Tuesday 31 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 7

With 3 rounds to play, 4 players now share the lead in the 2017 Gibraltar Masters. Two of yesterdays leaders, Hikaru Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro played a quick draw (by repetition of course) to move to 6/7. On Board 2 Maxime Vachier Lagrave ended Michael Adams unbeaten run to also reach 6. And Yangyi Yu demolished Valentin Dragnev to become the 4th member of the leading group.
However the group on 5.5 still has hopes of winning the event, especially as it includes players like Adams, Short, Gelfand and Topalov. Also in the group is Antoaneta Stefanova, who is currently the leading female player.
IM Bobby Cheng had another tough game today, against World Problem Solving Champion Kacper Piorun. The  opening was slightly bizarre (as explained by Piorun in the commentary room) before the game become highly tactical. Unfortunately for Cheng, the tactics were in Piorun's favour, leaving Cheng on 4/7. However the strength of the event is still working in Cheng's favour as hist TPR is still over 2500, and a good finish may still result in a GM norm. FM Zachary Loh also won today to get back to 50%. He plays GM Mathias Womacka tomorrow, and a win may put him in the frame for an IM norm.

Dragnev,Valentin - Yu,Yangyi [B46]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (7), 30.01.2017

Monday 30 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 6

The 6th round of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters was particularly blood thirsty, with the majority of top board games ending in victory or heartbreak. Probably the highlight of the round was Nigel Short's win over Fabiano Caruana in a Caro-Kan Two Knights. Short won a pawn in the middle game, then won the exchange to head to a winning ending, but even then Caruana made him fight all the way.
IM Valentin Dragnev (AUT) also scored a momentous win, beating  Vassily Ivanchuk, and is now on 5/6 with a 2700+ PR.
Michael Adams continued his good run, beating Wenjun Ju to score 5.5/6. Hikaru Nakamura is also on the score, as is another tournament surprise packet, David Anton Guijarro. Guijarro is up against Nakamura in round 7, while Adams has to contend with Vachier-Lagrave.
IM Bobby Cheng had a good win against GM SS Ganguly. At one point Ganguly could have accepted a repetition offer from Cheng, but in refusing to do so, just left himself with a worse position. FM Zachary Loh drew with Kim Yew Chan (MAS), looking slightly worse when I had a quick look at the game. I got lucky in my game against Alistair Compton (NZL), when I grabbed a 'free' pawn, only to miss the refutation. However we both then missed a stronger version of the tactic, and as a result I ended up with 3 pawns for a piece (rather than 2), and I was able to set up a position where a draw was the logical result.

Sunday 29 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 5

At the halfway point off the 2017 Gibraltar Masters, 6 players share the lead on 4.5. The top board saw a quick draw by repetition between Emil Sutovsky and Wenjun Ju, but most of the other leading games were more dynamic. (NB There is a no draw offers before move 30 rule in operation, but unavoidable repetitions are exempt from this).
Michael Adams is also in the leading group, winning yet another marathon game, this time against Yifan Hou. Hikaru Nakamura made short work of Eduardo Iturrizaga, while Lagrade and Anton Guijarro are also on 4.5
After yesterdays slashing win Nigel Short was unable to overcome former Doeberl Cup winner Varuzhan Akobian, with the game ending in a draw. David Howell and Maxime Vachier Lagrave also drew, leaving them on 4 points. Further down IM Bobby Cheng won the all Australian clash against FM Zachary Loh, moving him back up the standings.
Given the compressed leader board, picking a tournament winner at this point is very difficult. Michael Adams is one player who seems to be in good form, as is Hikaru Nakamura, but one slip is all it takes to drop out of contention. It may also depend who gets to play players like Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave in the run home.

Saturday 28 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 4

At the end of day 4 there are only 2 players left on 100%. GM Emil Sutovsky and GM Wenjun Ju have won all their games, and will meet on Board 1 in tomorrows round. The group on 3.5 contains 14 players, including a number of the higher rated players, including Michael Adams, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Not in that group are a couple of other big names (Caruana and Topalov), who have had a couple of draws to go with their 2 wins.
One player recovering from an early loss is Vassily Ivanchuk who won his game today. Unfortunately for Australian fans is was at the expense of IM Bobby Cheng. Cheng played a little loose in the Pirc but it took a nice exchange sacrifice by Ivanchuk to create real winning chances. Annoyingly for Cheng the swiss pairing gods have seen fit to pair him with fellow Australian FM Zachary Loh in round 5.
I've been a little quiet reporting on my own games after my round 2 loss, but I've actually recovered to 1.5/4. I won a pretty straightforward game yesterday (win a pawn, exchange pieces, win another pawn, keep exchanging), while today I had to defend a slightly worse position until a pawn grab in a heavy piece ending encouraged my opponent to force a repetition.

Ivanchuk,Vassily - Cheng,Bobby [B08]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (4), 27.01.2017

Friday 27 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 3

The third round of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters saw the leading group thinning, with more top seeds being forced to concede draws to lower rated opponents. Nakamura drew with GN Gopal in a game where the only pawn exchange occurred on move 3/4 with the position being almost totally blocked by move 40. Yangyi Yu drew with Antipov, although this game saw all but one pair of pawns exchanged before a drawn rook ending was reached.
Michael Adams is not the highest seeded player on 100% after winning a double rook ending against Deac Bogdan-Daniel. Vitiugov is the only 2700+ player on 3, along with another 7 players.
Slightly further down Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave moved up to 2.5/3, although Peter Svidler scored his second draw after surviving a ferocious attack by Nitzan Steinberg (Click on this link and look for the game!) IM Bobby Cheng moved to 2/3 with a win over FM Angelo Damia, while FM Zachary Loh scored a big upset, beating GM Victor Mikhalevski and is now also on 2/3.

Thursday 26 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters saw two different blackouts, one at the venue and the other at the board. During the morning session (Challengers and Amateur) the power went out across Gibraltar, leaving the players at the venue relying on natural light to illuminate their games. The blackout also affected the DGT boards, as some boards did not restart correctly, leaving some games un broadcast. The power outage lasted an hour, although the games continued as scheduled.
The blackout at the board involved Vassily Ivanchuk, who lost on time in a winning position, against IM Ori Kobo. With one move to make the time control, Ivanchuk let his clock run down, and was surprised when his opponent claimed the win. At first it seemed his was arguing that his clock still showed time (as it moved to the next time control), and then he claimed to made played 40 moves. It turns out that he left move 24 blank on his scoresheet (writing it as move 25) and therefore only played 39 moves, even though he had written move "40" down.
The other top boards had a tough time of it as well, with Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave both drawing with IM's and the top 10 boards only "winning" 7-3 against the lower rated players.
IM Bobby Cheng had a tough opponent in the form of GM Vadim Zvjaginsev and went down. FM Zachary Loh had a nice win on the board next to mine, while I played a lot better than yesterday, until I dropped a rook in a time trouble blunder.
Despite the upsets, there are still 19 players on 2/2,but only 3 of the original top 10 seeds are in this group. Hikaru Nakamura is one of these players, and a win on top board tomorrow will put him in a good position for the next third of the tournament.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 1

Day 1 of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters got underway with very few surprises. A couple of higher rated players were held to draws (Gelfand, Short, Ganguly among them) and there were a couple of GM's dropping the full point. Having said that, the very top players won in a way that showed the difference between 2700+ GM's and 2300+ players. Fabiano Caruana had a very nice win, and the commentators praised Nakamrua's play. There were a couple of quick wins on the top boards, including a 16 move win by Topalov.
I started on Board 91, and to show how strong this event is, I still ended up with a 2420 rated GM. Doing a bit of pre-grame prep, I settled on a line where I was a pawn up, but with an exposed king in the centre. Turns out my idea wasn't that great as GM Sundararajan just ripped open my position and I resigned on move 25. My next round's opponent is hardly any easier, as I get a 2260+ FM to try my best against. Nonetheless I'm finding the tournament very enjoyable, and if you are able to stay up for the start I highly recommend following the online coverage.

Topalov,Veselin - Paehtz,Thomas [A80]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (1), 19.01.2017

Tuesday 24 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 0

Quite a busy day yesterday, which is the reason for the missing blog post. Most of it was taken up with settling in to the hotel, a bit of sightseeing, and working out the various ways of getting to the venue. It turns out we didn't do the last bit quite as well as we could, as this mornings round (for the challengers) necessitated a shift to taxi's so Harry didn't forfeit his first round.
Gibraltar is nice, and obviously small. For Canberran's it is about the same size as Amaroo and Ngunawal combined, although we don't have a huge rock in the middle. The rock does present a bit of a problem, as our hotel is quite close to the venue, but only if there was a tunnel drilled through it. Otherwise it is about a 55 minute walk (although a lot quicker by bus).
The Masters begins tomorrow at 3pm (1am Wednesday Canberra time), and runs over 10 rounds. Already the top seeds are arriving, as I spotted Caruana, Adams and Svidler at the Calata Hotel. There will be a lecture by GM Ray Keene at the venue this evening, followed by the opening ceremony. Indeed, every night has a different social activity for the players, including master classes, novelty blitz events, and simuls.
I'm not sure how the round times (and time zone shifts) will affect my blogging, but hopefully I will be able to report sometime after the round is finished (which is likely to be late morning Canberra time)

Sunday 22 January 2017

Next stop Gibraltar

The final leg of my chess holiday start tomorrow, with a morning flight to Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Masters starts on Tuesday, with 256 players in the top section. I'm currently seeded 228th and expect a couple of tough rounds before a find my level. I'm not expecting a stellar result (given my current form), but hopefully I will get some tough games, and some good practice.
The Masters is a 10 round event, with Caruana as the top seed. There are 72 GM's, 51 IM's and 39 FM's. From Australia IM Bobby Cheng and FM Zachary Loh are playing, and there are players from 55 Federations.
The tournament website is http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/ and contains details on the main event, as well as the supporting tournaments.

Friday 20 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal - Smirnov and Timergazi win events

IM Anton Smirnov (AUS) has finished outright first in the 2017 Oceania Zonal. Leading by half a point going into the last round, he drew a dramatic game against FM Karl Zelesco on the top board, which ended in a repetition after Zelesco sacrificed two rooks and Smirnov missed a move that refuted the whole attack. This result gave GM Max Illingworth and IM Ari Dale a chance to catch Smirnov, but both players could only draw their last round games.
WFM Layla Timergazi (NZL) finished first in the 2017 Oceania Women's Zonal, drawing her last round game with WFM Helen Milligan (NZL). She scored 7.5/9 and will receive the WIM title for her victory. Kathryn Hardegen (AUS) and Alana Chibnall finished in equal second after winning their last round games, and both have earned the WFM title.
This event proved to be a bit of a bonanza for title hunters, with a number of newly minted (W)FM's and (W)CM's. From a Canberra perspective it was very rewarding, with Michael Kethro scoring 6/9 to earn his FM title, and Albert Winkelman going within a whisker of drawing his last round game , which would have also given him 6 points (he can claim the CM title as consolation). Of course every zonal reignites the debate about whether the players deserve the title, and you can follow the latest instalment here. (NB If you have followed this thread in the past, only the dates on the postings will have changed, not the content of those posts)

Chibnall,Alana - Smith,Viv [B07]
2017 Oceania Women's Zonal , 19.01.2017

Thursday 19 January 2017

A pint, a curry, with a Kings Gambit on the side

I'm not sure if I'm singing for my supper, but I did get roped in to playing a Leeds League much yesterday evening. It turned out to be an A/B match where the Leeds CC A team was playing the Leeds CC B teams. The A team was quite strong (IM, FM on boards 1&2) while Harry and I were dropped in to the B team on the top 2 boards.
In the end the A team gave the B's a going over (4.5-0.5), although I managed ti grab half a point. As you can see from the score they do things a little differently up north. 5 board matches is a little odd, and each team member plays the same colour (ie we were all black against the A team). Finally, the time limit is still a little 'old-fashioned' with 35 moves in 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes to finish. I believe that the league is looking to move towards increments, but are still trying to solve the issue of fixed closing times at venues.
After the match both teams retired to a near by bar, before some of us partook in that most English of traditions, the late night curry. It all finished up around midnight, which was just the right time to watch round 8 of the Oceania Zonal from Auckland.

Gantner,Matthias - Press,Shaun [C34]
Leeds League , 18.01.2017

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Hans Berliner 1929-2017

Hans Berliner, former World Correspondence Chess champion, passed away a few days ago. He was an ICCF GM as well as a FIDE IM, and was also well known for his work in the field of computer science.
A Professor at Carnegie-Mellon, he helped developed the chess program Hitech, as well as the Backgammon program BKG 9.8, which defeated the Backgammon World Champion in a short match in 1979.
He was the World Champion in CC from 1965-68 and defeated Yakov Estrin in a celebrated game. After this he returned to University to complete his PhD, and had a long career in Comptuer Science, with an emphasis on Computer Chess.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal

Instead of staying up late to watch chess tournaments in Europe, I'm currently staying up late to watch the 2017 Oceania Zonal from New Zealand.  Last night was a double round "day" so I got to see the early round, and woke up to get the round 6 results. GM Max Illingworth leads the Open with 5.5/6 (ahead of 5 players), while Layla Timergazi leads the Women's Zonal on 5/6 (with 3 in 2nd).
I've also been following the performance of Canberra players closely. Albert Winkelman is doing very well in the Open, currently on 4.5/6 which is enough for a CM title. Michael Kethro is on 4/6, and should have no trouble earning that title as well. (I was planning to show a nice win by Kethro over IM Anthony Ker, but the game, result, and possibly the names don't seem to line up).
In the Women's Zonal Alana Chibnall is in 2nd on 4.5/6 (WCM title if she wants it), but having played 3 of the top 4 seeds, is hoping for a top 3 finish at least.
Tournament results from the Open are here, and there is a link to the Women's Zonal there as well.

Monday 16 January 2017

4NCL Weekend - Part 2

The second day of the 4NCL went pretty much the same as the first for me, in that a played the opening poorly, tried to survive, and eventually lost. Harry Press at least proved one family member can still play chess, finishing the weekend with a nice win, while the White Rose 1 team won their match on the top section.
Of course while events like this work in the UK (and Europe), sadly the issue of distance prevents this from working the same way in Australia. I'd guess that at least 30 million people live within 3 hours of the venue, which makes finding teams a lot easier. Also the sheer number of players rated above 2000 who took part (at least 80% of the 250 players) makes the event competitive all the way through. I suspect the only way an event like this might work in Australia is a one-shot event each year, held over a long weekend. But even then I couldn't see more than 60 players deciding to play.

Press,Harry - Burnett,Andrew [E15]
4NCL Northampton, 15.01.2017

Sunday 15 January 2017

4NCL weekend - Northampton

The 4NCL is a significant part of the UK chess scene. It has become the premier teams event in this country (surpassing the county championships) and now runs over 4 divisions. In fact it is so large that divisions 3&4 are split into North and South zones.
I'm currently at the Div 1&2 weekend at Northampton. There 32 teams of 8 players playing here, with 16 teams in each division. The top teams range from almost all GM outfits, to a more mixed GM+IM+2200 outfits. The format is 1 round per day, with the Saturday evening given over to socialising. Most of the players are staying at the venue and when  I left the bar around 11pm the chess and conversation was still going strong.
I ended up on board 7 for the White Rose 2nd team, but let the team down with a fairly dismal game. We lost to 'Spirit of Atticus' 5.5-2.5 (+0=5-3) although Harry Press continues his torment of UK 2100's, picking up a draw after his opponent miscalculated a winning ending. Today doesn't get any easier, as we play Alba, a Scottish team that contains a number of former Scottish champions.
Apart from the Press's, there were a few other Australian players in attendance, including Murray Smith (a strong Australian player of the 1970's and 80's) who had been lured out of retirement for the weekend, and is now thinking of making a proper comeback.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Tie-breaks. But which one?

By all reports the 2017 Australian Open was an excellently organised event, which was enjoyed by all who played. However it appears there was an issue at the end of the event that seems to have left a sour taste in the mouths of the organiser.
Although there are no playoffs for the Australian Open (often due to the quick departure of overseas players), and all players who finish first are considered joint winners, there is still a trophy that is awarded to the winner on tie-break. When publicising the tournament the organisers specified a tie-break and this was used to determine the winner of the trophy. Having then announced the winner and awarded the trophy the organisers were then told by the Australian Chess Federation that they used the wrong tie-break and the wrong player was given the trophy.
The organisers defended themselves that they had attempted to find the correct regulations (that had disappeared from the ACF website) but were unsuccessful in doing so. They also pointed out that there was an official ACF representative whose job was to check the tournament regulations, and he raised no objection to the proposed method.
Now while it may just seem to be an unfortunate breakdown in communication, this type of situation has occurred in events I have organised on behalf of the ACF at least twice before. An almost identical situation occurred in the 1995 Australian Juniors where attempts to get any information from the ACF about tie-break and playoff procedures were met with absolute silence. Consequently we did the same as the 2017 Aus Open organisers and used what we thought were valid and sensible tie-breaks, only to be told almost instantly the event finished that we had got it wrong.
Then in the 2007 Australian Open attempts to get information on how to implement regulations on player approvals were met with a confused response, although myself and Stephen Mugford were still subsequently sanctioned for not implementing these regulations correctly. (NB This is not just an ACF problem. FIDE are very good at insisting you follow every regulation they specify, while simply picking, choosing or even ignoring regulations they need to follow).
Unfortunately  what happened this year is the rule rather than the exception, and it does have further consequences. The ACT Chess Association has been asked by the ACF in recent years to organise national events on their behalf. And while we have a good track record of running good events in Canberra (O2C Doeberl Cup, the very successful 2015 Australian Junior etc) I (as ACTCA Vice-President) always strongly recommend against anything to do with the ACF, because of their record of failure in this area. So while good organisers are hard to find, the ACF really need to improve their own procedures, otherwise they will have no one left willing to organise anything in the future.

Friday 13 January 2017

Street Chess in Yorkshire?

Given the weather in Leeds at the moment (snow is forecast), holding Street Chess in Yorkshire may see a few chess players coming down with exposure. But that is not to say that something similar isn't worth trying. The Wakentake Cafe in Leeds hosted a semi-casual Rapidplay this evening, which had a number of similarities to the Canberra version.
The event was a 14 player tournament with 5 rounds of G/10m. The top seed was probably around 2300 but otherwise it was a group of players who would have been similar in strength to the Street Chess regulars. Between rounds we had enough time to grab drinks (beer or soft drink were both popular), and the tournament host, Peter Mason, arranged for food to be laid on before we started.
The tournament it self was smoothly run by IM Richard Palliser. Although there were prizes, it was more about having fun than the final scores. But the players gave it a big thumbs up, so much so that they are now looking at holding more events at the venue.
As it was a rapid, I did get to wheel out some of my more dodgy openings. Probably my best win was in the following game where I got to play the Traxler. My opponent captured on f7 with the bishop but I was able to use the open f file to my advantage. A coupe of pieces had to be sacrificed along the way, but this led to the mate I was looking for.

Other,An - Press,Shaun [C57]
Wakentake Blitz, 12.01.2017

Thursday 12 January 2017

Australian Open ends in 4 way tie

Australian FM Yi Liu finished of an excellent 2017 Australian Open by defeating Round 10 leader IM Temur Kuybokarov (UZE) to join him in first place. This result also allowed IM Kanan Izzat (AZE) and GM Max Illingworth to also finish in equal first on 8.5/11. For Liu, a former Australian Junior Champion, this was not only his best career result so far, but also earned him an IM norm.
Kuybokarov had lead for most of the event after starting with 5 wins, but was unable to defend a rook and pawn ending a pawn down against Liu.
Max Illingworth had a welcome return to form, beating fellow GM Moulthun Ly in the final game. Both players showed signs of nerves towards the end, but one final mistake by Ly allowed Illingworth's attack to break through.
Of the players from the nations capital, IM Andrew Brown finished on 8/11 (beating IM Stephen Solomon in the final round), IM Junta Ikeda on 7.5, Michael Kethro 6.5, Dillon Hathiramani 6 and Albert Winkelman 6.
The Minor (Under 1600) event was won by Oliver McCarthy with a very impressive 10.5/11.

Illingworth,Max - Ly,Moulthun [A92]
2017 Australian Open, 12.01.2017

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Visiting the local

Another significant between UK chess and Australian chess is at the club level. League chess is still a big thing here, and in Yorkshire, some clubs exist only to play league chess. In Australia inter-club (as it is called) is much rarer, and only happens in the very big cities (and does not happen in Canberra at all).
It was at one of these clubs, Ilkely, that I visited tonight. The 1st team was playing a league match, while the seconds were playing away at Bradford. Fortunately there were a few other member sin attendance, so I had the pleasure of playing some friendly rapid (3 wins and a loss if you must know). In the meantime the home team was trying to save the match as they were 1 down with 1 to play.
But I didn't see the end of the match, because I partook in another English chess tradition. I headed of to the pub for a pint or two, only catching up with various results as other players wandered in. A perfect civilised way to spend the evening.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

News from down under

Being away from Australia at this time means I am only catching the chess news from that part of the world in bits and pieces. There are a couple of significant events running at the moment, in Australia and New Zealand.
FM Scott Wastney is the new New Zealand champion, winning his last round game against Bill Forster. Wastney actually lost is first round game before 'submarining' through the field, surfacing when it counted. As it was an Open event, the overall tournament was won by IM Ari Dale, with 7.5/9.
The Australian Open is also running in Brisbane at the moment, and IM Temur Kuybokarov and GM Ahmed Adly lead the 11 round event with 7.5/9. GM Max Illingworth is the best placed Australian, showing a welcome return to form with 7/9.

Monday 9 January 2017

4NCL Harrogate Congress

The 4NCL Harrogate Congress saw mixed results from the team of Press & Jones. The members of the PNG Olympiad Team (FM's Press and Jones) could not crack it for a win in their respective events, and both finished on 2/5, with 3 draws, 1 loss and a half point bye.
On the other hand Harry Press (playing under the Australian flag) finished on 4/5 (3 wins, 1 draw and a half point bye), to feature in a five way tie for first in the Under 2000 event. At one stage a win would have been enough for outright first, but it was not to be, as he opponent found the right defences to various threats.
Given the small number of rounds it was hardly surprising that the Open also finished in a 4 way tie for first. FM Tim Wall and Stephen Prior won their final round games, while John Jarmony and Stephen Jones agreed to a very short final round draw. The Minor had a single winner with Patrick Sartain winning his final game, while his closest rivals drew.
Full results (plus an increasing number of games) can be found at chess-results.com

David,Ivan - Press,Harry [A47]
4NCL Harrogate Major (5), 08.01.2017

Sunday 8 January 2017

Things are fine up north

To most Australians, England is quite small. Having finished up at Hastings' Harry and I have now travelled up to Yorkshire and are playing in the 4NCL Congress in Harrogate. It took us around 4 and a half hours by train, was a pleasant journey, and we hardly noticed the travel. Based on conversations with locals however, this seems to be a significant journey, even if the distance is probably the equivalent of Canberra to Dubbo.
The Congress is a 5 round FIDE rated swiss divided into 3 sections. It seems to be a small-ish congress (typical of tournament you can find in the UK on most weekends) but still has attracted 133 players. The equivalent kind of event in Australia might have a field of between 40 and 60 players for comparison. The schedule is 1-2-2, starting on Friday night, although a significant number of half point byes were taken for that round. The only odd thing about the tournament is that each tournament has the same value of prizes, so winning the Minor will earn you as much as winning the Open (which happens a lot in the UK I am told).
Finally, the venue is fantastic. It is being held in the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, which for fans of detective fiction is notable as the hotel where Agatha Christie was found after going missing in 1926. Comfortable playing rooms, good lighting, and very posh amenities.

Saturday 7 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Final Day

With 4 players tied for first, and another 8 players half a point behind, the final round of the 2016/17 Hastings International has the potential to throw up almost any number of winners. As is turned out, it was only GM Deep Sengupta who was able to move to 7 points, leavibg the rest of the field in his wake. He defeated GM Murali Kathikeyan on the top board, while both GM SP Sethuraman and GM Allan Stig Rasmussen both lost to lower rated opponents. Sethuraman went down to IM Miklos Galyas (HUN), while Rasmussen lost to IM R Praggnanandhaa in a very complicated game.
GM Bogdan Lalic ended WGM Nino Maisuradze hope of an IM norm, and finished tied for second, as did English FM Ravi Haria, who scored both an IM norm, and was the best placed English player.
Australian IM's Justin Tan and Bobby Cheng both finished the events with wins, but ended up short of what was required for GM norms. Harry Press narrowly missed on on the Under 2200 (which is decided on difference between score expected and score achieved), after Claudio Boino (POR) defeated FM Laurence Webb in the final round to overtake him.
At the prize giving ceremony, sponsored Tradewise Insurance and the Hastings Borough Council announced continuing financial support for the event, so the Hastings International will be holding its 93rd edition at the end of this year.

Thursday 5 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 8

Draws on the top 6 boards of the 2016/17 Hastings International either sets up an exciting last round, or potentially a very dull one. The results on the top 2 boards meant the leading group did not change, although it also means that the chasing pack has moved a little closer.
In round 9 GM Deep Sengupta (IND) plays GM Murali Karthikeyan (IND). GM SP Sethuraman plays IM Miklos Galyas (HUN), while GM Allan Stig Rasmussen (DEN) is up against IM R Praggnanandhaa (IND). Sengupta, Karthikeyan, Sethuraman and Rasmussen are all on 6/8, while Galyas and Praggnanandhaa are on 5.5, along with 6 other players. Depending on today's results there could be a single winner on 7 points, or anywhere up to 7 winners on 6.5.
While the top boards saw a couple of short draws, most of the other games were quite hard fought. Praggnanandhaa was again one of the last players to finish, claiming a draw by repetition against IM  Gudmundur Kjartansson on move 91, in a 2 knights and pawns v 1 knight and more pawns ending. Fortunately for this arbiter I was able to check on the DGT system, as the positions were each separated by a number of intermediate moves.
Further down English FM Ravi Haria earned his 2nd IM norm with a draw against GM Bogdan Lalic (CRO). He simply has to turn up today to confirm the result. IM Justin Tan won against FM Adam Taylor (ENG) to move to 5/8, but IM Bobby Cheng lost to WGM Nino Maisuradze (FRA), who can now score an IM norm if she beats GM Lalic in the final round.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 7

The 5 consecutive win by GM SP Sethuraman (IND) has thrown the 2016/17 Hastings International wide open. He defeated GM Allan Stig Rasmussen (DEN) who had been a point in front going into the game, but is now tied with Sethuraman, GM Deep Sengupta (IND) and GM Murali Karthikeyan (IND).
Sethuraman played a line against the Caro-Kan made famous by Deep Blue against Kasparov, and while Rasmussen avoided Kasparov's poor choices, he still was hit with some tactics on f7 in the middlegame. A soild pawn ahead, Sethuraman then nursed the advantage all the way to the completion of the game.
Sengupta and Karthikeyan completed the Indian hat trick on the top boards, with wins over Fier (BRA) and Gledura (HUN). In round 8 Karthikeyan is up against Sengupta, while Rasmussen faces Sengupta.
IM Bobby Cheng was looking for a win to keep his GM norm chances on track but could only draw with veteran IM Petr Marusenko (UKR). IM Justin Tan had a similar result, drawing with IM Vladimir Prosviriakov (USA).
Last night also saw the 2017 Hastings International Blitz. 25 players took part, but it was exceptionally strong with 3 GM's. 2 IM's and at least 1 FM starting in the bottom half of the draw (and no, it wasn't me). GM Keith Arkell won the tournament with 7.5/9, with IM Bobby Cheng, and GM Danny Gormally tied for 2nd on 7.

Sethuraman,S.P (2647) - Rasmussen,Allan Stig (2502)
Hastings Masters 2016/17 Horntye Park Sports Complex, B (7.1), 03.01.2017

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at http://www.hastingschess.com/

Tuesday 3 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 6

GM Allan Stig Rasmussen continues to lead the 2016/17 Hastings International, beating closest challenger GM Mark Hebden in round 6. The win for Rasmussen moves him to 5.5/6, but the group on 4.5/6 contains his toughest opponents.
GM SP Sethuraman (IND) made it 4 wins in a row, beating FM Mads Hansen (DEN). He now plays Rasmussen in round 7, and a another win for Sethuraman will throw the tournament wide open. GM Alexandr Fier (BRA) beat IM Justin Tan (AUS) to also move to 4.5. He was joined by GM Deep Sengupta (IND) and GM Murali Karthikeyan (IND) who both scored the full point in round 6.
IM Bobby Cheng kept his chances of a GM norm alive with a solid draw against GM Benjamin Gledura (HUN). He plays IM Petr Marusenko in today's round, but needs both a good result, and favourable pairings over the last two rounds to get his TPR above 2600.

Full coverage of the tournament (including live commentary if your up early enough in Australia) can be found at www.hastingschess.com

Monday 2 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 5

GM Allan Stig Rasmussen is the outright leader of the 2016/17 Hastings International, after defeating GM Murali Karthikeyan in a wild game in round 5. Karthikeyan threw his pieces at Rasmussen's wandering king, in a sacrificial attack that looked promising, but a couple of defensive moves from Rasmussen was all it took to show the attack wasn't working, and Karthikeyan resigned.
GM Mark Hebden is in outright second after drawing a tough game with GM Deep Sengupta. A number of other draws on the top boards, plus wins further down, sees quite a pack sharing third place on 3.5/5. One result of this is that players looking for norms all get reasonable pairings, as this group contains a number of GM's.
This round saw a couple of 'over-performers' come unstuck against stronger opponents. Claudio Boino (2066) made it up to Board 8, but was SP Sethuraman's third victim in a row. Carlo Mazrano was having a fantastic event, but went down in a miniature to IM Bobby Cheng. And Harry Press miscalculated a sequence against Freddie Hand (2205) but even then missed a last trick that would have drawn the game.
Tonight Tomorrow night sees the 2017 Hastings International Blitz at the White Rock Hotel. Unlike it's Doeberl counterpart, this is a smaller affair, as the venue only holds around 40 players. As I am one of the arbiters for this, my round 7 report may be somewhat delayed.

Cheng,Bobby - Marzano,Carlo [A49]
2016/17 Hastings International (5), 01.01.2017

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at http://www.hastingschess.com/

2016 Australian Player of the Year

Choosing a single outstanding Australian player for 2016 was quite a tough task. There were a number of players who had good performances in specific events (Aus champs, Doeberl etc) but these seemed to be shared around a bit.
Bobby Cheng winning the Australian Championship at the start of the year was certainly notable, as was James Morris winning the O2C Doeberl Cup. Justin Tan had a very successful year, with a 3rd place in the British Championship and earning a couple of GM norms.
But based on two significant performances I've decided that IM Anton Smirnov is the Chessexpress Australian Player of the Year for 2016. His undefeated Olympiad performance eared him a 20 game GM norm, and he showed that the title is just around the corner. He then won the 2016 Australian Masters, ahead of strong local and international field. He also finished 4th in the Doeberl and the Australian Championship, as well as 3rd in the NSW Open.
So congratulations to Anton, not only the 2016 Chessexpress Player of the Year, but the first player to win this award twice.

Sunday 1 January 2017

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 4

Veteran English GM Mark Hebden is one of three players who share the lead in the 2016/17 Hastings International. A win over Danish FM Mads Hansen, moved him to 3.5/4, along with GM Murali Karthikeyan (IND) and GM Allan Rasmussen (DEN).
The two Australian hopefuls, Justin Tan and Bobby Cheng had a mixed day, with Tan drawing with IM Miklos Galyas (HUN) while Cheng lost a tactical game against GM Alexandr Fier (BRA).
Both players had a slightly better end to the evening, finishing tied for second in a not that serious Chess 960 New Years Eve tournament at the White Rock Hotel.
Running alongside the Masters are a number of other side events, including a FIDE rated weekender, plus smaller events broken up into rating sections. All the results from these tournaments can be found via the tournament home page http://www.hastingschess.com/