Saturday 29 April 2017

The short of it

Having given you a super long game yesterday, here is a much shorter game. GM John Nunn once remarked to lose a miniature (under 25 moves, you need to make 3 mistakes as White in the opening, or 2 as Black. This was certainly true in this game, where b5 is inadvisable, Bd7 is inappropriate, and cxb5 is indefensible.

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - Fleissig,Maximilian [D11]
Wiener Schachkongress 1st Vienna (3), 1873

Friday 28 April 2017

A real monster

Tournament games that go over 100 moves are quite rare while 150+ movers are rarer still. As an arbiter I have had to sit through a few games that went past the century mark and a couple that went beyond 150. Normally these games end in draws, with the length of the game being caused by extended attempts to beat a fairly solid defense.
I suspect the spectators (and arbiters) at the following game probably enjoyed their experience more than I did. For one it was played during a time when adjournments still existed, and so probably ran over a few days, allowing both players and spectators a break. Secondly, it was played during one of the great pre World War I tournaments, the San Sebastian event of 1911, which was where Capablanca sensationally announced his arrival at the top level.
The game itself was played in the first round, and at the time, set the world record for the longest master game. Mot of it was endgame manoeuvring, although the final stage would be familiar to most players.

Duras,Oldrich - Janowski,Dawid Markelowicz [C77]
San Sebastian IT 1st San Sebastian (1), 20.02.1911

Thursday 27 April 2017

Mitrofanov's Deflection

White to play and win
The diagrammed position is one my favourite endgame studies of all time. It was first shown to me by FM Manuel Weeks way back when, and is rightly considered one of the best endgame studies of all times.
Now, I'm not going to torture you by requesting a solution, but I'm not going to hand one out either. The study itself has an interesting history (in part because the initial version was cooked), but this version stands the test of time (and the brutality of computer analysis). So if you want to find out more about the study, and the author, follow this link. But be warned, the answer is given, in all its brilliance.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Any sac you can play I can play better

In round 2 of the Gashimov Memorial, Topalov won against Wojtaszek with a stunning rook sacrifice. Two rounds later, Kramnik showed he can do at least as well, beating Harikrishna with a rook sac of his own. I'll leave it up to you dear reader to decide which is the better sacrifice.

Wojtaszek,R (2745) - Topalov,V (2741) [D12]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (2), 22.04.2017

Kramnik,V (2811) - Harikrishna,P (2755) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (4), 24.04.2017

When was white winning?

Lev Aronian has won the 2017 Grenke Chess Classic, ahead of a very strong field. His win may have been helped by the fact I did not give him the 'kiss of death' by tipping a win for him, but it was more likely to be due to his strong play.
One of his early tournament victories was against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a game that on the one hand exemplifies modern chess, but on the other, one I found difficult to get a handle on. Following the 'pawn structure be damned' approach, both players found themselves with rooks and bishops after 14 moves, and one open file to fight over. To my untrained eye this wasn't enough for either side to claim an advantage, but after another 20 moves, Aronian was able to force one of his pawns to f5 and Black's position collapsed. At first I thought Black must have made one big mistake, but going over the game it seems that it was more a succession of little ones that caused his defeat, culminating with him losing control of f5.

Aronian,Levon (2774) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2803) [A04]
GRENKE Chess Classic Karlsruhe (3.2), 17.04.2017

Sunday 23 April 2017

Playing the back marker

You're cruising along, have a couple of wins under your belt, when you have to play someone at the tail end of the field (note, I'm talking about round robin events). Suddenly you have to make a choice. Do you (a) decide that the point is in the bag no matter what you do, and so play for the brilliancy, (b) play extra cautiously as you don't want to blow a sandshoe, or (c) ignore the scoreboard and play the position on the board?
Most people would say that (c) is the correct choice, but I suspect that in practice, the actual split may well be 40% a, 40% b and 20% c.
An extreme example of some choosing box A was Frank Marshall in the 1903 Monte Carlo tournament. Although he finished slightly below 50%, he decided to have some fun against possibly the most famous 'back marker' in tournament history. This was the event where Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (known to chess history as Colonel Moreau) scored 0/26, losing all his games to the other 13 competitors. While Marshall was known for his attacking play, this game saw it taken to the extreme, playing a Muzio Gambit, offering two pieces within the first 8 moves. The unlucky Moreau was doing OK until move 16, where Bc6 turned out to be the losing move, as the pin down the d file resulted in material lose.

Marshall,Frank James - Moreau,C [C37]
Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (23), 13.03.1903

Saturday 22 April 2017

So much late night chess

Spring must be a popular time for chess events in the Northern Hemisphere as three big tournaments are running at the moment. In Germany the Grenke Classic sees Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, and Aronian battling in an 8 player round robin, while the accompanying Open has attracted a massive field. In Reykjavik the Open is underway, with 33 GM's in the 266 player field. And the Gashimov Memorial is just starting, with So, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams in the 10 player field.
The best bit about all these events is that they are all being broadcast live on Chess24. This makes following the tournaments a little easier, as you can just jump from tournament to tournament, without having to jump from site to site. And if you are pacing yourself, the Gashimov Memorial starts mid evening Canberra time, Grenke at 11:30pm and Reykjavik a couple of hours later.

Thursday 20 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - An arbiters reflection

As the Tournament Director of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup I think the tournament ran very well. In fact one common comment from the arbiting team was how quickly it seemed to finish, which usually indicates there were no major issues (which there weren't).
This was especially noteworthy as the field of 280+ players was the second largest on record, and the venue was a little trickier to handle this year. here were a couple of reasons why the tournament ran well this year, first and foremost due to the growing experience of the organising team. I was able to hand off most of the routine tournament management to my fellow arbiters, while I concentrated on pairings and keeping the DGT boards broadcasting (Note to self: A new laptop next year!).
On the whole the players themselves were much better behaved this year, almost certainly as a result of decisions taken last year concerning serious misbehaviour. We still have to patiently explain the 'no mobile phones' in the playing hall to parents (and no, having them on silent is not an excuse), and some conversations were a bit loud, but the spectators were pretty good this year as well.
There were a couple of interesting incidents in the tournament, including a game in the Premier where a player accidentally captured his own piece (two minute penalty and he had to move the piece first touched). A few players are still confused about the time control, with one game seeing both players surf the 30s increment until move 70, not realising that an extra 30 minutes was added when one clock went to zero. Next year we may shift the Premier back to a straight 90m+30s, in part because of this confusion.
The level of withdrawals was thankfully low, with only a few forfeits (one of which was the organisers fault), and 'silent' withdrawals. Disappointingly the last round of the Premier had one player forfeit his game stating he was unwell, but this seemed to be a short term illness as he hung around to watch the complete round.
I'd like to thank the rest of the team for their work this year. Charles Zworestine (Premier), Alana Chibnall (Major), Lee Forace (Minor) and Miona Ikeda (Under 1200) put in an enormous number of hours to make the tournament a success, and I for one am very grateful for their efforts.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Oh No, another time waster

Blizzard have just released a free version of the original StarCraft, along with the expansion. It has been patched to fix any bugs that have been noticed over the last 8 years(!) and runs under all the Window releases (including 10). You can download it from the Blizzard site.

An arm-brain puzzle

Arm-Brain is a partnership variant where one player names a piece to be moved (eg King or Knight), while their partner decides which piece (if there is more than one) and the move to play. It is a fun game, although I find it very challenging. But not as challenging as the following puzzle.
While not quite 'Arm-Brain' the conditions of the puzzle are as follows: White starts with 1.e4 and can then tell Black the type of piece they can move (again, Knight or pawn etc). Black is free to make any move with the type of piece named (so if White says pawn, any pawn move will do). Can you find a Mate in 5 for White? (NB White can name a different piece for each Black move).
This challenge was set by GM Michal Krasenkow over dinner after the Doeberl Cup had finished. Tournament winner GM Surya Ganguly solved it in around 20 minutes, while I gave up after 10.

Monday 17 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Ganguly dominates

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup has finished with a dominating win for Indian GM Surya Ganguly. Going into the final round he led by a point over GM Michal Krasenkow, and a relatively short draw with GM Bartlomiej Heberla secured him outright first on 8/9. Krasenkow had a tougher game on board 2, but was able to hold off a strong attack by Fedja Zulfic to take outright second. GM Zong Yuan Zhao was the best of the local players, finishing in third place with 7/9.
Ganguly was clearly the dominant player of the tournament, beating Krasenkow in their decisive Round 5 games, and only conceding draws to Zhao and Heberla. Krasenkow also showed his strength, winning 7 games, and drawing with Zhao in round 7. Zhao should also be pleased with his performance, drawing with the top 2 seeds and finishing undefeated.
Further down FM Luis Chan had an excellent tournament, picking up the prize for the best Australian junior. Unrated Longfei Zhao (CHN) also did well, scoring 5/9 in his first international event.
The Major was won by Brendan Zou with 6/7, while the Minor saw Parunithan Ranganathan and Aiden Odenthal  share first prize on 6.5/7, having drawn with each other in round 4 and winning all their other games.

Krasenkow,Michal (2620) - Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2640) [D47]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (5.1), 15.04.2017

Sunday 16 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

Day 3 of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the top seeds continued domination. GM Surya Ganguly went to 5.5/6, with a win over GM Michal Krasenkow in the morning round, before a hard fought draw in round 6 against GM Zong Yuan Zhao. Krasenkow recovered from his round 5 loss to score a convincing win over IM Trevor Tao to finish the day on 5/6. GM Zong Yuan Zhao is also on 5/6 after his draw with Ganguly, and he and Krasenkow are due to play in round 7.
IM Gary Lane, IM James Morris, IM Junta Ikeda and English FM Brandon Clarke are just behind the leading group on 4.5, with Clarke in the frame for an IM norm, while good results for the other players could leave them with GM norm chances.
Last night saw the traditional Doeberl Cup Lightning, which attracted a field of 105 players. IM Junta Ikeda entered at the very last minute, and proceeded to dominate the tournament, starting with 8 straight wins before a final round draw secured an easy first place.

Saturday 15 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Something from Day 2

While it has been a little hard to keep track of all the action from the Doeberl Cup, this nice game did catch my eye from round 4.

Smirnov,Anton (2511) - Krasenkow,Michal (2620) [D31]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (4.2), 14.04.2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup got into full swing on Day 2, with the Major, Minor and Under 1200 players joining the Premier players. The extra players brought the total field up to 281 players, which is the second largest entry on record (311 in 2014 being hard to top).
After rounds 3 and 4 of the Premier, two players remain undefeated. GM Surya Ganguly (IND) defeated IM Igor Bjelobrk and GM Moulthun Ly, while GM Michal Krasenkow (POL) dispatched young Australian IM's Junta Ikeda and Anton Smirnov. Today's round 5 see them clash on board 1. Just behind the leading 2 are GM Zong Yuan Zhao (AUS) and defending Doeberl Cup champion IM James Morris (AUS). They play on the second board in this mornings round.
The Major started with the usual round 1 upsets. The top 5 seeds managed to score 50% against their lower rated opponents, and there were plenty of upsets further down. The Minor was a little less random, although Athena Hathiramani scored a nice round 1 win over 5th seed Bill Egan.
Today's round starts at 9:30 am (and is already underway as I type this), with this afternoons action starting at 3pm (for Major, Minor and Under 1200), and 3:30pm (for the Premier). The Doeberl Lightning is also on today, starting at 7:30pm this evening, and a capacity entry of 120 players is expected.

Friday 14 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The first day of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the Premier section get off to a relatively smooth.  start. There were a couple of last minute additions and subtractions from the field, but once that was sorted, 64 players began the first of the days 2 rounds.
Top seed is Indian GM Surya Ganguly, with GM Michal Krasenkow and GM Bartlomiej Heberla second 2 and 3. GM Zong Yuan Zhao is the top Australian player in the field, with GM's Moulthun Ly and Darryl Johansen also taking part.
The first round provided few obstacles for the top seeds, but not all of them came away unscathed. Fred Litchfield continued his recent tradition of being a tough first round opponent by holding  Heberla to a draw. Peter Grinyer went one better with a win over WIM Heather Richards, and Sean Goh scored a smashing win over Neil Wright. The other 'highlight' of the round was a fire alarm at the venue, although an evacuation was not required (unlike 2 years ago).
Round 2 saw some tougher pairings, but most top seeds powered on. FM Dusan Stojic held GM Zong Yuan Zhao to a draw (in the last game to finish), as did Gary McNamara against IM Irine Sukandar. There are still 9 players on 2/2, including Ganguly, IM ANton Smirnov, IM James Morris and Johansen.
Day 2 will see rounds 3 and 4 of the Premier, and Round 1 of the Major, Minor and Under 1200. An almost capacity field of 280 players is expected to be on deck today, so if you want to see the order and chaos of a really large chess event, you are most welcome to drop by.

Litchfield,Frederick (2037) - Heberla,Bartlomiej (2580) [E00]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (1.3), 13.04.2017

Thursday 13 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup begins today

The Premier Section of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup begins today. The pairings for the first round can be found at the tournament website, with the field reaching a somewhat fitting 64 players. As there is no acceleration in the pairings, there is a bit of a gap between the top half and bottom half, although there are still some interesting pairings. Normally first round upsets occur in the middle boards, so I would keep an eye on boards 10 to 15 if you do turn up to watch.
The first round begins at 1pm at University House, ANU, with live coverage on Like last year there will be a slight delay on the broadcast, although it may not matter if you are watching from home. The evening round begins at 7pm, while the other 3 events (Major, Minor and Under 1200) all start on Friday.
I will be busy being an arbiter at the event, and I can never tell if that gives more more chances to blog, or less. I will try and keep the running coverage going, but it does depend on the workload of looking after 275 players.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

So after the fireworks of the previous FIDE Presidential Board meeting, the latest news to come out of Athens is somewhat underwhelming. Apparently the previous resignation of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as FIDE Presdient was all a misunderstanding, and he is now staying on until the next election in 2018. The powers that he had handed over to FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos to allow FIDE to dodge US sanctions remain handed over to the FIDE Deputy President, so nothing has changed there either. In fact, to quote John Cleese, 'blessed is just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo, as far as I can tell'.
For all the name calling, lawyers at 10 paces, and 'he said, she said', FIDE is still in the situation is was 2 weeks ago, with a President who has no power, an executive who does as they please, a lot of people with their eye on the next election. I guess the PB got another trip to Athens out of it, but unless the real goal was to increase the number of hits on the FIDE website, the whole exercise served no purpose.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

I might not have been the best person to ask

I was asked to do a radio interview today on why there are so few female players in the Worlds top 100. Fortunately I was assisted by a couple of Australia's top female players. You can hear the interview here

Sunday 9 April 2017


Sometimes it takes me a little while to catch up with my TV viewing. So I missed this Saturday Night Live chess skit. Taking on the well know trope of "chess as a metaphor for ..." it obviously takes a slightly different direction. If you've ever watched "Fresh" or "The Wire" you should appreciate the joke.
The link to the skit is here (It currently works, but no guarantees in the future sadly).

How many moves ahead?

One common question that chess players get is "How many moves can you see ahead?" I have listed some answers previously, but I do like the more outrageous claims (eg 20 moves), but only if they are delivered with a wink.
Of course some long combinations start as more of a hunch, before crystallising into a concrete line. It helps if a player has two results up there sleeve, with an escape pod if anything goes dramatically wrong.
Wesley So played a brilliancy in yesterdays round of the US Championship, against Jeffrey Xiong. While So's position looked slightly better, it didn't really kick off until the knight sac on f2. Even then it wasn't clear what the end point was, although So had plenty of threats. At first it seemed that the mating attack was the major goal, but it turned out that the c pawn was the real danger, and after c3, Xiong had no real defence. An impressive game by So, even more so if he was able to calculate the final position 10 moves out.

Xiong,Jeffery (2674) - So,Wesley (2822) [E06]
ch-USA 2017 Saint Louis USA (9.1), 07.04.2017

Thursday 6 April 2017

Pro Chess Hack

The 2017 Pro Chess League (organised by was by all measures a great success. Overcoming the issue of distance by holding the tournament online, the organisers fulfilled their goal of holding a world wide chess competition. The format, while a little unusual for OTB chess, was also suited to online chess, with 4 rounds of 15m+2s games per match. The final was won by the St Louis Bishop's beating the Norway Gnomes 9-7. Carlsen went 4-0 for the Gnomes, but it wasn't enough to topple the Bishop's, lead by Wesley So.
Flicking through the games from the event I came across the following hack. Possibly (or even probably) due to the fast time limit, both players took some risks in the opening, but it was Romain (playing Black), that made the final mistake (and probably a few before that as well). This allowed Bacrot to find a nice finish with Qxd7, which either mated or lead to massive material gain.

Bacrot,Etienne (2695) - Edouard,Romain (2626) [A40]
PRO League KO Stage 2017 INT (2), 08.03.2017

Tuesday 4 April 2017

April fooled!

Normally I keep my eyes open for clever April Fools Day jokes, but I was busy with the Dubbo Open this year, and so if any happened in my vicinity, I probably missed them. However I did catch up on a couple later in the day, as well as on the 2nd, although they were pretty tame and/or obvious.
Chessbase had a story about Malcolm Pein planning to take over FIDE, but even with a photo shopped picture, it was pretty obvious. But to give Chessbase their due, they did catch me out with another April Fools Day story, although I've only just realised it.
Last year they had a story about a young problemist having a problem published in the February 1968 edition of Chess Life. While I didn't see the chessbase article, I did see references to it elsewhere on the internet, and assumed it was true. The name of the problemist was Donald Trump, and the problem was a mate in 4. It was only when I decided to catch up with the reaction from this years 'fake news' that I discovered that I had fallen for last years 'fake news'. The article was cooked up by two Chessbase editors, and although they fessed up pretty quick, I wonder if this may end up being like the Pope JP II chess problem, with the fake story believed long after the real one is forgotten.

Monday 3 April 2017

Informed or spammed?

Spam emails. We get them because they work. There is always someone going to click a link, or buy a product, or take some other action that financially rewards the sender. Otherwise no one would send them.
This motivation keeps occurring to me every time I receive an email from the FIDE Office concerning the on going issues with the Presidency. There has been a steady outflow of emails trying to justify the actions taken by the executive, clearly intended to garner support from a chess community that has previously been bullied, bribed, coerced or simply ignored by FIDE and its office holders. It seems 'persuasion' is the latest flavour of the FIDE sandwich on offer, and so far it doesn't taste particularly nice.
From my personal position, while it would be an improvement if Kirsan was no longer FIDE President, it isn't much of an improvement if the people that fought tooth and nail to keep him in power (as recently as last year) only changed the figurehead. The incidents that occurred during the 2010 and 2014 FIDE Elections  would simply be repeated in 2018, just with a new name at the top of the ticket.
So for now I'm watching from the sidelines, feeling like I'm watching Carlton play Collingwood. I'm not interested in who wins, just who suffers a career ending injury.

Sunday 2 April 2017

2017 Dubbo Open - Day 2

The 2017 Dubbo Open ended in a tie between two first time winners, Leon Kempen (VIC) and Slavko Kojic (NSW). Kempen held a half point lead going into the final round, but could only draw with WFM Alana Chibnall. This allowed Kojic to catch up, after beating tournament surprise packer, Kerwin Ma. Chibnall's draw was enough to take a share of third place, alongside local players Don Keast and Treveor Bemrose, who drew their final round match up.
Despite his last round loss, Kerwin Ma was the winner of the Under 1300 section, while Daniel Stevenson and Saffron Archer picked up the Under 1600 prize.
Full tournament results can be found at If you click on the 'Games' link you can find a small selection of games from each round.

Saturday 1 April 2017

2017 Dubbo Open - Day 1

The 2017 Dubbo Open started with a solid field of 30 players, mixing participants from the local region and further afield. Top seed was Dragan Granjas from Bathurst, NSW, with local champion Don Keast 2nd seed, and fellow Dubbo player Trever Bemrose seeded third.
However at at the end of the first 3 rounds, none of these players have a share of the lead. Instead 4th seed WFM Alana Chibnall, is on 3/3, along with CM Leon Kempen from Victoria, and Slavko Kojic (NSW). Chibnall defeated top seed Granjas in the third round, in a game where a dispute over the recording of moves marred an otherwise tough battle. Kempen beat Keast with a nice attack while Kojic beat Rod McPhee.
There were more than a few upsets on the first day, with local junior Kerwin Ma finishing with 2.5/3. He beat two higher rated opponents in rounds one and two before drawing with Bemrose in round 3. Mary Wilkie also had  good result in beating Alexander Aich, her first ever win against Aich in this event.
After round 3 10 players took part in the Time Handicap Blitz, where higher players conceded time on the clock to their lower rated opponents. This did not make enough of a difference as top seed Alana Chibnall won the tournament for the third time in 4 years.
The final three rounds will take place tomorrow, with Kempen playing Kojic, and Chibnall playing Bemrose on the top 2 boards.