Sunday 31 December 2017

Happy 2018

Happy to 2018 to all the readers of ChessExpress and may next year bring you success on and off the chessboard. I'm heading off to Sydney tomorrow to be an arbiter for the 2018 Australian Chess Championships as well as providing daily coverage via this blog.
So far the event is looking to be very successful, with around 200 entries for the 3 long time control events. There are 35 players in the top section with GM's Anton Smirnov, Max Illingworth and Moulthun Ly heading the field. There are also 8 IM's in the field, so it should be a very competitive 11 round event. Live broadcast of each round will be available via Chess24, while GM Ian Rogers is providing onsite coverage.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Keep threatening checkmate

The only move in chess without possible drawbacks is checkmate. So one strategy is to keep threatening checkmate in the hope that it eventually pays off. For beginners this usually relies upon the opponent missing the threat, but for strong players it is usually because they run out of moves to defend against it.
Here is an example of the second situation.

Karjakin,Sergey (2760) - Esipenko,Andrey (2564) [B11]
World Rapid 2017 Riyadh KSA (8.9), 27.12.2017

A brief (early) history of the Grand Prix

I tend to steer clear ChessChat, Australia's best known chess bulletin board, but occasionally I will wander by, to gauge the pulse of the nation, as it were. In my last look-in I noticed that the ACF Grand Prix Series was being discussed. While the discussion mainly concerned the distribution of prizes, a few posts showed me that the history of how the GP started, and what it was intended to do, seems to have been lost. So to correct that, here is how the GP came about (at least to the best of my recollections).
To start with, the Australian Chess Grand Prix was inspired by the British Grand Prix series. I had read about it in BCM and Chess Monthly, and wondered why the same couldn't be done in Australia. So in 1988 I drew up a basic outline of how such a series would operate and went to work putting it into practice. However there was one significant difference to the UK system, in that points were awarded in the style of Formula 1 racing, based on finishing places. At the time there weren't a large number of weekend chess events (maybe 20 or so across Australia), but I envisioned that the majority of organisers might be interested. I even pitched it to the Australian Chess Federation, as I thought a national competition might be of interest to the national body. It turns out they were not interested, telling me that "if you want to run it privately, go ahead".
The first edition kicked off in 1989, funded by entry fees from the tournament themselves. It had the 5 class structure that still exists today, although the scoring was slightly different. IIRC 6 or 7 tournaments took part (including the Doeberl Cup), and GM Ian Rogers was the inaugural winner. But despite the modest start in 1989, it really took off in 1990. This was down to the efforts of two people. The first was Ian Rogers, who had been looking for projects to pitch to Mercantile Mutual Insurance, following from their sponsorship of the Mercantile Mutual Masters. They were keen to support the GP series, providing a $10000 cash sponsorship for the prizes, as well as covering publicity costs and tournament materials (score sheets, posters etc). Part of the deal with Mercantile Mutual was the establishment of  the national junior development fund, funded out of the entry fees from the series.
The second important person was Larry Ermacora, who recruited around 40 weekend events for the second year. This meant the series was a truly national event with almost every significant weekend event involved. It also provided the impetus for a number of new events as both private organsiers and state associations became involved.
Interestingly, the Australian Chess Federation, who had little interest in the event in 1989, had a complete change of attitude for 1990. Of course the contribution wasn't in the area of extra financial support or manpower, but in the form of an extensive list of by-laws on how the series should be run. While my recollection of the exact regulations is a little hazy, I'm sure it did include the perennial ACF favourite "players and events must be approved by the relevant state association".
Mercantile Mutual continued their sponsorship for 3 years, and it only ended when the company was taken over (oddly enough by a Dutch firm). I ended my involvement around the same time, but I was pleased to see that the series achieved some important aims. Firstly, it provided a more competitive environment for top Australian chess players, by encouraging them to play in more events. Secondly it put more money into the game, not just for the top players, but for regular weekend players, in the shape of Under 2000, Under 1600, and state based prizes. And finally, it help create more weekend events across the county for players to take part in.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Blindfold Cycling

GM Timur Gareyev holds the world record for the largest blindfold simul, playing 48 games in 2016. He has turned his prowess at blindfold chess into a successful career, alongside his professional chess career.
His latest simul was in Bhopal India, where his is taking part in the Bhopal International. After the 7th round he took on 11 local players, beating 10 and drawing with one. The interesting thing about his blindfold simuls (apart from the fact that he cannot see the board), is that he often does them while riding an exercise bike. Apart from the exercise benefits, he believes it helps him maintain the flow and rhythm of the simul.

Vashishtha,Pranav - Gareyev,Timur [B01]
Blindfold Simul, 25.12.2017

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Not really shocked

In what is a hardly surprising turn of events, Israeli registered players have failed to receive visa's to participate in the World Rapid and Blitz events in Suadi Arabia. Even FIDE themselves have thrown in the towel on this issue, producing a press release touting their success in getting Iranian and Qatari players visa's, but omitting any mention of Israel at all.
In a better world someone from FIDE might have taken responsibility for the exclusion of players from this event, but in this one FIDE is patting itself on the back, as shown by the quote from the press release "As everybody clearly understands from the above, FIDE and the Saudi organisers are always ready to welcome any participant."

Monday 25 December 2017

I hope you get something nice from Santa Claus

Christmas is almost here, and I suggest that any gifts you need to buy should have been bought by now. I managed to avoid the worst of the Christmas rush by deciding I'm getting to old for this, and declaring anything I bought for anyone after the 1st of November as a 'Xmas gift'. This seems to have worked out well so far.
Nonetheless, I hope that under the tree tomorrow morning are gifts that you desire, or failing that, gifts that you need. This may or may not include chess sets or other related items, but if you've been extra good this year (no two handed castling, or using an upside down rook as a queen) then I'm sure Santa Claus will reward you.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Exchanging into trouble

Knowing which pieces to exchange and when is one of the deeper concepts in chess. Below a certain level, exchanges are often used to relieve pressure, to try and gain a tempo, or simply to postpone making a hard decision. Unfortunately, exchanging without assessing the resultant position can leave you in deep trouble, as a game from today's Street Chess tournament demonstrates.

White - Black [C47]
Street Chess, 23.12.2017

2017 World Rapid and Blitz Championship

The 2017 World Rapid and Blitz Championship begins tomorrow in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At this stage I'm not sure who is playing (or allowed to play) as the tournament website is pretty light on detail. Of course this is of some interest as there was a fear that players from Israel (and some other countries) would be given visa's to play. Without a players list it is hard to find out what is going on in this regard, although this report from Leonard Barden indicates that FIDE's assurances on this issue may come up short.

Thursday 21 December 2017


Although I learned chess at a fairly young age (6 or 7), it took me another 10 years before I began to play seriously. In the meantime I played a number of 'simpler' games, although they did have 'chess' like features (two players, turn based play etc). These included Nine Men's Morris, Feudal and Connect 4. Often these were played during the school holidays, either with my brother, or with friends. Although the results of these friendly matches are long forgotten, but I do think they helped me develop the kind of thinking that I used when starting my chess career.
Of course there a number of games which fall between the simplicity of noughts and crosses and the complexity of chess/go/shogi. One such game is an invention of IM Ken Regan, dating back to his time as a student at Oxford University. It is a checkers like game, although no pieces are actually captured. Instead the goal is to run your opponent out of moves. He describes it in detail in a post about AlphaZero  as an example of a game is small enough to be solvable, but large enough that this cannot be done too quickly.
I find games of this nature quite interesting, as it is far easier to test the success of players strategies (both human and computer). As the search space is smaller, the number of good and bad ideas is much more manageable for the human brain. However, two evenly matched players should be able to challenge each other, as what may work most of the time, might not work *all* the time.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

I guess someones getting mated

The new logo for the 2018 World Chess Championship has been announced*, to a somewhat mixed reaction. I'm going to give the designers the benefit of the doubt and assume they knew exactly what they were doing.

(*I haven't seen an announcement on the FIDE website, but it has been published at WorldChess )

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Thirty years back

While writing up yesterdays post on the 2017 Australasian Masters I spied out of the corner of my eye, the bulletin for the very first Australian Masters in 1987. It started as a single 10 player round robin* and was purely an Australian affair. (* 11 players actually turned up to play on the first day, with FM Guy West dropping out to take on the role of bulletin editor!)
The first tournament had some familiar faces, with GM Ian Rogers top seed, followed by then IM Darryl Johansen. Also in the field were Stephen Solomon and Eddie Levi, who both played in the 2017 IM event.
Darryl Johasen was the winner of the first edition on 7/9. Half a point back were Rogers, Solomon, and Hayden Barber.
Barber also had the pleasure of winning one of the games of the tournament, in the 5th round against Chris Depasquale. In a game that could be described as slightly 'maniacal' Barber broke through with sacrifices on e6, but it wasn't until move 22 for black (22. ... Rh6! was equal) that the wheels finally came off.

Barber,Haydn J (2355) - Depasquale,Chris (2290) [B02]
Australian Masters Melbourne (5), 1987

Monday 18 December 2017

2017 Australasian Masters

The 2017 Australasian Masters saw overseas GM's Adrien Demuth and Vassily Papin share first place with 6/9. Tied for third were GM Anton Smirnov and IM Bobby Cheng on 5.5 Cheng, who had been looking for his second GM norm this month started well, but a mid tournament loss to GM Fabien Libiszewski left him struggling to get to the required 6.5.
In the supporting IM event, FM Eugene Schon was the convincing winner with 6.5/9. Last minute replacement IM Stephen Solomon was one of three players tied for second on 5.5, along with FM Qing Aun Lee and WGM Pauline Guichard. Unfortunately for Schon his final score was just short of what was needed for an IM norm.
Full standings from both event can be found here.

Libiszewski,Fabien (2540) - Kuybokarov,Temur (2468) [B84]
2017 Australasian Masters GM norm Melbourne, AUS (6.3), 14.12.2017

Saturday 16 December 2017

Eighty percent of success is showing up

The 2017 ACT Rapidplay Championship was held today, and it attracted a strong field of 32 players. At the end of 7 rounds, FM Michael Kethro and IM Andrew Brown tied for first place on 6/7. However, IM Brown did create a little bit of a handicap for himself, by turning up late for the first round, and starting with a half point bye (NB He wasn't the only one, with Canberra Christmas parking being the likely cause). As a result he was playing catchup for the first half of the event, until he beat Kethro in their individual game. Then the missed first round came back to haunt him in the final round when a fortunate escape against Fred Litchfield only garnered him a half point, while Kethro drew level with a win over Willis Lo.
The larger than usual field (for a normal Canberra rapid) meant that 5/7 resulted in a 4 way tie for third. In fact all the section prizes (Under 1800, Under 1600 and Junior) needed at least +1 (4/7) to be collected, showing how competitive the tournament was.
While this was the last ACTCA event of the year, chess will be continuing over the holiday season. The local clubs are taking a bit of a break (until mid January), but Street Chess will still be running every Saturday. So if you are keen for some chess success, just remember to start by turning up.

Friday 15 December 2017

2017 ACT Rapidplay Championship - Saturday 16 December

2017 ACT Rapidplay Championship - Saturday 16 December

The ACT Chess Association will be holding the 2017 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship on the 16 December 2017 This annual event is traditionally the final ACTCA event of the year, and the ACTCA invites all its members to take part. It will be held at Chicken Gourmet/King O'Malley's in City Walk, Canberra City. It will be a 7 round swiss, with a time limit of G/15m.

Schedule of Play Saturday 16 December 2017
Registration - 10:45am
7 Rounds
Round 1 - 11:00am
Finish: 2:30pm
Time Limits All moves in 15 minutes
Arbiter IA Shaun Press

Weather Forecast
Top temperature: 31c
Precipitation: 10%
Wind: 23 km/h

1st $100 (minimum)
2nd $50
3rd $30

Further prizes (including rating prizes) dependant upon entries. (NB Last years event had a prize pool of $350 and the prizes on offer were increased)

Entry Fees
$10 ($5 for players Under 18 years of age)

(NB I am an unpaid official for this event)

Thursday 14 December 2017

Don't panic

The publication of a new paper by the team behind AlphaGo has really got the chess world talking.  Applying the AlphaGo learning method to chess, they developed a program that was able to beat Stockfish after 4 hours of self learning. To read the headlines (and comments) about this, it would almost seem that humans are about to be replaced by computers, in all facets of life.
For me, while it was an impressive result, it isn't the end of the world, or even chess. Self learning programs have been around for a while, and were quite strong, even 15 years ago. KnightCap was one such program, with the authors describing the self learning aspects in a paper they published in 1999 (which was cited by the authors of AlphaZero).
On the other hand, what did impress me was the successful implementation of the Monte Carlo Tree Search. This is an alternative to the tried and true Alpha-Beta search method (or its variants), and relies on a probabilistic approach to evaluating position.  Instead of assessing the various factors in a position (material, space, pawn structure), the program self-plays thousands of games from a given position, preferring the move that results in the most number of wins. The obvious flaw in this method (apart from computing restraints), is that while a move may lead to wins 99 times out of 100, the opponent may find the 1% reply that is a forced loss for the engine. But based on the result against Stockfish, this did not seem to occur in practice.
The other thing to point out is that this wasn't a match between AlphaZero and Stockfish, at least not in a competitive sense. Stockfish had a number of restrictions placed on it (no opening book, less powerful hardware), and I suspect the point of the exercise was to provide a measure of how successful the learning algorithm was. If the authors intend to develop the worlds strongest chess program, then entering the World Computer Chess Championships is instead the best way to test it.

AlphaZero (Computer) - Stockfish (Computer) [E17]
AlphaZero - Stockfish London ENG, 04.12.2017

Tuesday 12 December 2017

The secret to being happy

I've always felt that the secret to being happy is to make other people happy. Of course I don't always practice what I preach (at least according to my family), but as a rule of thumb, it has generally worked for me.
When you play chess though, it isn't always possible to keep other people happy. The goal is to try and beat the person sitting opposite you, and succeeding in doing this may result in a less than happy night for your opponent. But if you play a good game, it may at least be appreciated, or even better, bring joy to the watching crowd.
I was able to play a nice attacking game at the Belconnen Chess Club Xmas Blitz this evening. I got to drop my rook onto f3, which impressed to single spectator watching the game, and after a couple more moves, it was pretty much finished. The spectator was happy, I was pleased, and even my opponent cracked a smile!

Xu,Ruofan - Press,Shaun [C63]
Belco Xmas Blitz, 12.12.2017

Sunday 10 December 2017

Age and Wisdom

I spent the day helping run the traditional end of year Junior Chess League event, the ACT Transfer Championship. Transfer is of course better known as Bughouse (although not so much in Australia), and is a favourite of juniors far and wide. However, despite the tournament being run by the Junior Chess League, it is in fact open to players of all ages.
Of the 21 teams who took part, the top places were mainly (but not exclusively) occupied by the older players. FM Michael Kethro and Jamie-Lee Guo (playing as Arjang FC) were unbeaten, scoring 13/13. 2 points back were John Cullen and Josh Tomlin, tied with Louie Serfontein and Luc Bailey. In the case of Tomlin and Cullen, they actually had less transfer experience than their younger opponents, but were still ale to beat most of them.
One possible reason is that to play Transfer well, you do have to be 'clever'. And by this you have to not only think about the moves, but also the broader context. Some moves are better than others, not because they are 'good', but because they're more likely to cause the opponent to make a mistake. When you are younger such thinking doesn't come easy, but as you get older, looking for flaws in the 'system' is part and parcel of life.
Overall most teams played it pretty straight (not a lot of trash talking, no distraction techniques etc) which was demonstrated by the fact I had to deal with very few issues.  Possibly the weirdest one was where two teams found both kings in check on one board, and confused by this, just decided to agree to a draw!

2018 Australian Championship - Early entry deadline approaches

The 2018 Australian Championships is being held at the North Sydney Leagues Club from the 2nd to the 12th of January 2018. Alongside the Championship will be the reserves event (Under 2150) and the 7 round Classic (for Under 1800).
The deadline for the early entry discount is approaching so if you are planning to play, you better enter soon. Entry for the Championship is restricted to players rated above 2150, although I do note that players rated below that have applied to be considered. Otherwise it is the Reserves or Classic, depending on how much time you can spare. There is also a FIDE Rated Blitz on the 7th (the only rest day), where the new FIDE Rules for blitz will be in effect (2 illegal moves lose!).
The tournament website is and contains an online entry form as well as other tournament details.

(NB I am a paid official for this event)

Friday 8 December 2017

Two GM norms at Young Masters

The 2017 Lidums Australian Young Masters produced not one but two Grandmaster norms, one for IM Bobby Cheng (AUS), and one for IM Kanan Izzat (AZE). Both secured the norms with draws in the final round, finishing on 6.5/9. This also left them tied for first place, half a point ahead of GM Vasily Papin in third.
While two GM norms in a 10 player Round Robin is rare, it was helped in part by the fact that a couple of players were out of form. IM Ari Dale struggled to get going in the event, although he did win his last round game against GM Moulthun Ly. FM Chris Wallis and FM Patrick Gong both had early wins, but found the rest of the event tough going. Cheng scored 3/3 against the back markers, although Izzat drew with both Dale and Gong. IM R Praggnanandhaa had an early setback with a loss against Izzat and was unable to repeat his GM level performance from the World Junior. Sukanadar played a number of interesting games, but eventually finished on 4. Ly's last round loss to Dale dropped him down the table, while Demuth only lost 1 game, but with 6 draws, was destined for a mid table finish.
FM Yi Liu (AUS) won the IM event with 6/9, but this wasn't enough for an IM norm. However I am assuming that this win will result in an invite to the GM group next year, where he will be playing for both IM and GM norms.

2018 Australian Junior Championships

The 2018 Australian Junior Chess Championship is being held from the 13th to the 21st January 2018, at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. The event will be run across a number of age groups, with specific schedules for each. The Junior Championship itself is open to all eligible players Under 18 years of age (on the 1st January 2018) and will be a 9 round FIDE rated event. There is also events for Under 16, 14, 12, 10, and 8 years players (along with girls events for Under 18's down to Under 8's).
Players from the ACT have an extra incentive to take part in this event, as the ACT Government is providing a grant of $2000 for travel assistance. This is will be shared by all ACT players taking part in the tournament, with the grant being handled by the ACT Junior Chess League.
Details of the tournament can be found at the tournament website.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Obscure amazon items

There was a degree of excitement today, as Amazon opened its Australian 'shop' for the first time. Early reports indicate that this wasn't as momentous an occasion as expected, with nothing too ground breaking hitting the market, and prices not being much lower than normal Australian retail.
Of course I had to test the system by seeing what chess items they had. Turns out all the usual books, although Amazon seem to sell a lot of titles by obscure authors. In some cases they are reprints of out of copy right works (eg 'Chess' by RF Green) or more recent works aimed at the beginner/school market.
In the end the only item of note was a neon sign that read "Chess Player Parking Only". I don't know whether Amazon have vastly overestimated the number of chess centres in Australia (which seem to be the obvious market) or if it is intended as a 'gag' gift to be placed at the end of the garage on Christmas morning. I think the second theory is more likely to be correct.

Monday 4 December 2017

A new wrinkle

This time last year I was just about to head off to a cold and damp London to play some chess at the London Chess Classic. A year later I am sitting in a cold and damp Canberra (while suffering from an awful cold), watching the action from afar.
The first two rounds of the LCC have seen all the games drawn, but the Open event has had some interesting games. One that caught my eye was a win by Jonny Hector, where he played a move in Two Knights that I was unfamiliar with. On move  8 the queen has a number of squares to go to, but d7 would not have been my choice. Nonetheless it turned out OK for Black, although Hector did not gain anything that he would not have got from other choices. It wasn't until White took the rook on f8 that the game came to a sudden finish, as the check on g5 was enough to win the game.

Campos Chacon,Marco (2040) - Hector,Jonny (2493) [C56]
London Classic Open 2017 London ENG (1.25), 02.12.2017

Saturday 2 December 2017

The perils of time trouble

The first round of the 2017 Australian Young Masters GM event saw each game end with a decisive result. Some of the games were pretty one sided, but a couple swung back and forth. Probably the most dramatic games was between Praggnanandhaa and Ly, where the game was eventual decided in what I assume was mutual time trouble. Praggnanandhaa had a nice advantage from the opening, and Ly decided to sacrifice an exchange on move 26 in return for some attacking chances. He almost got it back to equality around 35, but he decided not to exchange queens, and Praggnanandhaa was once again on top. Then at move 46 there was a spectacular double blunder, with both players missing how strong 46. ... Re2!! was. If Ly had spotted it the game would have been drawn, while if Praggnanandhaa had foreseen it he would have probably chosen 46.Qxf2 rather than 46.Kh1. Instead Ly played 46. ... Ra2 and after that Praggnanandhaa had the game in the bag.

Praggnanandhaa,R (2509) - Ly,Moulthun (2486) [C50]
2017 Lidums Australian Young Masters GM Adelaide (1.1), 02.12.2017

Friday 1 December 2017

Don't mess with the Morphy

Despite almost every chess player in the world knowing what happen when you play 3. ... Bg4 in the Philador's, I guess some players still want to give it a go. A very recent occurrence of this variation came in an Australian CC game, and as you can guess, it didn't end well for Black.

Hornung,Michael (1823) - Korab,Boyd (1790)
AUS/2017/S6113 (AUS) ICCF, 25.03.2017

Thursday 30 November 2017

Some important events

There are a couple of important events beginning shortly, one domestic and one international.
The international event is the 2017 London Chess Classic which begins tomorrow evening, Canberra time. Once again it has attracted most of the worlds leading players including World Champion Magnus Carlsen, along with Aronian, MVL, and So. It is also the final event of this years Grand Chess Tour, with Magnus Carlsen holding a 3 point lead over Maxime Vachier Lagrave. Alongside the Super GM event is the LCC Fide Open which has attracted a very strong field, with plenty of GM's taking part. Also playing this year is WIM Emma Guo, and there are a few other Australian players in the supporting events.
The Lidums Australian Young Masters is starting on Saturday, and for the first time will see a GM section. French GM Adrien Demuth is the top seed, while there will be significant interest in the performance of Indian IM R. Praggnanandhaa who just scored a GM norm at the World Junior. alongside the GM event will be an IM norm event, as well as a FIDE rated open and an under 1200 event. Rounds will normally start at 3pm (Canberra Time) but there are a couple of double round days that also see a 10am start.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

It takes more than a month

Compulsive learner Max Deutsch spent the last year trying to master 12 new skills, spending a month learning each of them. Topics covered included music, art and languages. For his final task he spent a month learning chess, and then played an exhibition game against World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
Initially he was going to play the 'Play chess with Magnus' app, but this turned into a game against the real Magnus, after word of the challenge had spread.
Unfortunately for Max, a month is not nearly enough time to reach the skill level to beat Magnus, and in fact it wasn't even enough time to reach a level to worry Magnus. Deutsch played a few moves that might best be described as 'loose' and then popped a piece on move 14. After that the outcome was never in doubt, with Carlsen mating on move  39.

Max Deutsch - Magnus Carlsen [C60]
Exhibition Game Hamburg GER, 09.11.2017

Monday 27 November 2017

Getting around to it

About 3 years ago I had some free time on my hands, and decided to draw up a list of projects to do. One of those projects was to clean up my study/library/office, which had become a bit of a death trap. I'm proud to say that  I actually began working on that task today!
While sorting through the various boxes of stuff, I cam across some of my old chess computers. The most ancient one was a Scisys computer, which was featured in a blog post over 10 years ago. Also in this lot were a Novag, an Excalibur, a Tandy, and a slightly more modern Scisys.
One of the things I liked about old Scisys was that it wasn't very good (at least at the old levels). I've already described how I used it to improve my chess when starting out, and even today I still use some of the games I played against it in my coaching lessons.
My favourite game (as White) was 1.e4 e5 2.d4 ed 3.c3 dc 4.Bc4 cb 5.Qf3??!!   On the easiest level it fell into my trap and played 5. ... bxa1(Q) allowing 5.Qxf7# However the next level up saw it instead find the best move, which was 5. ... bxc1(Q)+ refuting my less than cunning play.

Sunday 26 November 2017

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Registrations now open

Registrations for the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup are now being taken. Once again the event will be split over 4 divisions (Premier, Major, Minor and Under 1200), but there are some other changes that are worth noting.
The tournament has a new venue, although in a familiar neighbourhood. The Canberra Southern Cross Club in Woden is the host for the 2018 tournament.It is in the same precinct as the Hellenic Club and the Tradesman's Club, venues that have been used recently. The new venue is one of the largest licenced clubs in Canberra, so the amenities will be top notch. The venue will also be able to host all the events inside the one large room, which I always found a nice feature of the tournaments time at the Hellenic Club.
Time controls for the Premier have also reverted back to 90m+30s (no additional time added after move 40). The tournament had shifted to a longer time control in the Premier in anticipation of FIDE's changes to title regulations, but these were never implemented. With the tournament having double round days throughout, it was decided that the shorter time control was more sensible, both for consistent scheduling, and to provide players in the Premier a less onerous playing session.
As usual there is a limit on the number of players in each event, so early registration is sensible. Also, if you are above the rating cutoff for a particular tournament, then registering now protects you from missing out due to an unexpected rating drop.

(NB I am a paid official for this event)

Friday 24 November 2017

Greedy Santa

With Christmas approaching, there will be a lot of work parties and opportunities for gift giving. I've already had one such get together, and at this I was introduced to "White Elephant Secret Santa", which is an alternative to the basic 'Secret Santa' that most people know about.
This got me thinking about a 'Game Theory' version of the game, and what the 'best' strategies are.
Firstly some rules:

  1. There are N players
  2. Each players pays N/2 dollars to take part
  3. N envelopes are filled with an amount of money starting with $0, then $1 up to $N-1
  4. Each player takes a number at random, lowest number choosing and opening the first envelope, revealing the money inside.
  5. Subsequent players (starting at 2) can either steal money from another player, or chose to open a sealed envelope.
  6. If a player has money stolen from them, they then get the same option (steal or open). Once a player opens an envelope, this turn ends and a new one starts with the next player
  7. An amount can only be stolen once per turn, and there is a limit on the number of times an amount can be stolen overall (usually the third owner keeps it for good).

The addition of Rule 7 adds an extra level of strategy, as trying to steal the largest amount runs the risk of having it 'frozen' by another player. On the other hand, the last player may have the most power, as they have the greatest choice of what to take (and essentially a retaliation proof grab).
I don't know if anyone has done the maths on this, but it looks as though it may be an interesting programming exercise, both to simulate the game, and to try and generate the best strategy.

Thursday 23 November 2017

2017 World Junior

Two notable stories are coming out of the 2017 World Junior, which is currently being held in Italy. Firstly R Praggnanandhaa is on track to become a GM at the age of 12, although he does need to finish 1st to gain it automatically. After 9 rounds he is in third place, half a point of the lead, and has already earned a GM norm (with a 2700+ TPR).
Secondly, Australian representative Kevin Willathgamuwa is performing well over his pre tournament rating (1996), with a 2300 TPR. He was on 50% after 7 rounds, and although he has fallen back a bit, he is still gaining over 100 rating points, having played 8 IM's in his first 9 games. His brother Rowan is also playing in the tournament and is also picking up points, reaching 3/9.
There are 2 rounds left to play in this tournament, and the results (plus some games) can be found at

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Slim pickings

Unlike round robins, swisses are normally a feast of good and bad chess, where every game is important (except maybe the last round), and players bounce up and down the standings with great regularity. Unless of course it is an elite swiss, in which case, every treads warily, keeping a close eye on all the games to make sure no one is getting too far ahead.
The Mallorca Grand Prix is providing slim pickings for anyone who likes the score table to contain lots of 1's an 0's. Not to disparage a good hard fought draw, but with over 60% of the games ending that way, not every draw is a result of players battling till exhaustion.
Of the decisive games, there have been a few that have jumped out at me. The one I've chosen for this post was Svidler's win over Hammer. Apart from the rarity of seeing 'actual mate on the physical chessboard', the fact the White king gets hacked on the kingside in a sicilian also adds to its attractiveness.

Hammer,Jon Ludvig (2629) - Svidler,Peter (2763) [B51]
Palma De Mallorca GP 2017 Palma de Mallorca ESP (3.5), 18.11.2017

Monday 20 November 2017

Happy Birthday Capa

Toady is the 129th anniversary of the birth of Jose Raul Capablanca. Generally considered one of the "Top 5" World Champions (along with Alekhine, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov) he started as a child prodigy, before  become a full time player at the age of 20. He won the World Championship in 1921 and then lost it to Alekhine in 1927. He never had another chance to play for the title, and died at the relatively young age of 53.
Capablanca was considered a positional player, focusing on piece placement, and improving his position through 'petite combinations'. This enable him to outplay his contemporaries, although he met his match against Alexander Alekhine. His style influenced the next generation of chess players, especially Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov.
Even at the end of his career he was still able to target a weakness and build an entire game around it. In the game below (his final tournament game), he isolates Black's c pawn on move 9 and then builds up pressure on it. Black is forced to make positional concessions to defend it, and eventually ends up in a lost position.

Capablanca,Jose Raul - Trompowsky,Octavio [E01]
Buenos Aires ol (Men) fin-A Buenos Aires (15), 18.09.1939

Saturday 18 November 2017

Chess and Beer

Due to a number of other activities I haven't been running Street Chess recently. Today was my first time back since the start of October, and on my return, I received a pleasant reward.
One of the event sponsors, King O'Malley's Bar, was running a 'design your own beer label' promotion, in conjunction with Adobe. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I created a very limited run of "Street Chess Beer". So limited that only 4 bottles were made. Three were given away as prizes(although not to the tournament winner Sankeertan Badrinarayan as he isn't quite 18), and one I kept myself (although I only have the bottle, as my 19 year old son consumed the contents).
A couple of people wondered If i had brewed the beer myself (No), but maybe this is something worth looking at in the future.
"Drink & play responsibly"

Thursday 16 November 2017

FIDE Grand Prix resumes

The final event of the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix series begins today in Mallorca, Spain. While the GP series tends to get lost among the other big events on the calendar (GCT, World Cup plus big opens in Iceland, UK and Isle of Man), it still helps determine the qualifiers for next years Candidates Tournament. The top two finishers (who did not qualify through the World Cup) qualify for the Candidates, and at this stage there are 4 players still in with a chance. 
Mamedyarov and Grischuk currently hold down the top two places, but have already played there 3 events (each player plays 3 of the 4 GP tournaments). As a result, there is still a chance they can be overtaken by Vachier-Lagrave and Radjabov. Ding Liren is also in the leading group but has already qualified (via the World Cup).
The official site for the tournament is I'm pretty sure there is no free coverage from this site (it is a pay for view event), and I'm not seeing any of the other major websites with links to coverage (although I may have missed them). Whether this is due to legal reasons or indifference (or indifference caused by legal reasons) I do not know.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

The injustice of it all

While wearing my ICCF Tournament Directors hat, I discovered something I had not previously been aware of. There are some Queen endings where two connected passed pawns aren't enough to win. This was drawn to my attention when a game in an event I was directing was drawn after one of the players made a tablebase claim (In Correspondence Chess a player can claim a draw or win if the position is assessed as such in a 6 piece or less tablebase). While the claim was perfectly valid I did feel a little sorry for the other player involved.
Even without the advantage of modern technology, the game may well have been drawn anyway, as it turns out there have been some precedents.  In 1985 Boris Spassky was defending exactly the same position against Zoltan Ribli and successfully held. Here is the game in question, with Black having a completely drawn potion by move 82.

Ribli,Zoltan (2605) - Spassky,Boris V (2590) [A30]
Candidates Tournament Montpellier (4), 1985

Tuesday 14 November 2017


I've just caught wind of an unfortunate occurrence at the 2017 World Seniors. In the game between GM Rogelio Antonio and IM Alexander Reprintsev, the following miniature occurred. 1.e4 d5 2.exd Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qb5?? 1-0
In moving the queen to a5, Reprintsev placed it on b5 instead (or at least enough of it to matter), at which point it was able to be captured by bishop or knight (One report indeed had 4.Bxb5+ as being played, although this didn't appear in the online version I saw).
There is some argument that Antonio should have let the queen go to a5 as intended, and if I was White in these circumstances, I would have done so. On the other hand, if I was Black, I would have let the move stand, accepting the responsibility for my mistake. And finally, if I was an arbiter, I would almost certainly let the players sort it out among themselves (ie if neither player claimed a breach of the rules, I wouldn't go jumping in)

Sunday 12 November 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - GM Anton Smirnov wins

GM Anton Smirnov has won the 2017 Vikings Weekender with a perfect 6/6. He had to face IM Andrew Brown in the first round of the day, and then 3rd seed Fred Litchfield. Winning both those games he then been Tim Pearce in the final round to finish the event on 100%.
IM Andrew Brown recovered from his loss to Smirnov to win his two remaining games to finish second on 5/6. However he was once again fortunate to survive some difficult positions, being in a lost position against Donato Mallari with seconds left on his clock, only to see Mallari overstep the time limit. Mallari at least had the consolation of finishing in equal third, along with Dillon Hathiramani and Angelito Camer.
Amol Kiran finished first in the Minor event on 5.5/6. Kiran (who finished equal first last year) drew with Athena Hatirmani in the final round to finish a point clear of Hathiramani and Lachlan Ho.
Despite the numbers being down 25% this year (65 last year, 48 this time), the organisers were able to pay out more than $3000 in prizes, due to the generous sponsorship of Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Street Chess and Jim Flood. The ACT Chess Association also provided financial and material support for the tournament, as did the Tuggeranong Chess Club, who hosted the event.
Full results as well as games from the top 4 boards of the open (for each round) can be found at 

2017 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2017 Vikings Weekender attracted a strong field for the Open section, with new Australian GM Anton Smirnov the top seed. At the end of the first day Smirnov leads with 3/3, along with second seed IM Andrew Brown. The two players had differing paths to the top, with Smirnov scoring decisive victories in his games, while Brown was forced to work hard, escaping from difficult positions (and time trouble) in rounds 2&3.
Due to venue issues (due to the final of the National Rugby Championship), the tournament lost an afternoon round, reducing it to a 6 round event. With Smirnov and Brown meeting in the first round tomorrow, the winner of this game is likely to win the tournament. However a number of dangerous players are still in the field, including Fred Litchfield (2017 ANU Open winner),.
The Minor also sees two players sharing the lead, with Amol Kiran (who finished equal first last year) and Jack Rojahn on 3/3. Unlike the Open, the field in this event is a little more bunched, making an eventual winner harder to pick. The Kiran Rojahn match tomorrow will help decide this, but as with a lot of rating restricted events, accidents over the last few rounds do happen.
Results for the tournament can be found at There is also a link to the top games from the open as well as the live coverage link. The 4th round starts at 10:30am Canberra time, with more rounds at 1:30 and 3:45pm.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Learn a new thing every day

How much better do you think you would be at chess if you learnt a new thing everyday? A lot, a little, or would you not be able to keep up the pace?
The question popped into my head after picking up a new book by Andrew Soltis called "365 Chess Master Lessons". To be fair, what appealed to me about the book wasn't the promise of daily chess improvement (I'm a bit old for that), but that each lesson featured a couple of interesting miniatures to illustrate the point. I've long been a fan of quick games of chess, so grabbing another collection  of said games was to tempting to pass up.
The book contains a wide selection of games, drawn from a number of different era's. I was quite pleased to find a quick win by Rashid Nezhmetdinov in one of the early chapters, but oddly I couldn't find the game in my reasonably large database. However I did find a few identical games (at least 4) which isn't that surprising, as the game is essentially a continuation of a trap in the Levenfish variation of the Dragon. So while the game below was played in 2002, it was also played in 1946 between Nezhmetdinov and Ermolin.

Torres Samper,Rafael - Molina Vinas,Marcos (2140) [B71]
Asturias-ch Preferente Gijon (3.7), 03.03.2002

Friday 10 November 2017

2017 World Seniors

The 2017 World Senior Championship is up and running in Acqui Terme, Italy. Alan Goldmsith is the only Australian representative at the event (playing in the 65+ section), alongside 3 New Zealand players (Hilton Bennett 50+, Bob Gibbons 65+ and Helen Milligan W50+).
 Alan got off to quite a good start in his tournament, winning his first 2 games. This meant he faced GM Evgeny Sveshnikov on the top board in round 3 and went down after sacrificing most of his pawns for an ultimately unsuccessful attack.
Results from each of the events can be found at, along with a small selection of games from each of the tournaments. (Links to all the events can be found at the top of the page)

Wednesday 8 November 2017

I think my brain is full

Last night saw another epic Ian Hosking v Shaun Press match up, in a rivalry that goes back 30 years. I thought I was better out of the opening but the game ended in a draw.
It turns out I was better in the opening as Ian had misplayed it as early as move 4, but I played it too safe on move 6, missing a chance to get a bigger advantage. Checking my database after the game I realised I should have followed theory from Ian Hosking v Shaun Press that was played in 1994. So not only did I fail to calculate the best line over the board, I also failed to remember playing the line against the same opponent previously.
So here is the original game, where I played the correct 6. ... Nxf2, rather than the insipid 6. ... dxc4 I played last night.

Hosking,Ian M - Press,Shaun [C55]
Ginninderra Cup Ginninderra (6), 1994

Monday 6 November 2017

Surprise, surprise

Proving that you can play almost anything in the opening today, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov caught Alexander Grischuk with a bizarre opening idea in the Ruy Lopez. I don't think I've ever seen g5 played so early by Black in this opening, although the actual move was first played in 1968 (by Portisch against Korchnoi).
There does not seem to be too much subtlety to the move btw, as Mamedyarov used the g pawn to push the knight of f3 before running his h pawn up the board as well. The whole game had a kind of 'coffee house hack' vibe to it, but I am sure I'm doing both players a disservice by describing it like that.

Grischuk,Alexander (2785) - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2791) [C72]
21st European Teams Hersonissos GRE (8.1), 05.11.2017

Sunday 5 November 2017

A losing ending

Suicide (or Losing) Chess still continues to be one of the most popular chess variants, especially among junior players. Whether it is a search for variety or a retreat to a simpler form of the game is not clear to me, but the free play portion of a lot of my coaching classes sees more than few Losing chess games.
The diagrammed position is a problem that comes from a Suicide game. It is White to move an win (by forcing black to capture the white king). In suicide chess, capturing is compulsory, so all White has to do is to put his king in 'check'
Have at it.

Saturday 4 November 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - a week to go

Canberra's "Biggest Little Weekender" is less than a week away. The 2017 Vikings Weekender is on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November, at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St Erindale. Last years event attracted a sizeable field of 65 players, and hopefully this year will do at least as well.
The Open section for this year is already quite strong, with GM Anton Smirnov the top seed. IM Andrew Brown and WIM Biljana Dekic have also entered, and there is a solid group of 2000+ rated players in the field as well.
Details of the tournament can be found at There is a downloadable brochure with all the tournament details, and you can register online (no pre-payment required). I'm in the process of setting up the tournament website and live coverage links, and they will be available in the next day or two
(NB I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday 2 November 2017

Son, don't take the b pawn

There is an old chess tale about a father leaving hos fortune to his only son, on the condition that he never captures the b2 pawn with his queen in the opening. While the story is almost certainly invented, the advice is usually pretty sound. The one possible exception is the Sicilian Poisoned Pawn variation, but event then, opinion on this is still divided.
A very recent example of the danger that the queen can find itself in is from the current European Teams Championship. Black was only a little behind up until move 20, but after grabbing the b pawn, he only lasted another 3 moves. Maybe he missed 21.Ra1! but knowledge of a bit of ancient chess humour would have helped immensely.

Naiditsch,Arkadij (2702) - Morozov,Nichita (2467) [C77]
21st European Teams Hersonissos GRE (4.3), 31.10.2017

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Probably a first

For the first time in my chess career (IIRC) I ended up with 3 knights on the board. It was towards the end of a club game, and while I could have promoted to a queen, the knight promotion was slightly more forcing, as it was with check. My opponent did snap it off straight away, but for that brief moment I had more knights than I started with!

Monday 30 October 2017

Three Golden Rules

According the the 'Steps' training program, the initial understanding of chess openings can be boiled down the 3 'Golden Rules'. They are:
1. Pawn in the centre
2. Pieces out
3. King to safety

With at least one of my coaching groups, this advice has proved useful enough, with their games starting to look like 'real chess' (according to a colleague!) And rather than tie them up with too many middlegame concepts, I've suggested that they go looking for checkmates, once their pieces are in the field.
Of course the success and failure of plans like these depends upon your opponents move, but punishing mistakes is part of the game. An example of this is in the following game, where Black ignored rules 2 & 3 and quickly ran into trouble.

White - Black [B00]
Club Game

Saturday 28 October 2017

Chess versus shearing

I spent today at the Carcoar Show, which has been running for 140 years (BTW Carcoar is a small village in country New South Wales). I had all the attractions of a country show, including wood chopping, whip cracking, sheep dog trials, and sheep shearing. I'd always assumed that these events were about pride (and maybe a trophy), but I discovered there is some serious money in some of them.
Looking at the regional newspaper, I saw a competitive sheep shearing event to be held in the town of Young. While not surprised by the existence of the competition, the $16000 prize pool was surprising. This is greater than most chess events in Australia, and a reasonable sized prize pool for many events around the world. I have no idea what the size or quality of the field will be (or even if there is a professional competition shearing circuit), but I guess that you can pretty much make a contest out of anything!

Friday 27 October 2017

Negligible Physical Element

The English Bridge Union has lost a further case concerning the classification of Bridge as a sport. The goal had been to receive exemption from VAT charges (the UK's Goods and Services Tax), as well as access to sports funding. The European Court of Justice has rejected the claim, stating that a sport must involve "a not negligible physical element".
I'm not sure if this is the first time a court has actually defined sport in these terms, but it seems to me to be a fairly clear cut definition. This of course would apply to arguments concerning the status of chess as a sport (at least in Europe), but oddly enough allows Ballroom Dancing (another contentious case) to become one.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

You would think this shouldn't happen

I'm currently deeply engrossed in 18 correspondence games, ranging from a few local events, some interstate teams tournaments, and a few international friendlies. I'm never the best at time management in CC, as I tend to put of my decisions while making that "one last check". It's now come back to bite me as I realise I have 8 games where I'm down to my last 24 hours, and another 3 where I have one extra day. Fortunately the time resets to the start  of the day every time you move, but I suspect I'm going to be in CC time trouble for quite a while yet!

2017 Belconnen Club Champion - Alana Chibnall

The Belconnen Club Championship is now in its 35th year, and the trophy contains the names of many of Canberra's leading players. Legends of yesteryear like John Alps and Michael Mescher were some of the earliest winners, while Andrew Brown and Fred Litchfield appeared in more recent years. Joining that list for the first time is WFM Alana Chibnall, who has won the 2017 Club Championship.
She finished the tournament with a quick win over Yizhen Diao. This left her a point ahead of Sankeerten Badrinarayan, who had the unenviable task of playing his younger brother in the final round (who he beat in a topsy-turvy game).
While Diao is to be commended for his aggressive opening play, 9.d4? was a pawn move too far. After  11. ... Qh4! there is no defence for White, although Black still needed to find a couple of strong moves to secure the quickest win.

Diao,Yizhen - Chibnall,Alana [C42]
Belconnen Club Championship, 24.10.2017

Monday 23 October 2017

It's now two illegal moves for everything

Although the FIDE Laws of Chess are only supposed to be changed every 4 years, and only with the approval of a FIDE General Assembly, this rule seemed to go out the window a few years back, at least once the Presidential Board decided to have its less than timely say on these matters.
So it isn't a surprise that the Laws of Chess were amended at this years FIDE Congress, apparently to provide some clarity to the wording.
However at least one major change seems to have been made, concerning the handling of illegal moves. In the past the rate of play determined how many illegal moves lost a game (1 for blitz, 3 for standard). This was then altered to 2 for standard, and 1 for rapidplay and blitz. But there was always an underlying desire to make the Laws apply equally to all forms of competition chess, and this seems to have motivated the change.
Now 2 illegal moves lose across all forms of the game, including blitz (taking effect from 1 January 2018). For the first illegal move, the 'call the arbiter over' process applies, with a 2 minute time bonus being given to the non offending side. The 2nd illegal move loses (if claimed), subject to the usual caveats.
To be fair, I don't think this is a bad idea, although I can see arbiters being run off their feet at large blitz events. For rapidplay I think it is very sensible (and is actually the system I continue to use at Street Chess). If you want to check the minutes from the meeting where the decision was made, you can do so here.

Sunday 22 October 2017

The joy of stalemate

White to play
While at the recent Asian Seniors I enjoyed a lecture by IM Herman van Riemsdijk on 'Stalemate in Chess'. This has inspired me to look for my own examples, as part of an article I hope to include in the upcoming issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.
While looking for recent examples, I came across this gem involving GM Dejan Bojkov. In the diagrammed position it looks as though White is in a bit of trouble, as his pieces are pinned or hanging, and any wholesale exchanges just leave Black with a couple of extra pawns.
But Bojkov must have spotted an idea in the position, as he quickly found a way of forcing stalemate. At first glance it looks impossible, as White has a number of pieces that need to be eliminated, but the clue was in the location of the king, and the fact is pawns were immobilised. All he needed was to make sure g1 was covered by Black and he would be OK.
So he started with 65.Nc5 'allowing' Black to threaten mate with a queen sac. 65. ... Rxa2 66.Nxe6 Ra1 So part one of the plan completed. Now on to part 2. 67.Nxg5+ fxg5 (otherwise Nxe4 wins) 68.Rc7+ Kg8 69.Rc8+ Kf7 (the King runs towards the rook) Now White ditches his last two pieces. 70.Rf8+ Kxf8 71.Qf1+ Rxf1 1/2-1/2

Thursday 19 October 2017

As the world turns ...

While I was busy playing seniors chess in New Zealand, I missed the soap opera about the lives and loves of the FIDE management team. The 2017 Congress saw a public airing of a number of grievances, including "I hate it when you call me names" and "You don't bring me money, anymore".
FIDE Deputy President Makropoulos gave an opening speech highly critical of current President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and the Executive Board  voted in favour of a motion asking Ilyumzhinov not to run for President again.
Now as the distance between me being on FIDE commissions and the present day gets longer (for reasons referenced here), I get less of the direct gossip and mainly receive my news second hand. So what I believe is going on may of course be wildly inaccurate. But here goes ...
Ignoring his own EB, Kirsan will run again. This is being pushed by the Russian government, who wish to show that US sanctions have no effect. While he has lost the support of the America's, Asia is still behind him (at the Continental management level).
The rest of the FIDE Management are either looking at finding a wealthy new Presidential candidate (to tip money into FIDE), or will run Makro as the candidate. Apparently Makro believes he is the only one who can run FIDE without a new source of cash.
A few 'outsider' candidates are thinking of making a run, although in this case the outsider's are actually FIDE insiders, just at a non management level (including one person from this part of the world). At this stage these candidates are not being taken seriously.
Finally, there is some serious sucking up between FIDE people and members of the losing side from the 2014 election. As was once memorably quoted in the movie Spinal Tap "Money talks, and bullshit walks"

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Thank you A.C.T. Government

The ACT Junior Chess League has just received a very generous grant from the Australian Capital Territory Government, to assist junior players taking part in next years Australian Junior Championship. The grant of $2000 is to be used to assist in the travel and entry costs of local junior players for the event which will be held in Melbourne.
At this stage it isn't clear how big the ACT contingent will be, but hopefully this grant will allow all interested players to take part.

Sunday 15 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Final Day

IM Mahmood Lodhi is the 2017 Asian Seniors Champion after beating FM Bob Smith in the final round. The win for Lodhi moved him to 7/9, and after Efram Bagamasbad could only draw with FM Leonard McLaren was enough for outright first. Unfortunately for Bagamasbad, the draw allowed both GM Darryl Johansen and FM Bruce Watson to catch him, and overtake him on tie break. As a result he missed out on the FM title by a narrow margin.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre completed a clean sweep with a win over Grant Kerr. FM Ewen Green finished 2nd, with Edmundo Legaspi earning the FM title with his third placed finish.
Importantly for Lodhi, first place also earned him his third and final GM norm. As a result he will become Pakistan's first GM (subject to confirmation).
As for me, I lost a tough last round game to finish on 4/9. Although I didn't make it to 50%, I at least performed slightly above my rating, so it wasn't all bad. I certainly enjoyed the tournament, and hope to play more seniors events in the coming years.
Full results for both events can be found here.

Lodhi,Mahmood (2344) - Smith,Robert W (2223) [A49]
2017 Asian Seniors (9.1), 15.10.2017

Saturday 14 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 6

Round 8 of the Asian Seniors saw another upset win by Efram Bagamasbad, and he now shares the lead with IM Mahmood Lodhi. The two met in this round and for a long time Lodhi held the upper hand. But he pushed too hard for a win and it backfired on him in the ending, and Bagamasbad collected the scalp of another titled player. They're both on 6/8, half a point ahead of GM Darryl Johansen, FM Bruce Watson, FM Leonard McLaren and FM Bob Smith.
The key final round pairings sees Lodhi play Smith, McLaren against Bagamasbad, Johanesen against IM PK Chan, and Watson against FM Michael Steadman.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre has wrapped up first place with his 8th consecutive win. He leads by 2.5 points, and the only remaining interest in this event is who picks up the minor placings (and the FM title).
NB The final round starts at 10am local time (8am Canberra time), and will be broadcast at the links given in my earlier post.

Friday 13 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 5

IM Mahmood Lodhi leads the 2017 Asian Seniors by half a pint with two rounds to play. Lodhi beat CM Don Eade to get to 6/7, half a point ahead of FM Bruce Watson. In third place is Efrem Bagamasbad, who scored an upset win over GM Darryl Johansen.  Round 8 sees Bagamasbad play Lodhi, while Watson is up against Johansen.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torrw scored his 7th straight win and now leads by two points with two rounds to go. David Lovejoy is outright second on 5, with Edmundo Legaspi and FM Ewen Green in third.
I've dropped back to 50% after losing to IM PK Chan. As with a number of my games at this level, my attack was just a move too slow. After that I missed a tactic and once I had run out of drawing tricks, it was time to resign.

Thursday 12 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 4

Day 4 of the 2017 Asian Seniors was the second (and last!) of the double round days. As a result the morning round saw a number of energy conserving draws (including my own 7 move effort), although the afternoon round was a little more full blooded.
After starting the event with 3 straight wins, GM Darryl Johansen added another 2 draws today, to fall back to 2nd place. He drew with IM Mahmood Lodhi in round 5, but Lohdi overtook hime in round 6, after Johansen drew with FM Leonard McLaren, while Lodhi beat IM PK Chan. The draw by McLaren leaves him tied for second, along with FM Bruce Watson, who beat FM Bob Smith.
In the Veterans event, GM Eugene Torre continues to dominate, reaching 6/6. FM Ewen Green was unable to stop the GM in round 6, and with Torre leading by 2 points, it is battle for 2nd and third.

As for my own results, the double round days have been reasonably kind to me. After the mornings draw, I managed to win my afternoon round to get to 3.5/6. My opponent FM Sujendra Shrestha played the very offbeat 1.e4 e5 2.g3 but after solving some early opening problems, I was able to exploit his damaged pawn structure and eventually win a QvR ending. Shresthra was the third Nepalese player I have faced in this event, and counting the couple of Olympiads, brings my score against to Nepal up to 3.5/5!

2017 Asian Seniors - Online coverage

Having taken the "non bye half point bye" this morning (otherwise known as the quick draw), I've been busy fixing up some of the online coverage for the tournament. If you want to see whats going on in real time here are the links

Wednesday 11 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 3

GM Darryl Johansen and IM Mahmood Lodhi share the lead after 4 rounds of the 2017 Asian Seniors. Johansen drew with FM Bob Smith in today's round, while Lodhi score his third straight win, beating FM Bruce Watson. The two hold a half point lead over a group of players on 3, including Smith, FM Leonard McLaren, FM Ahmed Ismail and IM Peng Kong Chan.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torre has kept is perfect record intact, with another win today. At first it looked as though Edmundo Legaspi might hold the opposite coloured bishop ending, but Torre kept pushing until Legaspi went wrong and lost his queenside pawns. Torre has already played a few of his closest rivals, and it looks like New Zealand hopeful FM Ewen Greene is all that stands between Torre and a tournament victory.

Torre,Eugene (2456) - Legaspi,Edmundo (2087) [B06]
2017 Asian Seniors (4.9), 11.10.2017

Tuesday 10 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 Asian Seniors saw the first of two double round days. This normally gives players less time to prepare, but as it was rounds 2 & 3, it wasn't that critical.
Paul Spiller backed up from yesterdays draw with IM Lodhi, with a draw against FM Michael Steadman. WFM Helen Milligan also had a good day, drawing with FM Bruce Watson and finishing on 2/3.
GM Darryl Johansen leads the event overall, winning both his games today. At one stage I thought his position is round 3 game looked perilous, but a few moves later he was well and top and collected the point. In The Veterans event (65+) GM Eugene Torre leads with 3/3, scoring a couple of nice victories. Edmundo Legaspi is also on 3 points, and they face off tomorrow.
In other news, the live broadcast of the games was up an running from round three. The link to the games is at

Monday 9 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 1

The first day of the 2017 Asian Seniors was almost upset free, with the top seeds winning most (but not all) of the games. Tournament organiser Paul Spiller drew with second seed IM Mahmood Lodhi, while FM Mike Steadman and CM Hilton Bennett had a quick draw in an all NZ clash.
I found myself seeded at the halfway point of the tournament, and so faced top seed GM Darryl Johansen on board 1. Despite playing a few inaccurate moves in the opening, I manged to survive my worse position until then ending, when  things began to turn in my favour. Despite losing a pawn my active rook and knight created enough play to give me distinct drawing chances, but running short of time I rejected the best line and lost a few moves later. Nonetheless I was happy with my play (at least towards the end), and I did learn something from the game.
Updated results for both the Seniors and Veterans can be found at

Press,Shaun - Johansen,Darryl [B26]
2017 Asian Seniors (3), 19.08.2017

2017 Asian Seniors starts today

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans starts today, 3pm Auckland New Zealand time. Unfortunately the first round games won't be broadcast live, due to a technical hitch with the DGT boards. However I expect pgn files for the game will be made available after the completion of the round, so you can catch up with the action at some stage.
I've visited the playing area and it looks quite nice. The venue has hosted a couple of previous zonals, so is familiar to a lot of the players. As an added bonus, the Waipuna Resort backs onto a lagoon, so a brisk 3.2km walk around it is a good warm up for this afternoons chess.

Saturday 7 October 2017

Most promotions

At Street Chess today I saw a game where one player promoted twice, so had three distinct queens during the game (but not at the same time). I don;t think that this is that unusual, as queenless endings often see a promotion, then a queen sac for the opponent remaining material, followed by a final promotion.
Promoting three times is no doubt rarer, although according to Tim Krabbe, there have been a few games where 3 pawns on each side have promoted. And the record for one side (in a serious game) is 4 times, as shown below. White even got in the act, promoting twice as well, meaning that the game had 8 queens taking part at various times!

Kubikova,Alena (2170) - Novy,Vaclav (2107) [B78]
Plzen op-A 9th Plzen (9), 24.08.2003

Thursday 5 October 2017

Does move order always matter?

For some openings there is only one move order. For others, there are many ways to reach the desired position, although how you get there may be significant. I was wondering how important move order was all through the early stages of the following game.
The opening was slightly unusual to start with as my recent games against Matt had started with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.f4. So when he replied with 1. ... e5 I smelt a rat, thinking that after 2.Nf3 he would try and head back to that line with 2. ... d6 and avoid the sharp f4 line. Hence 2.Nc3. But it seems there was no trick, and I went into a Four Knights, which is kind of a 2nd/3rd string opening for me.
After 5.d3 I assumed we were heading down the mainline, but 5. ... Nd4 came as a surprise. Turns out I should have castled before playing d3, as Nd4 works a bit better in the game. Even my choide of 6.Bc4 is not that popular, although b5 again transposes to Ba4 lines.
After those adventures the game settled down a bit, but after Matt missed the main ideas behind 12.f4 I was always on top, and picked up a few pawns before he walked into a mate.

Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [C49]
Belconnen CC, 03.10.2017

Wednesday 4 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans begins next Monday (9th October), in Auckland, New Zealand. At this stage there are 57 entries across the two events, with a large number of countries represented. Top seed in the Seniors is Australian GM Daryl Johansen, while GM Eugene Torre (PHI) is the top seed in the Veterans. The 9 round tournament will run from Monday through to Sunday (15th).
Currently I am seeded just below the halfway mark of the Seniors event, so will probably have a tough first round. Currently my main ambition is to not play bad chess, and hopefully score around 50%. My last playing trip to NZ was for the 2011 Oceania Zonal, where  I did hit 50%, so I;m counting on history repeating.
You can see the list of entries for both events at the tournament webpage, and once the tournament begins, downloads games etc.

Monday 2 October 2017

A tale of two Nh7's

While no piece of chess advice applies in all situations, keeping your knights pointing forward is normally a reliable guideline. If you do have to retreat, h7 and a7 aren't high on the list of desirable squares, although they do rank ahead of a8 or h8.
In the following game, Black was already struggling due to White's space advantage in the centre, but bringing the knight back to h7 was an almost fatal loss of tempo for Black. While it took White a number of moves to convert the position, Black had very little opportunity to fight back, and had to defend until his position finally cracked.

Chibnall,Alana (1868) - Radisich,Matthew (1664) [B07]
Belconnen Club Championship (2.2), 19.09.2017

But I did say that this advice doesn't always apply. Having seen Nh7 not help in the previous game, Magnus Carlsen had no problems with playing it against Fabiano Caruana, in round 8 of the Isle of Man event. There is lay in wait, until move 32, when suddenly it jumped to g5, leaving Caruana facing a number of deadly captures and forks. It was all over a few moves later, with the knight playing a decisive role.

Caruana,Fabiano (2799) - Carlsen,Magnus (2827) [C78] Isle of Man International Mast Douglas (Isle of Man) (8.1), 30.09.2017

Sunday 1 October 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - 11&12 November

Save the weekend of the 11th and 12th of November for the 2017 Vikings Weekender. Once again the event will be hosted by the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa, ACT.
The event is run in two sections, with an Open and Under 1600 tournaments. Prizes for the Open is $1000, with $500 for first place in the Minor. Last year the tournament paid out over $2500 in prizes.
The time limit is 60m+10s per player per game, and there will be 7 rounds in each tournament (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday).
Entry fee is $65 ($45 for concessions) with GM/IM/WGM.WIM free. You can pre-register for the event at and pay your entry at the venue.

Saturday 30 September 2017

2017 George Trundle

Auckland looks to be the place for chess over the next few weeks, with a couple of big events being held there. Starting the 9th of October is the Asian Seniors and Veterans, which is already attracting a large international field.
But before that, the annual George Trundle Masters is being held, with round 1 already finished. Once again the field for the IM tournament is a mix of top New Zealand  players, a couple of Australians, plus players from Brazil and Singapore. 
One player taking on both events is Australian GM Daryl Johansen. He has got off to a winning start in the George Trundle, beating FM Bob Smith in the only decisive game of the round. It was a pretty quick win as well, as can be seen below.
If you wish to follow the George Trundle, then the tournament links can be  found at the New Zealand Chess website. Rounds start at 1200 Canberra time, although the switch to daylight savings may change this by an hour.

Smith,Robert W (2230) - Johansen,Darryl K (2380) [E10]
George Trundle NZ Masters 2017 Auckland, NZL (1.2), 30.09.2017

Thursday 28 September 2017

Old wine, new bottle

Learning tactics by playing through short games of chess is one coaching technique I've always been fond of. If you are working with a group, you can show a number of games in a short time, and normally not lose the interest of your students. You also just focus on one concept, if the game is quick enough, so you don't get side tracked by other issues.
So having a collection of quick games is always useful. One example is the game below, which I'm sure has been played a few times (or at least a version of it). This version was played at my local club the other night, and demonstrates the importance of looking at all checks and captures. If Black had been a little more cautious he would have realised that taking the biggest piece (normally the correct idea) was not best in this position. Instead he won the queen, but lost his king!

White - Black
Belconnen Chess Club Champs 26.09.2017

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Aronian ices World Cup

Lev Aronian has one the 2017 World Cup, after a convincing 2-0 win in the first playoff games, against Ding Liren. The 4 standard were all drawn, although Aronian did have winning chances in at least one game. However at rapid chess, Aronian played two excellent attacking games, winning both with direct assaults on his opponents king.
Both players have earned places in the upcoming Candidates tournament, but the win for the soon to be married Aronian gave him 120,000 first prize, which might pay for a very nice honeymoon.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Bad Karma

Hou Yifan must be thinking that some unseen hand is working against her, mainly for the amusement of others. After her infamous finish to the Gibraltar Masters (a deliberate loss to protest playing 7 female opponents in 9 games), she might have thought the issue was behind her. Bizarrely, her first 4 opponents at the Isle of Man Masters have also been female, including her round 1 random opponent. As some of the arbiting team at IOM also officiated at Gibraltar, I'm assuming they are making sure that the pairings for every round are (a) thoroughly checked and (b) explained in great detail to Yifan.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Wallace continues good form

One of the beneficiaries of the Isle of Man pairing system is IM John-Paul Wallace, who started the tournament with a win yesterday. It was against a higher seeded opponent, and shows he has continued his good form from last years event (where he scored a GM norm). So rather than slog his way through the early rounds hoping he plays strong enough players to keep his GM norms chances active, he has already collected one GM scalp, and is up against GM Emil Sutovsky in round 2.
In other games most of the top seeds won,  although one notable 'upset' was the win by Fabiano Caruana (2799) over Vladimir Kramnik (2803).

Bogner,Sebastian (2599) - Wallace,John Paul (2413) [A00] Isle of Man Open - Masters Douglas (Isle of Man) (1.33), 23.09.2017