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 http://www.newzealandchesslive.co.nz/Live/tfd.htm

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 http://www.newzealandchesslive.co.nz/Vega2017/wwwAsianSeniors/

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]
Chess.com 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 http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-vikings-weekender/ and pay your entry at the venue.