before beating Jason Hu in a game where Litchfield sacrificed his queen for piece activity and an eventual mating attack.
Tied for third on 3.0 are Ikeda, IM Andrew Brown (who arrived late and was paired with 'house man' IM Vlad Smirnov in Round 1!), and tournament surprise Saffron Archer. Archer picked off a couple of higher rated scalps in today's games, and will face Smirnov in round 5.
The Minor had its share of upsets as well, with a number of higher rated players coming unstuck. Mark Patterson and Thomas McMenamin lead the event on 4/4 and they play in tomorrow mornings first round.
Scores from the tournament can be found at along with a link to live coverage of the top 4 boards from the Open.

Hu,Jason - Litchfield,Fred [A40]
2016 Vikings Weekender Tuggeranong (4.2), 19.11.2016

Saturday 19 November 2016

A real squeaker

Australia has just finished a CC match against Wales, and the winning margin could not have been any smaller. The match was played over 34 boards, and Australia eked out a 34.5-33.5 win. Wales was stronger on the top 13 boards (+8=18-0) but it was the lower boards that made the difference. While my own effort was poor (losing both of my games), a number of 2-0 match results edged Australia in front.
Here is one of the wins for Australia, where  Steve McNamara launches a nice kingside attack with 12.e5. Black tries to keep his king safe, but a marauding queen is too much and the point goes to the Australians.

McNamara,Steve (1843) - Meara,Paul (1708)
AUS-WLS 2015 ICCF, 01.10.2015

Thursday 17 November 2016

Slow Starts

Game 4 of the 2016 World Chess Championship ran a similar course to game 3. Carlsen gained an advantage, tried to grind down Karjakin, missed stronger moves in the ending, and the game was a draw.  So 4 games, 4 draws to start the match.
This got me thinking about previous matches, and how long fans had to wait to see a decisive result. At first I thought that the move to a 12 game format (which I dislike) caused players to start more cautiously, but it turns out that this isn't always the case, and I was only remembering the worst cases.
Going backwards (until 2000) here is a list of matches with the game number of the first decisive game, as well as if it was won by the eventual match winner or loser.

  • 2014 2 (W)
  • 2013 5 (W)
  • 2012 7 (L)
  • 2010 1 (L)
  • 2008 3 (W)
  • 2004 1 (W) (14 games)
  • 2000 2 (W) (16 games)
At a stretch I would argue that the starts are getting slower in recent matches. It also helps to be the first to take the lead, although Anand came from behind in both 2010 and 2012 (but not in 2013 or 14).

Wednesday 16 November 2016

A bigger battle

The third game of the 2016 World Championship was more in line with pre-match expectations, although the result was still a draw. I watched the game up until move 22, and the online comments indicated that most people expected another colourless draw. But Carlsen kept pushing and pushing, and on move 32 found a way to win a pawn. After that Karjakin knuckled down to defend the ending, but the smart money was on Carlsen. Eventually he won a piece on move 69, but immediately went wrong on move 70. Karjakin then returned the favour, and the next few moves saw missed chances, and missed defences. Finally Karjakin spotted a drawing line with 72. ... Ra1, and Carlsen's hard work came to nought.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [C67]
WCh 2016 New York USA (3), 14.11.2016

Monday 14 November 2016

To lose once is misfortune, to lose twice looks like carelessness

There is quite a high powered 4 player round robin happening in St Louis at the moment. Anand, Nakamura, Topalov and Caruana are playing a mixed 60m, Rapid and blitz event, held over 4 days. I'm not sure what the scoring system is, but Anand is a player in form, finishing on top of  both the 60m and Rapid sections.
Veselin Topalov tied with Anand in the 60m section, but suffered the embarrassment of losing in 14 moves to Nakamura. If that wasn't enough it turns out the entire game was a repeat of a 2003 internet blitz game, between two 2300 players. The culprit in the position was 10. ... Bf5 which is losing after 11.Bxb8 Black ends up with too many pieces hanging, and Topalov chose an early resignation. (the source game lasted another 18 moves btw)

Nakamura,Hikaru (2779) - Topalov,Veselin (2760) [E35]
Champions Showdown 60m Saint Louis USA (3.2), 11.11.2016

Sunday 13 November 2016

Karjakin trumps Tromp - First World Championship Match drawn

The first game of the 2016 World Championship was a fairly staid affair, with neither player really pushing for more than equality during the game. Carlsen played the Trompowsky as White, which while not being mainstream (for the World Championship), was not a total surprise, given the nature of Carlsen's opening repertoire.
The usual Tromp middlegame was soon reached, with White surrendering the bishop pair to give Black doubled f pawns. For Carlsen this was probably a position he wanted, as he has an opportunity to probe for weaknesses in the position, but accurate defence by Karjakin left Carlsen without any winning chances.
So 0.5-0.5 after the first game, and a result that will surely please Karjakin. Tomorrow will see colours reversed, and it will be interesting to see if Carlsen tries a risky opening with Black, or is happy to equalise via more mainstream systems.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [A45]
WCh 2016 New York USA (1), 11.11.2016

Friday 11 November 2016

When they were kids

Carlsen v Karjakin kicks off in a few hours. For the first game I will probably just follow in on a non-official site, but I will probably shell out for the on site coverage at some point. As for my predictions, I think it will be a Carlsen victory, by a 2 point margin.
As a warm up, here is game played when both players were a lot younger. Although it was in the Corus B event, it was clear to most pundits that both players were destined for bigger things.

Carlsen,M (2553) - Karjakin,Sergey (2599) [A35]
Corus B Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 18.01.2005

Thursday 10 November 2016

Movember Fundraising Event

Each year Street Chess runs a fundraising event for Movember. Normally it happens towards the end of the month, after I've managed to grow most of my mo. However a couple of other activities have intervened (including the Vikings Weekender on the 19th&20th of November), so the Movember Fundraiser is a little earlier this year.
It all takes place on Saturday the 12th. It is a usual Street Chess event, but all entry fees will be donated to Movember. I'm also taking other donations if you wish to contribute. And just to encourage extra entries, I will be giving a bonus prize for the best score by a player with a moustache ( drawn on ones count btw!)

So come on down to City Walk, Canberra City before 11am to join in the fun. Entry is $5 and there will be plenty of prizes on offer.

2016 World Championship

You know there's a World Championship match about to start when stories of people getting sued over the coverage start to hit the press. As usual it seems to be about whether chess moves are 'information' and can be relayed freely, or 'content' where the rights to rebroadcast them are held by a single entity (Note: IANAL). My own opinion is that the moves are information, but other content, such as video coverage etc are indeed content.
One argument I feel does not hold water btw is comparing a chess game to a cricket match or football game (in part because it is moves that are important, not how they are played). Indeed look no further than cricinfo for an example of how information can be distributed via the internet (live updates of scores, and even text commentary). Obviously it does not broadcast live coverage of the game (in the traditional sense of radio or TV), but it has not been prevented from providing a huge amount of information via the web.
The whole things kicks of in a couple of days from New York. The rounds start at a slightly inconvenient time for Australia (5am) but it may mean that you can watch the real action over breakfast. There are a number of options to watching the match, but the best starting point is probably Ian Roger's "The couch potatos guide to  the World Chess Championship"

Wednesday 9 November 2016

2017 Oceania Zonal

The 2017 Oceania Zonal is a little over 2 months away, so if you are planning to play, time to get organised. This year the tournament is being organised by the New Zealand Chess Federation, and will be held in Auckland from the 14th to the 20th of January 2017.
There is an Open Zonal and Women's Zonal, both running over 9 rounds. As with previous Zonals, there are direct titles on offer (International Master title for the winner, FM title for 66% and CM title for 50%). The winner of each Zonal will also qualify for the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Full details of the tournament can be found here. I played in the 2011 Zonal in Rotorua and found it enjoyable, if a lot of hard work. New Zealand is always nice to visit at that time of year. At this stage there seems to be plenty of Australian players making the journey across the Tasman, so if you want a relaxing week of playing international chess, this should be the tournament for you!

Monday 7 November 2016

Looking for Gamers - Canberra

If you want to take a break from chess, or want to warm up for the 2016 Vikings Weekender in a non-traditional way, then Looking for Gamers Canberra (LFG) is organising a board game event this weekend at the Canberra Southern Cross Club. The event is organised by the same team that organises the Doeberl Cup each year (O2C) so it will be a quality event. The event is title Essen:Unplugged and will showcase a number of new games that were presented at the recent Essen Spiel. It will run over 3 days starting Friday 11th November and finishing on the 13th. Tickets are from $15 per session and can be ordered from The link also contains information about the weekend, s well as more general information about LSG.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Larks, Owls, and Arrythmics

"Science identifies three types of people. Name them?" Without context this seems like a nonsense question (Short, dark haired, Beatles fans?). But it was asked during the recent FIDE Trainers course in Baku, and fortunately there was context. For those playing at home, the correct answer is "Larks, owls and Arrhythmics" The context was the time of day people operate best in (Early, late, or middle).
Now a new study has looked at this as applied to decision making. Using online blitz chess as a data source, the study looked at when people made good or bad decisions. Studying thousands of 2 or 3 minute games in FICS, the study reported that we make worse decisions as the day wears on, with mid-afternoon seeming to be when it plateaus out. The study looked at both the time to make a decision, and how good that decision was. On average players were more cautious earlier in the day (moving slower but more accurately), and played faster, but less accurately in the afternoon.
Nonetheless the study did not say that we have better results early in the morning (as good and bad decisions may not effect the overall result of the game), so if you feel comfortable playing from 10pm to 4am (as opposed to getting out of bed at 6:30am), there is no need to change you sleeping habits for the sake of a few rating points.

Friday 4 November 2016

Well known to many

While looking at some QGA theory I came across a game between Taimanov and Polugaevsky from the 1960 USSR Championship. Graeme Buckley (author of 'Easy guide to the Queens Gambit Accepted') described the opening variation played in that game (after 4. ... Nbd7)  as 'well-publicised', which assumes that one should know enough to avoid it.
Having found the game I wondered how many players did in fact know the line (as Black) and was a little surprised with some of the names who played the 'wrong' side of the position. After White plays 8.e5 the score is 85% in Whites favour, yet Zsuza Polgar, Karpov and Gelfand have all tried to defend the position. I suspect that they may not have been aware of the Taimanov Polugaevsky game, and instead were caught by surprise, as they don't seem to have made a habit of playing this position. (Polgar did play this twice, but chose 8. ... b5 the second time around).
Given how good the line looks for White (although Black can vary earlier), it is no wonder that Buckley suggests 4. ... Nc6 as the most sensible way to deal with 4.Qa4+

Taimanov,Mark E - Polugaevsky,Lev A [D23]
URS-ch27 Leningrad (13), 1960

Thursday 3 November 2016

European Club Championship - Now with interesting names

The 2016 European Club Championship starts in a couple of days, and as usual it is a very strong event. Top seeded Syberia (yes, with a Y) has an average rating of 2745, and are 1 of 5 teams with an average rating above 2700.
As the pinnacle of the European club season, the event is guaranteed to attract some very strong teams, and some with slightly odd names. There are some good old chess themed clubs like 'En Passant', 'Schachfreunde' or the "Chania Chess Academy". Then there is the slightly more aggressive "The Smashing Pawns Bieles". The very ambitious "Perfect" team is clearly hoping to improve on its 38th seeding. And then there are just the plain weird like "Alkaloid" (2nd seeds btw), "IntelliMagic" and "LugPoker Chess". I assume in this case it is the team sponsor who is being highlighted here.
The tournament itself beings on the 6th November, and there will be plenty of Super GM v Super GM action to watch. Kramnik, Svidler and Aronian are just some of the players leading there teams, with Giri, and Ding Liren even being relegated to slightly lower boards!

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Where I critique a movie I've yet to see

At very short notice I was called upon to a radio interview about the newly released move "Queen of Katwe". The difficulty I faced was the movie hasn't been released where I live, so I was kind of flying blind. However I had read a number of reviews and summaries, and coincidentally, had previously met Tim Crothers, the author of the book it was based on. Armed with a summary of the movie I managed to get through the interview without saying anything too dopey (I hope), and was able to talk about other chess topics as well.
If you want to hear the interview, I think it will be up for a few days, on the ABC Radio website. It part of the Canberra Drive program and the link to the page is here. As the full recording is 3 hours long, you can jump to my bit, which is around the 2 hour 35 minutes mark. However if you play it from the start you do get the added bonus of hearing the call of this years Melbourne Cup!

Heads up, its Movember

Time to warn you all, but Movember kicks off tomorrow. Once again I will be growing an impressive set of whiskers, while raising money for men's health. Last years Movember was pretty rewarding for me, as I picked up a prize in the fundraising raffle (A new Mini to drive around for a year).
My Movember page is and you can donate there. You are all welcome to contribute, especially anyone who I have given a lift to in the past 10 months :)

And to remind you of what to expect of the next thirty days I present you this magnificent specimen.