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