Saturday 31 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 3

Icelandic IM Gudmunder Kjartansson has taken the outright lead after three rounds of the 2016/17 Hastings International. Kjartansson was the only winner on the top 5 boards, beating English FM Ravia Haria.
Australian IM Bobby Cheng drew with English GM Mark Hebden on board 2, while compatriot Justin Tan had a nice win a little further down.
The leading pack is starting to sort themselves out, although there are a few dangerous players floating around the lower groups. Top seed SP Suthuraman scored his first win of the tournament to move up to 1.5, while the group of players on 2/3 contains no fewer than 6 GM's.
As this event has no rest day, there is both a New Years Eve, and New Years Day round. Players are able to take a bye (half point) on request, but surprisingly few have availed themselves of this option.

TAN,Justin (2451) - FOO,William J (2145) [A00]
Hastings Masters 2016/17 Horntye Park Sports Complex, B (3.8), 30.12.2016

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at

Friday 30 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International Day 2 - A good day for the Australians

Day 2 of the 2016/17 Hastings International saw the 3 Australian players all end up with good results. IM Bobby Cheng defeated GM Deep Sengupta on the top board to go to 2/2, while IM Justin Tan had a quick win over IM Robert Bellin. Harry Press scored his second draw of the tournament, holding on despite being a pawn down against Alan Byron.
Top seed SP Sethuraman had another tough day, drawing with English FM Robert Eames. GM Danny Gormally was another upset loss, with FM Ravi Haria finding a nice win in a Q+2 Minors v Q+R position.
Currently 9 players are on 2/2, including GM's Allan Rasmussen (DEN) and Mark Hebden (ENG). Tomorrows round is the last accelerated round as well, with the top half getting a bonus 0.5 for this round (as defined in the new Baku rules). So far the acceleration seems to have worked well, with the pairings not being too problematic. In round 4 everyone will be paired using their 'natural' scores, but even then I don't expect too many unbalanced pairings.

Thursday 29 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 1

It is tough at the top. The first day of the 2016/17 Hastings International saw a number of upsets on the higher boards, with seeds 1 and 3 losing, and the third second seed being held to a draw. The acceleration of the pairings obviously resulted in tougher first round opponents than usual, but it was still a surprise to see the carnage unfold.
After that there were more 'normal' results, although a number of higher rated opponents conceded draws to lower rated opposition. and there was still the odd upset victory. Nonetheless there some of the higher rated opponents still handed out the chess lesson to their opponents including the following quick win by Danny Gormally.

Gormally,Daniel W - Teh,Eu Wen Aron [E54]
2016/17 Hastings Masters, 28.12.2016

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Hastings - First Impressions

I am starting to settle in at Hastings, with the 2016/17 Hastings International Chess Congress starting this afternoon. Despite the stories about trudging through 4 feet of snow, or the see freezing over, it is quite pleasant at the moment. I am staying on the sea front, with a nice view across the English Channel.
I spent yesterday evening helping the organising team set up at the venue. A lot of hard work goes into an event like this, especially as there are a couple of different events being held at the same time. Apart from the 97 player Masters events, there is a Christmas Congress, which is split into 4 sections. The top 24 boards from the Masters will be covered live via DGT boards, and you can follow the action from the tournament website.
One interesting feature of the Masters is that they are using Accelerated Pairings. The new Baku System is going to be tried although it is not clear if the pairing software ISwiss Manager/JavaFo) is able to handle it yet. So the first few rounds will be paired by hand (apparently a Hastings tradition anyway) before moving over the computer pairings.
Round times for the Masters is 2:15 pm local time, which is 1:15 am Canberra time. As the time limit is a very generous 40 in 100m followed by 50m with a 30 second increment, you may be able to catch the tail end of the games in the morning.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Rapid and Blitz in Qatar

For the last few years the Qatar Masters has been a big event this time of year, but for 2016 it has been replaced with the FIDE World rapid and Blitz Championship. 120 players in the Open and 36 in the Womens event are playing a 3 day 15 round Rapid, and a 2 day 21 round Blitz. Magnus Carlsen is the top seed, but plenty of the worlds top players are also taking part.
After the first day Anton Korabov is the only player on 5/5. Lev Aronian is on 4.5, with a number of players on 4. Carlsen had a very shaky start, drawing with SS Ganguly (with Ganguly missing a forced mate), and losing to Pantsulaia in the 2nd round. 3 straight wins kept him in touch with the leaders, but he now has some work too do.
The official website is here, while you can follow the games at Chess24

Monday 26 December 2016

Christmas Cracking

It is Christmas Day here in the UK, so I've just enough time to throw in a late Christmas present. This was an online game played earlier today, where an early deviation from theory met with an untimely end. For those looking to repeat this line (with either colour), taking the knight on b4 was not sound, but neither was Na6 for Black (O-O!), The final big mistake was 15. ... d4 as White has a forced win after that.

Press,Harry - Saint,Nick [C17]
Xmas Blitz, 25.12.2016

Sunday 25 December 2016

Rapidplay Revisted

Having seen the success of big Rapidplay in the UK, I am still wondering why it didn't catch on in Australia. There was a push in the 1990's to make it a 'thing', including the Australian Rapidplay Open in Sydney, which had some big sponsorship, and an appearance by the Polgar Sisters. However it seemed to fizzle out after a couple of years, and hasn't really been tried since.
One obvious reason is the market for it. Players seem happy with weekend events with longer time controls (especially FIDE rated ones), or faster events like Street Chess. A single day rapid falls between the two, and so does not attract travellers from afar, or players willing to sacrifice an entire day.
Having said that, when I get back to Australia I may try and test the market, at least in Canberra. A single day 6 round Quickplay (as the ACF now calls it), with a time limit of G20m+10s per move, with a minimum prize pool of $900. $50 flat entry fee (sorry, no concessions) with 6 to 9 prizes on offer, depending on the size of the field. As it is a serious event, FIDE rating it is a given. I'd also use the English method for awarding category prizes, which is based on Score Achieved minus  Score Expected, so as to reward good play and avoid the luck of the last round draw.
To make it work properly I would need to run at least 2 events, to see how it performs as a concept. The only other issue I need to work around is the somewhat crowded Canberra chess calendar. ACT Champs and Doeberl are to big events early in the year, but possibly I can squeeze it in somewhere.

Friday 23 December 2016

Hastings in a few days

The Hastings International Chess Congress begins a couple of days after Christmas, and after years of saying I've wanted to attend this event, I am actually going to attend this event. I'm going as an arbiter rather than a player, and given my recent form, this looks to be the smart choice.
The Masters event has the usual mix of UK and OS GM's, and there will be at least 3 Australian players in the field. IM's Justin Tan and Bobby Cheng will be looking for GM norms from this event, while Harry Press is hoping to pick up more rating points.
Looking back at previous events I came across the following game, which is of some interest. It is between veteran Hastings player Bernard Cafferty and Maris Cekulis, from Australia. It was played in 2012, and was a win for the local champion.

Cekulis,Maris (1811) - Cafferty,Bernard (2105) [A62]
Hastings Masters 88th Hastings (1), 28.12.2012

Thursday 22 December 2016

Not an appealing tournament

It seems that the Victorian Lightning Championship started as one of the strongest state blitz championships in Australia, but ended as one of the most controversial. On paper an event with 3 GM's, 5 IM's, 1 WIM, 5 FM's and 1 WFM in a 54 player field should be considered a success for the organisers, but the heavy hand of the arbiting team saw it run off the rails.
The main issue was a the announcement of a new rule that prevented players from starting their move (by touching a piece) before their opponent had pressed the clock. The punishment for this was loss of game. As a result a number of games were decided in this manner, including games between the top seeds.
It is not clear why the arbiters thought such a rule was either valid or necessary. There is no such rule in the FIDE Laws of Chess that prevents a player from moving immediately after their opponent has made a move. Of course some players find this tactic annoying (including myself), but it is not illegal. Indeed the rules (6.2.A in the FIDE Laws of Chess) explicitly describe the case where an opponent has moved while his opponent has not pressed their clock, and simply state that the first player can complete their move by pressing the clock. (NB I was on the FIDE Rules Commission when this rule was discussed and it was decided that there will be no rule change to prevent players from moving before the opponent has pressed their clock)
To introduce such a rule is also asking for trouble. In my experience the best run events require as little involvement from arbiters as possible. For example the 2 day 10 round 475 player LCC Super Rapidplay had only one issue that I saw (an incorrect draw offer involving raised voices), in part because the arbiters only involved themselves at the request of the players. There was a brief explanation about the application of A.4 (Rapidplay Rules), but otherwise the arbiters left the players to manage their own affairs.
The other reported issue from this event was involving appeals. IM James Morris lodged a formal complaint after losing a game in this manner, but the appeals committee included the arbiter who had made the initial ruling. This is not how appeals committees are supposed to operate, and I am surprised that the VCA (the organising body) would allow this to stand.
As a consequence the whole event is now under a cloud. There is talk of not submitting it for rating (either with FIDE or with the Australian Chess Federation) while the predictable debate about the quality of arbiters (and the suitability of their titles) has begun. This issue might run for a while, as I'm sure the organisers might feel aggrieved if such an action was taken, although how they balance this with the actual conduct of the event remains to be seen.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

The journey continues

As I am currently on a chess holiday in the UK, this blog is a little more travelogue than usual.
With the London Chess Classic out of the way, Harry and I have travelled down to Gloucestershire to spend Christmas with family, before moving onto the Hastings Chess Congress a few days later. Although this part of the trip is a little chess-lite, trips to this part of th UK usually involve excursions to second hand book shops, looking for additions to my chess library. If I have the time, Hay-on-Wye is on the agenda, but if not, Gloucester and Bath may provide some decent alternatives.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

2017 Oceania Zonal - 14th to 20th January 2017

Entries for the 2017 Oceania Zonal are coming in, and the Open is starting to look quite strong. Up for grabs is a spot in the 2017 World Cup in Georgia, as well as the opportunity to earn titles for good performances.
IM Anton Smirnov is currently the top seed, with GM Max Illingworth, IM Gary Lane and GM Darryl Johansen at the top of the field. There are 2 GM's and 6 IM's entered so far, with 28 players rated above 2000.
The Women's Zonal currently has a smaller field, with 11 players entered at this time. IM Irina Berzina is the top seed, with Layla Timergazi the big hope for host country New Zealand.
The tournament runs from the 14th to the 20th January 2017 in Auckland New Zealand.

Monday 19 December 2016

LCC Super Rapidplay - Valentina Gunina wins

Russian GM Valentin Gunina has won the 2016 LCC Super Rapidplay with an impressive 9/10. A last round win over GM Luke McShane gave her outright first and the 5000 GBP first prize. Seeded 33rd in the tournament she played seeds 2,3,4,5,6 and 8 and scored 5/6 against them. Eltaj Sarfali finished in second place on 8.5, while 11 players finished in a tie for 3rd.
Of the Australian players taking part, WIM Arianne Caoili finished with the best score of 6/10. Harry Press scored 5.5, and Chris Skulte finished with 5. David Guthrie, formerly of New Zealand, but now based in London, also finished on 5.5, drawing with Harry Press in the final round.

Sunday 18 December 2016

LCC Super Rapidplay day 1

Day 1 of the London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay saw around 470 take part in the UK's largest ever rapid event. As someone who is used to arbiting somewhat smaller events, I was impressed by both the organisation of the tournament, and the general vibe of the event.
There are 10 arbiters for the tournament, including a dedicated pairing arbiter, plus other helpers. This helped the tournament stick to the published schedule, as arbiters weren't involved in managing games, and then running off to do pairings, like in Australian events. Also each game has a result ticket at the board, which players fill out and hand in at the end of the game, resulting in less confusion about results. Also, from an arbiters point of view, the players seem to be a bit more serious about their chess than in Australia, meaning that their were no disputes in my section, and hardly any problems in the rest of the tournament.
As for the actual chess, there are still 7 players with a perfect 5/5. English GM David Howell is waving the flag for the host country, but with GM's filling the next 33 places, the likely winner is still hard to predict.
Interesting there are a number of players with a Canberra connection. GM Hrant Melkumyan  is on 4.5 (drawing in round 1!), while Arianne Caoili is on 4. Canadian player Daniel Abrahams (formerly at the ANU) is on 3/5, beating GM Abhijeet Gupta in round 2, while Harry Press is on the same score, drawing with GM Benjamin Bok in the opening round.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Scaling up

My usual experience with Rapidplay events is the regular Street Chess tournaments I run. It happens every Saturday and the average size if the field is around 16 players. Occasionally there will be a bigger field for a special event like the ACT Rapid Championship, where 30 to 40 players will normally play.
Today I'm helping out at the London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay. This is an incredibly popular event and attracts a field of over 400 players. It runs for 2 days, with a slightly longer time control of 25m+10s. One of the reasons for its popularity is almost all the strong GM's playing in the LCC FIDE Open back up for this event, and it gives everyone a change to mix it with the heavy hitters.
There will be a large team of arbiters handing the event, and it will be interesting to see how it all gets managed. So far I've only heard positive things about previous tournaments, so I'm guessing that the organisers have it down pat.

Friday 16 December 2016

Prepped to death

One of the differences between club chess and tournament chess is the level of opening preparation you face. In almost every game I have played so far, my opponents have prepared a specific opening line against me. Sometimes it works for them, and sometimes it doesn't.
I lost a horrible game in round 2 after missing a opening tactic, but for some reason my round 4 opponent avoided playing the same line. Instead he thought he would avoid my previous opening choices, but instead played into a Gruenfeld, which is an opening I have played for about 15 years.
But rather than show that game (which ended in a draw) I'll show an example where prep worked to deadly effect. Harry Press noticed his opponent played the same line of the Veresov, and after some investigation found a nice idea involving Ba3!!. His opponent started to go wrong straight away, and after another 5 moves resigned a he was about to lose a rook.

Salewski,Bernd - Press,Harry [D01]
London Chess Classic Under 2050, 15.12.2016

Thursday 15 December 2016

Do I have a generous looking face - redux

I'm not to sure whether my recent play has been unconvincing, but I seem to be having a difficulty in convincing my opponents to resign. Twice in the last three games at the LCC Under 2050, I've managed to be up a rook for a couple of pawns, but have needed to play another 20 moves or so before the point has been conceded. Possibly I have been a little over cautious in converting, giving my opponents some hope, but better safe than sorry. To be fair to my opponents I don't begrudge them playing on, but there is only so many late dinners I can handle, before hunger overwhelms my good nature.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Wisdom of the ageing

On thing that I have noticed on my various trips to the UK is that the average age of the players is significantly older than in Australian events. The generation that began playing as part of the "Fischer boom" is well represented, as is the next wave of players who followed the "English Chess Explosion" of the late 1970's and 80's. What is less prevalent is the hordes of primary aged children we do get in Australian events, with most junior players at the LCC being teenagers.
That is not to say there isn't a strong primary school chess scene in the UK, as there were large numbers of school groups visiting the London Chess Classic, but they were there as spectators, not as players.
Conventional wisdom might be that the lack of active primary players might be detrimental to the future of UK chess, but the numbers indicate that this might not be the case. Where the UK chess scene has it over Australia is in retaining active players. While Australia has a large junior pool, keeping them active beyond their late teens is the challenge. As a personal example, I began playing tournaments as a 16 year old, but in any event I play (or run), there would be very few players with careers as long as mine (35 years). On the other hand, I suspect a much larger percentage of UK players have been playing for that long, a figure that I would place as high as 50%
That is not to say that chess in the UK is just for oldies. But certainly they have succeeded in both developing new players,but more importantly, turning them into life long supporters of the game , something that Australia has been less good at doing.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

One in a row

The chess part of my 2 month holiday started this afternoon at the London Chess Classic Under 2050 event. This 5 round event is running alongside the LCC Open, and has attracted a field of around 50 players. I started in the top half of the field, but even then had to work for my point.
My game started well after my opponent missed a tactical trick out of the opening, forgetting that the f pawn was pinned after he castled. After swapping off some material my opponent then dropped a piece, but in return a trio of passed pawns looked menacing. Despite being downa rook he found some clever moves, but eventually I was able to win a pawn and swap queens, at which point he resigned.
It is always good to get a first win out of the way, but I suspect tomorrow I may have a much tougher opponent, as there were a number of draws between top half and bottom half players.

Press,Shaun - Patel,Rishi [C48]
London Chess Classic Under 2050, 12.12.2016

Monday 12 December 2016

2016 Australasian Masters

The Melbourne Chess Club is the venue for the 2016 Australasian Masters. The top event is a 10 player GM norm event, while there is also an IM norm event running alongside.
IM Anton Smirnov is off to a good start, beating GM Vasily Papin in round 2. He needs 7/9 to score his second (and final) GM norm, while the rest of the non-GM's need 6.5. FM's Chris Wallis and Karl Zelesco can also score IM norms, needing 5/9. In the Masters event, the IM norm score is an equally tough 7/9.
The tournament runs until the 18th of December, with most rounds starting at 4pm. Live coverage of the GM event can also be found on

Smirnov,Anton - Papin,Vasily [B42]
Australasian Masters, 11.12.2016

Sunday 11 December 2016

London Chess Classic

I manged a quick visit to the London Chess Classic this afternoon, and was able to experience the shear size of the event. Apart from the 10 player Classic, the FIDE Open had a field of over 200 players, while the weekend events have attracted another 300 players. Apart from the playing areas, the foyer was filled with analysis boards, and the large commentary room was 80% full.
I didn't stay for too long, but I did get to see one of the playoff games from the British Knockout Championship (another innovative event). Nigel Short was paired with Luke McShane and played a line against the Pirc which he said served him well against Yasser Seirawan about 25 years ago. Once Short played e6 McShane had to find the right defensive moves, but it was on move 12 that McShane played to wrong move. After that Short was always better, and won both the game and the playoff.

Short,Nigel - McShane,Luke [B00]
British Knockout Ch'ship Olympia Conference Centre (9.1), 10.12.2016

Saturday 10 December 2016

2016 Lidums Young Masters - 2 new IM's

The 2016 Lidums Young Masters finished with FM's Ziangyi Liu (SGP) and Li Tian Yeoh (MAS) tieing for first place with 6/9. Not only was this score good enough to win the event, but was also enough for both players to score their final IM norms. Yeoh lead by half a point going into the final round (along with IM Bobby Cheng), but only drew with Patrick Gong (AUS). Cheng lost to IM Kanan Izzat (AZE) to stay on 5.5, and a win by Liu over FM Yi Liu (AUS) enabled him to join Yeoh at the top of the table.

Top seed GM Adrien Demuth tied for third with 5.5 alongside Izzat and Cheng, while early leader IM James Morris defeated IM Andrew Brown to finish on 5/9.

Hughston Parle (AUS) won the Junior Masters event with 7/9, and Gavyn Sanusi-Goh won the Under 1600 event with 8.5/9

Yeoh, Li Tian (2432) - Morris, James (2457)
2016 Lidums Australian Young Masters (Adelaide, South Australia), 08.12.2016

Friday 9 December 2016

Normal service being resumed

I have touched down in London, but getting back online took me a little longer than I thought. Throwing a little money British Telecoms way seems to have done the trick, and hopefully this will keep me socially connected for the next month or so.
Yesterday was spent settling in to where we (my son and I) are staying for the next week and a half, as well as overcoming the urge to fall asleep at random moments. This problem may persist for the next few days, but hopefully will be conquered by the start of out first chess tournament.
For now it is a bit of sight seeing and exploration. Might drop in to see the early rounds of the London Chess Classic as well, and if I do I'll be sure to report it.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Heading out

Of to England tomorrow morning, spending the usual 36 or so hours going from door to door. I touch down just as the London Chess Classic starts, but as I will still be in recovery mode for a few days, I might not drop in until Sunday or Monday.
In the meantime I squeezed in one last game at Belconnen Chess Club before I left. It was a useful warm up before I go, but both myself and my opponent missed an import nuance on move 40, which would have turned my single tempo win into a single tempo draw.

Pearce,Tim - Press,Shaun [D20]
Swiss Festive Fun, 06.12.2016

2016 Lidums Australian Young Masters

Adelaide is hosting a strong IM event, as well as a couple of junior tournaments for up and coming players.
The Australian Young Masters is being held at Adelaide Uni, and is offering IM norms in the top section. GM Adrien Demuth (FRA) is the top seed, with IM Kanan Izzat, FM Li Tian Yeoh, and FM Ziangyi Liu making up the overseas contingent. However it is IM James Morris (AUS)  who leads the event with 3.5/4. He is being closely followed by FM Liu on 3.0, with IM Bobby Cheng the only other player above 50%. Results for this event are being posted here.
Alongside this event are the Junior Masters, and Junior Masters Under 1600 tournaments. These events have just begun (2 rounds today), so it is too early to predict a winner.

Sunday 4 December 2016

The Grand Tour

Apologies for the somewhat sporadic blogging recently. Apart from work keeping me busy, an upcoming overseas trip is also taking up my time. Starting on Wednesday (7th December), I, accompanied by my son, will be off on a 9 week trip to the UK. Unsurprisingly, there will be a heavy chess component to the trip, with the London Chess Classic, Hastings International, a 4NCL weekend (and weekender), plus Gibraltar Masters all on the schedule. For some events we will be playing, while for a couple of others I will be an arbiter.
I will be blogging on the trip, so hopefully I can provide some on the spot coverage of these events. Given my current form I suspect my rating might take a bit of a hammering, but as most of these events have been on my to-do list for a number of years, I'm pretty sure the loss of ratings points will be worth it.

Friday 2 December 2016

Carlsen wins World Championship after playoffs.

The 2016 World Championship Match ended today with Magnus Carlsen winning the playoffs 3-1 over Sergey Karjakin. The final two games of the playoffs were both won by Carlsen, after Karjakin blundered in time trouble in game 3, and rolling the dice in game 4, got mated with a nice queen sac.
While the final day had plenty of excitement, the match itself was fairly dull. A narrow choice of openings and strategy by both players resulted in fairly risk free chess, with Carlsen trying to convert small advantages, while Karjakin seemed happier to defend. Of course if Carlsen had converted some advantageous endgames earlier in the match Karjakin may have been forced to change his approach to stay afloat, but as it was, this situation only occurred in the very final game.
This is Carlsen's third World Championship win, and his narrowest. The cycle to determine the next challenger starts anew, and while I still hope for a Carlsen v Caruana match, there may be a number of other players trying to change that.