Monday 31 December 2018

2018 Chessexpress Player of the Year

After skipping this award last year, I made sure to have a look at various performances of Australian players in 2018, so as not to forget two years in a row.
Once again a number of players had excellent performances. both locally and internationally, and it could have gone to any of them. But as in past years I also look at a unique or special achievement within the last 12 months to help me decide.
Based on this, the 2018 Chessexpress Player of the Year award goes to GM Justin Tan. Justin, who I think gets a little overlooked in Australia, earned his GM title not once, but twice! At first it was though his performance in the 4NCL was enough for his final norm, only to have it rejected on technical grounds. He then went and won the 2018 Paracin Open with 7.5/9, which did earn him his final norm. He also scored an undefeated 5.5/9 in the British Championship, and just today finished in third place at the Australian Open. 
So congratulations to GM Justin Tan for a successful 2018.

Sunday 30 December 2018

2019 Sydney International Open

I'm pleased to announce that the 2019 Macquarie University Chess Festival will be taking place from the 24th to the 28th of April 2019. The headline event for this tournament will be the resurrected Sydney International Open, which previously ran from 2007 to 2014.
The 2019 event has come about do the the generous sponsorship of the NSW Chess Association, and the Macquarie University Chess Club. The Chess Festival begins 2 days after the finish of the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup, and as such, there will be a number of overseas GMs and IMs playing in both events.
Alongside the Open will be the Peter Parr Memorial Challengers (for Under 2000 players). and a Junior Rapidplay on Saturday and Sunday morning (before the main rounds).
Details of the event can be found at At this stage there are some details still to be finalised, but for now, you can schedule your chess holidays for late April!

(* Disclaimer: I am part of the organising team for this event *)

Hastings 2018-19

Open swisses can be a little tricky for top seeds in the first round, doubly so if accelerated pairings are used. Hastings is one tournament that does use them, and as a result, the first round saw many dropped half points and points. One player who got caught out big time was GM Simon Williams, who went down quite quickly to his FM opponent. Another player who found the going tough was former Doeberl Cup winner GM Stefan Djuric, who was held to a draw by his 2100 rated opponent.
Hastings, which is one of my favourite events, has attracted a mixed field of European GM's and local English players. Interestingly, the usual large contingent of Indian players is missing this year, possibly lured away by competing events.
The first round of the event was yesterday and it runs until the 6th of January. The tournament website is and contains all the usual links to coverage and results.

WILLIAMS, Simon K (2472) - WILLOW, Jonah B (2218)
Hastings Masters 2018-19 (Horntye Sports Centre, Bohemia Road, TN34 1EX, Hastings), 28.12.2018

Thursday 27 December 2018

2019(?) Australian Open

The 2019 Australian Open has has begun in Ashwood, Melbourne, and has attracted a massive field of 300+ players. I'm pretty sure this is a record for this tournament, although the early 2000's the tournament was often run in a single section.
The Open field is 167 strong, with GM Anton Smirnov as the top seed, with GM's Justin Tan, Vasily Papin and Darryl Johansen as the other GM's in the field. There are 11 IM's and the top 9 seeds are rated above 2400.
The first round didn't see too many upsets on the top boards, with WGM Julia Ryjanova the highest seeded player held to a draw and  CM Tony Davis the only higher seeded player to lose.
One possible reason for the large numbers is the event has been compressed into 5 days. It runs until the 31st December 2018, which means that the 2019 title holder will be determined before the end of 2018 (hence the question mark in the heading). While the organisers can regard this as a successful outcome for the event (especially as no one else wished to host it), it does reduce the significance of the title somewhat.
The event homepage is at and you can follow various links to pairings and live (if intermittent) coverage.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

2018 World Rapid and Blitz

The 2018 World Rapid and Blitz is beginning tomorrow (Canberra Time). The event is being held in St Petersburg, with play from the 26th to the 30th. The first 3 days see the 15 round rapid being decided (5 rounds per day), with the blitz then running for 2 days. Magnus Carlsen is the top seed.
Play begins 3pm local time, which is 11pm Canberra time. The time limit for the rapid is 15m+10s, so I suspect each round will start on the hour, with the days play finishing around 4am.
The official website is and there will be links to live coverage of the games.

A gift for Christmas

While the following game was not played in Christmas Day, it was played at the Hastings Christmas Congress, and it involved White giving Black a very generous gift. Having built up a beautiful attack, Flohr threw away the full point with one move (24.Nd8 instead of 24.Nxg7), and then donated the other half point with 25.Rg4.

Flohr,Salo - Fine,Reuben [D61]
Christmas Congress 1935/36-16 Premier Hastings White Rock Pavilion (1), 27.12.1935

Monday 24 December 2018

Smirnov wins Australasian Masters

GM Anton Smirnov has won the 2018 Australasian Masters, with an impressive  score of 7.5/9. Australia's Number 1 player was undefeated, with 6 wins and 3 draws. In second place was IM Bobby Cheng, who scored 6.5/9, which was enough for his third and final GM norm. He was only beaten by Smirnov, winning 5 and drawing 3 of his remaining games. The other good performance in hits event was by FM Karl Zelesco, who finished on 4.5, which was enough for his third and final IM norm.
IM Ari Dale finished first in the IM event, also scoring an unbeaten 7.5/9. FM Brandon Clarke was the third player to earn a title norm, scoring 7/9 to pick up his second IM norm.
Three norms is quite an impressive strike rate for a single event, as is two Australian players earning titles on the same day. Cheng becomes the 10th Australian player to become a GM, while Zelesco continues the run of young Australian players earning the IM title.

Cheng,Bobby (2510) - Kvon,Andrey (2509) [E91]
2018 Australasian Masters GM Norm Tourna Melbourne (9.2), 23.12.2018

Sunday 23 December 2018

When namesakes clash

When I first started playing chess in the 1980's, I discovered I wasn't the only "Press". There was a Sydney player, Brian Press, and although I did not believe we were related, a few people asked me if we were. While I haven't seen too many other players with the same surname as mine (with the exception of my own son), I have kept an eye on this for other players.
For example, local Canberra organiser Andrew Greenwood was erroneously believed to be the son of former ACF Treasurer Norm Greenwood, while in recent years there has been two John Adams involved in chess administration. In Gibraltar a few years back I saw two players with the same surname (male and female), and was told by one of them that the other player was her ex-husband. As fate would have it, they were then paired against each other.
One of the stronger matches was Emmanuel and Edward Lasker. There was of course a familial connection (they were very distant cousins), but this did not detract from the interest when they played each other. Of course Emmanuel was the stronger of the two, as the following game shows.

Lasker,Edward - Lasker,Emanuel [D52]
New York International Masters-01 New York,NY (19), 13.04.1924

Thursday 20 December 2018

An Annotators Responsibilities

I'm back to typesetting some chess books over the summer, and it is interesting to see the different approaches to writing that some (historical) chess authors have. Certainly older books seemed to provide an opportunity for chess personalities to engage in personal feuds, but often the older the book, the more vitriolic the comments.
Without giving either the title of the book, or the identity of the author away, I was particularly amused by the following quote
"In some respects these players were well paired, not for equality of force, indeed, Mr. Williams being by far the stronger, but because each, in his degree, exhibits the same want of depth and inventive power in his combinations, and the same tiresome prolixity in manoeuvring his men. It need hardly be said that the games, from first to last, are remarkable only for their unvarying and unexampled dullness."

I wonder if a writer would be allowed to say such things today?

Mini Chess

If you find playing long games of chess a little taxing (or time consuming), you can always look at the various forms of 'mini chess' that have been developed. Possibly the most famous version is 'Los Alamos' chess, which is a 6x6 game, with bishops removed. It was invented as an early computer chess engine, with the reduced size making the program easier to write (no castling, double pawn move or en pas).
While there have been boards as small as 3x3, these either have trivial wins for one side, or lack sufficient 'depth'. It isn't until you get to 4x5 boards that it becomes a bit of challenge, although a skilled player should work out winning ideas pretty quickly. Once you get to 5x5 (or 5x6) all the pieces can be used. There is an argument that these sort of games should be used to start younger players off, as handling 16 pieces on an 8x8 board is a little daunting (something I tend to agree with for children under the age of 7).
6x6 games might be the right balance between normal chess and fun chess (especially if you are playing non-serious players). One idea is to either play without 1 type of piece (rooks, bishops or knights), while another interesting suggestion is to play with two bishops on one side, and two knights on the other!

Tuesday 18 December 2018

2018 Australasian Masters

The 2018 Australasian Masters is up an running in Melbourne Australia, with another batch of local players hoping to pick up IM/GM results. The GM event sees Andrey Kvon and Vasily Papin back up from the Australian Young Masters, where they have been joined by Australia's top player GM Anton Smirnov. Smirnov leads the event with three wins from his first three games, although has yet to play Kvon and Papin. Of the norm chasers, IM Bobby Cheng is well placed on 2.5/3, while veteran IM Stephen Solomon has started with 2 wins and a loss (to Smirnov).
In the IM event, New Zealand junior Alphaeus Ang leads with 3/3. Close behind is FM Brandon Clarke, who is hoping to pick up his second IM norm, after narrowly missing out in Adelaide.
Coverage of the event is a little hard to find, but a good starting point is The Pairing And Results links also has replayable games, but there seems to be no links to live games.

Ang,Alphaeus Wei Ern (2118) - Lee,Qing Aun (2297)
2018 Australasian Masters IM Norm Tourna Melbourne AUS (3), 17.12.2018

Summer holiday puzzles

With the end of the school/coaching year, here are a few puzzles to keep you thinking for the next few days at least.

  1. Place 8 queens on the board so that none attack any other queen (OK this is a well known puzzle)
  2. How many queens can you place on the board so that all squares are attacked? (Queens are allowed to attack each other in this case)
  3. Place a bishop on a1 and pawns on every black square. Can you move the bishop to h8, capturing a pawn on every move? (This is equivalent to a Bishops tour where every square of the bishops colour is visited while playing distinct moves. Visited squares can be crossed, but not stopped on)
  4. Is it possible the cover a 5x6 board with dominoes in such away there are no straight edges that extend across the board? What about a 6x6 board?
  5. Place pawns on e8, e7, e6 and e5. Is it possible to divide the board into equal continuous areas of 16 squares each, so that each area contains a single pawn?

(Some of these puzzles were courtesy of my fellow coaches IM Andrew Brown and I.M. Hosking, while others were sourced from "The Mathematics of Chessboard Problems")

Sunday 16 December 2018

Travel concessions for being a chessplayer

In an attempt to demonstrate that I collect far too much information, I discovered that in 1913, the Victorian State Railways offered a concession for chess players travelling to official events. The concession for interstate travel was a 33% discount on a single ticket, while for country events it was at the 'Holiday Excursion' rate.
The conditions for travel were a minimum of 6 players travelling together (but no more than 20). The travel had to be authorised/approved by the Secretary of the relevant association or club. And a minimum distance of 25 miles had to be travelled.
This of course did not apply exclusively to chess players, as golfers, footballers and even quoit throwers were on the eligibility list as well.
Now, if I could only convince Etihad to reintroduce such a scheme.

2018 ACT Rapidplay

The 2018 ACT Rapidplay Championships is being held on the 22nd December in City Walk, Canberra City. This is the traditional end of year event for ACT Chess, and normally attracts both a large, and strong field. The tournament is a 7 round swiss, with a time limit of G/15m.
Registrations open at 10:30am and play beings at 11am. It is run a single swiss event, and entry fee is $10 for adults, $5 for juniors. Sponsored by King O'Malley's, there is normally around $300 in prizes. Players of all ages are welcome, and apart from the place prizes, there will be category prizes on offer.

Thursday 13 December 2018

h6 is a blessing and a curse

The pawn on h6 (or h3) can be both a blessing and a curse. While it provides some breathing room for the castled king, and annoys adventurous bishops, in is often a target for sacrificial attacks. Many juniors (include myself when I was younger), hoped to line up the bishop and queen on the c1-h6 diagonal and blow open the kingside with Bxh6.
Older and more experienced players normally deal with such obvious threats, but sometimes the sacrifice is underestimated. Whether David Howell saw the threat and decided it didn't work, or simply thought Gawain Jones could not play it, is unknown to me, but the fact that it was played resulted in a very entertaining game. Objectively the sacrifice wasn't winning, but it gave Jones enough play that eventually Howell was unable to defend all the squares around the king, allowing Jones to win back the sacrificed piece. After that is was a matter of harassing the exposed king until a winning simplification could be played.

Jones,Gawain C B (2682) - Howell,David W L (2696) [C50]
ch-GBR KO 2018 London ENG (3.2), 12.12.2018

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Hack, Slash and Burn

While it seems that GM norms may be out of reach in the top event of the Australian Young Masters, there are still a few players with chances of picking up an IM norm. One player is Albert Winkelman, who is currently tied for first place in the IM tournament. He is currently undefeated with 3 wins and 4 draws, and needs 1.5/2 to score his first IM norm. His result is all the more remarkable as he is the tournaments bottom seed, but is performing at 300 points above his rating.
The following win (over Fedja Zulfic) demonstrates the form he is in. After Fedja seemed to unnecessarily drop the pawn on e3 his position rapidly went south. After Winkelman the exchange sacrifice on e2, the White king had very few safe squares. A couple of nice knight moves was then all that was needed to finish the game.

Zulfic,Fedja (2204) - Winkelman,Albert (2075) [A00]
2018 Lidums Australian Young Masters IM Adelaide, South Australia (5.3), 11.12.2018

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Phil Viner 1927 - 2018

News has just come through that Phil Viner has passed away at the age of 91. One of the veterans of the Australian chess scene, he represented Australia at 2 Olympiads (1964 and 1968) with a score of 9.5 from 18 games. He had a long and distinguished chess career, being a regular competitor in Australian Championships, NSW Championships and events like the Doeberl Cup (which he won in 1977).
He was born in 1927, and was the son of William Samuel Viner, who was Australian Champion in 1906 (until 1922) and again in 1924. His father passed away when he was quite young, but inherited both his fathers aptitude for chess, as well as his library of books and newspaper cuttings. He began to play seriously soon after World War 2, mixing over the board chess with correspondence chess. He became a CC IM in 1984, and won the NSW Championship in 1972 and 1978.
Away from the board he also served as President of the Australian Chess Federation (where I first met him), as well as being the chess columnist for The Australian for 30 years. Later in life he took to Seniors Chess with a passion, winning the Australian title a number of times and representing Oceania at the World Seniors Championship.
Always a gentleman, he will be missed.

Viner,Phillip - Averbakh,Yuri L [E70]
AUS-ch Adelaide (12), 19.10.1960

Monday 10 December 2018

2018 London Chess Classic

The 2018 London Chess Classic is about to begin, with the traditional Pro-Biz Cup. This is an 'alternate move' competition, with teams of 2 players taking it turns to move the pieces.The teams consist of one GM and one amateur, although a few of the amateurs look quite strong. GM's taking part include Fabiano Caruana, Lev Aronian and Gary Kasparov.
Tomorrow the final of the Grand Chess Tour starts, although there is a different format this year. It is a four player knockout (Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave), and combines classical chess with rapidplay.
Alongside all this are traditional events like the FIDE Open and British knockout. All the details can be found at along with games and links to live coverage.

Sunday 9 December 2018

2018 Australian Young Masters

Let it not be said that there is no longer the opportunity for Australian players to earn title norms at home. In the last few years a number of events have expanded to become strong enough for players to earn IM or GM norms. One such event is the Young Masters tournament, held in Adelaide each year, usually in December.
Originally an event for Australian Junior players, the definition of 'young' has been stretched somewhat, and overseas players are also now welcome. This years GM event has 5 local players and 5 overseas visitors, headed by GM Frode Urkedal (Nor). However Urkedal found the first round of the tournament tough going, losing to FM Patrick Gong. Possibly he was affected by travel, as he had a crushing attack by move 26, but missed 27.Rxh5! and soon lost control of the position. The other visitors fared better, with GM Vasilly Papin beating IM Junta Ikeda, and IM Kanan Izzat beating Kris Chan.
The event runs until next next Friday, and you can follow the tournament at There is also live coverage of the top section at (albeit on a half hour delay)

Urkedal,Frode (2539) - Gong,Patrick (2328)
2018 Lidums Australian Young Masters GM Adelaide, South Australia (1.1), 08.12.2018

Friday 7 December 2018

Alpha Zero returns

Alpha Zero, the self learning program that is able to master a number of rule based games, has popped up again. After a year working on improvements Alpha Zero has once again crushed its closest competitors in the world of Computer Chess/Go/Shogi.
Up against it's favourite whipping boy, AZ won a 1000(!) game match 155 to 6 (with 839 draws). Unlike the previous match both programs had longer time controls (3 hours plus a 15 second increment per move). AZ also played matches with a time handicap, and it was only when Stockfish had a huge time advantage did the results become less one sided.
There are a number of places to read about the latest results, but it is probably best to start at the source.  A number of games from the match have also been released, including this nice effort.

AlphaZero - Stockfish 8
Computer Match London, UK (255), 18.01.2018

Thursday 6 December 2018

It's starting not to feel like Christmas

I understand that Christmas isn't a huge deal everywhere on the planet, but I still feel surprised when big chess events begin, or run across December the 25th. Over the years I have seen events in the Middle East, Singapore and even Spain which ask players to give up Christmas Day to play chess.
Added to that list is the 2018 World Rapid and Blitz Championship in St Petersburg, Russia. The event has been moved from Saudi Arabia to Russia, due to the inability to guarantee visa's for all players (eg players from Israel). However the dates remain the same, meaning Christmas Day is the scheduled arrival day for players wishing to take part.
The actual games (Rapid first) start on the 26th, and run through to the 30th of December. While the event isn't quite as open as it looks (you need to be rated above 2500 to enter), there is an exception for national champions, regardless of rating. However winter in Russia may not be that appealing, especially for us in the southern hemisphere, although it might be slightly more bearable than the December heat in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Transfer Time

The annual ACT Junior Chess League Transfer tournament is on this Sunday, 8th December. It will be held at Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent Campbell (next to the War Memorial) with registration from 12:30 pm. The event begins at 1pm with an entry fee of $30 per team (which includes a free pizza lunch). Even if you don't have a partner, you can just enter on the day and a partner will be found for you.
This event is the traditional end of year tournament for the ACT Junior Chess League and all juniors are invited. Even if you are not a junior, you are most welcome to take part, as 'transfer' does not recognise age or ability!

A really long term queen sacrifice

While building up my collection of queen sacrifices (for coaching purposes), I came across this monster of a game. Nick de Firmian gives up his queen on move 13 before eventually winning on move 110. To be fair, he did get three pieces in return for it, but to play almost 100 moves while making sure you don't fall for a queen fork does take some doing.
I'm not sure what Jon Speelman (as black) thought of it all, but hopefully I will remember to ask him next time I see him.

De Firmian,Nick E (2395) - Speelman,Jonathan S (2410) [B57]
WchT U26 fin-A Mexico City (6), 19.08.1977

Sunday 2 December 2018

World Championship post-mortem

I have been asked by a few people about my thoughts on the Carlsen - Caruana World Championship Match. I'm probably not alone in thinking that there was excitement at the start, some boredom in the middle, before a very tense finish. Despite the concerns of the match diminishing the 'brand' by featuring twelve drawn games, having it decided in the tie-breaks seemed to raise the interest in the match, at least in the general media.
I certainly saw plenty of coverage of the result in places where chess doesn't usually feature. Most of the cable news stations (and sports stations) had the result featured in their regular updates, and the coverage was similar to how other sporting events were covered. 
So despite my concerns part way through the match I think it has proved to be an overall benefit to chess, though having said that, it is still worth looking at finding improvements to the format.

Friday 30 November 2018

Save the date(s)

To borrow from a trick that FIDE are currently using, it might be worth keeping your calendar clear from the 24th to the 28th of April 2019, especially if you live in Sydney. This is the week following the O2C Doeberl Cup, meaning you may be able to double your international chess fun!.
More details to follow in a week (hopefully!)

Thursday 29 November 2018

Carlsen Retains Title After Tie-Breaks

After 12 drawn games in the 2018 World Championship Match, Magnus Carlsen has retained his title in a very one sided tie-breaker. He needed only 3 games of rapid chess (25m+10s) to defeat Fabiano Caruana, winning all 3 games in a fairly dominant performance.
Game 1 of the tie-break match probably set the scene, with Caruana being punished for having a truly horrible pawn structure. While this does not seem to be such an issue at longer time controls, Carlsen was able to target multiple weaknesses before reaching a winning rook and pawn ending. After that Caruana was always playing catch up, and Carlsen was able to take advantage of Caruana's attempts to unbalance the position.
While Carlsen was clearly the better player at the faster time controls, I do feel that Caruana deserved a better finish to the match. He match Carlsen for preparation during the main match, and showed that he was not intimidated by Carlsen's reputation as a 'grinder'. By the end of the match Carlsen was certainly aware of this as well, which possibly explains why Carlsen offered an early draw in game 12 of the main match.
Having gone through experience of playing such a high level match, I would not be surprised if Caruana is the challenger for the next World Championship Match, and if he is I suspect the odds of a change of Champion will be much shorter.

Carlsen,Magnus (2835) - Caruana,Fabiano (2832) [A22]
WCh Rapid TB 2018 London ENG (1), 28.11.2018

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Best of Three Sets

With the 2018 World Championship seeing 12 drawn games in a row, there has been talk of how to possibly provide more excitement in such matches. In the cases where both players are almost equally matched, finding a way to provide a level of decisiveness is difficult.
Borrowing heavily from discussions I have seen on the English Chess Forum (involving IA Alex Holowczak and others), I wonder if the following format could work

The match is divided into 3 sets of 4 games. The first player to reach 2.5 points wins the set (as in Tennis). In the case of a 2-2 tie, then a tie-breaker of 6 blitz games are held (G/5m) with the first to 3.5 wining the set. In the case of a 3-3 tie in the tie-break, then an 'Armageddon' game is held to decide the set. The first player to win 2 sets wins the title. Colours alternate for each game of the set (including Armageddon if necessary). They swap for the first game of the next set. The defending Champion has choice of White or Black for the first game of the first set.

I'm not saying that this format is perfect, but in terms of marketing and tension, it may be a slight improvement over the current system, as there will be a leader and chaser earlier in the event.

5am update

The final game of the 2018 World Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana has ended in a draw, so the title will now be decided by tie-breaks.
The game itself looked quite interesting out of the opening, although the players did repeat the position early on. However the position remained closed, and despite action on opposite sides of the board, a draw was agreed on move 31.

Monday 26 November 2018

Not a massive payday

I spent yesterday increasing the size of my chess library by about 100 books, after a pleasant drive to Penrith and back. One of the books I brought back was the tournament book of the 1924 New York Tournament, which was won by Lasker ahead of Capablanca. It was the strongest event of that year, and is rightly considered one of the 'Classic' tournaments of chess history.
The book itself was written by Alekhine and Helms and typically of books from that time contained a lot of details concerning the tournament organisation. For instance the overall budget was around $13,000 while first prize was $1500.
While this may have been quite a substantial prize for the 1920's, it turns out it wasn't as large as I figured, although this depends on how you measure it. Based on the inflation rate for the US, first prize would be around $22,000 which while nice, is probably on the low side for a tournament of this calibre. However, in 1924, $4000 would probably buy you a modest house in the average US city, while in 2018, the median house price in the us is closer to $200,000. So in these terms first prize would buy you 37.5% of a house, which is $75000 in today's terms.
Two other points from this event were (a) they collected around $3500 in ticket sales from spectators (close to $30,000 in today's money) and (b) Capablanca lost his first tournament game in 8 years, to Richard Reti.

Reti,Richard - Capablanca,Jose Raul [A15]
New York International Masters-01 New York,NY (5), 22.03.1924

Saturday 24 November 2018

2018 World Seniors

It seems to be the season for World Championhsip's, with the Women's World Championship just finishing, the Carlsen v Caruana Match almost down to tie-breaks, and the World Seniors taking place in Bled.
The popularity of Seniors chess continues to grow, with over 300 players taking part across the 4 events (Open and Women's 50+, Open and Women's 65+). Australia and New Zealand have both sent a number of players to the tournaments, with 6 from NZ and 4 from Australia. The best performing player from this group so far (in terms of points) is CM Hilton Bennett who is on 3.5/6.
Current standings for each event can be found, starting from here This takes you to the 50+ Open event, so just click on the links for the other tournaments.

Thursday 22 November 2018

2018 World Championship - rising tension

While the 2018 World Championship Match has seen 9 drawn games in a row, I get the sense that the tension is starting to build for both players. Games 8 and 9 have both seen slightly more adventurous openings, and both games also saw missed chances for both the challenger and champion.
Game 8 saw Carlsen try and rush the kingside with a pawn push, but this gave Caruana chance for a decisive invasion with his queen (24.Qh5!). However he chose the timid 24.h3 and Carlsen was able to quickly steer the game into safer waters. Game 9 saw Carlsen gain a slight advantage in the middle games, but this time an overly aggressive pawn push enabled Caruana to exchange into a drawn position. A clearly frustrated Carlsen then probably played more moves than he needed to, before another draw was agreed.
With 3 games to play, Caruana's chances of taking the title have somewhat improved. He has the white pieces in 2 of the final 3 games, and a 6-6 result gives him a moral victory over the pre-match favourite. While Carlsen is considered superior at faster time limits, Caruana has shown that he has handled the pressure of matchplay at least as well as Carlsen, and this may the deciding factor.

Caruana,Fabiano (2832) - Carlsen,Magnus (2835) [B33]
WCh 2018 London ENG (8), 19.11.2018

Not just chess

One of the arguments against chess being a proper sport is the 'beer test'. Basically, any activity that can be carried out successfully while holding a beer is not a proper sport. So it gladdened my heart (and tickled my funny bone), to see a story about a Curling team being disqualified for being too drunk to play.
Of course chess has had a number of 'playing while drunk' incidents, and as Curling is sometimes described as 'Chess on Ice', there seems to be a weird kind of synthesis here. But where this story seems to have it over chess is the ranking of the players. At least some of them have serious international recognition in the curling community, and now it seems, in the drinking community! 

Tuesday 20 November 2018

The back handed 'Thank You'

I was recently reading a discussion concerning the "annoying habits" of junior players. As with such discussions there were a number of entries (with examples for tournament play), although the "they keep beating me" response would be as equally valid as any other.
But the one that always jumps out at me is the "back handed Thank You". This almost exclusively occurs in junior v junior games, and happens after one player captures the other players piece. As the Bishop sweeps across the board to remove the Queen, thanks is given as a somewhat derisive 'Thank You'. Of course the thanks offered isn't genuine, but is a way of pointing out the opponents mistake.
Often I also see the 'I meant that' follow up. Of course there is no way that a player meant to to lose the queen for nothing, but in what passes for 3rd grade banter, this seems to be the best come back available.

Sunday 18 November 2018

2018 Vikings Weekender - GM Smirnov wins

GM Anton Smirnov has won the 2018 Vikings Weekender, with an impressive 6.5/7. Holding a full point lead entering the final round, he resisted the temptation of a quick draw, instead playing 88 moves to score the win. He finished a point ahead of IM Junta Ikeda, and FM Brandon Clarke.
Ikeda, who had started the second day equal with Smirnov, lost to Clarke in round 6 to end his hopes of a share of first place. The win for Clarke was very impressive, as the round before he played a 100+ mover against Largo Bengt, which eventually finished in a drawn R+N v R ending.
Apart from Ikeda, Canberra players who picked up prizes included Tim Pearce and Matt Radisich (Under 2000), and Albert Winkelman (Best Junior).
The Minor (Under 1600) saw a run away victory for top seed Bazli Karattiyattil. He collected another 3 wins on the second day to finish on 7/7. 2 points back in second place were Yifu Wu and Aaron Nguyen. Paul Dunn and Clyde Robins shared the Under 1150 prize, with Athena Hathiramani wining the Best Female prize.
The new venue (Vikings Club Lanyon) proved very popular with the players, providing more space and light than previous years. While the total number of players (50) was around the same as previous years, the strength of the Open was significantly stronger, with half the field rated above 2000.
Full results plus replayable games from the top boards od the open can be found at (NB Not all games were recorded correctly due to technical issues)

Yin,Wenlin - Smirnov,Anton
2018 Vikings Weekend Open and Minor Tuggeranong, Australia (6.1), 18.11.2018

Saturday 17 November 2018

2018 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

At the end of the first day of the 2018 Vikings Weekender, GM Anton Smirnov and IM Junta Ikeda share the lead with 3.5/4. They met in the 4th round, with the game finishing in a quick draw by repetition. On 3 points are FM Brandon Clarke, and Bahman Kargosha. Clarke lost his round 3 game against Smirnov (see below), while Kargosha has had 2 wins and 2 draws.
The 26 players Open event has probably the strongest field in the tournaments history, with the top half of the field rated above 2000. A combination of strong visiting players, and young local talent has created an event where every round is challenging for those taking part.
In the 24 player Minor (Under 1600), Bazli Karattiyatil leads with 4/4. He looked to be in a little trouble in his round 4 game against Yifu Wu, but a clever in between move was enough to halt Wu's attack and leave Karattiyatil with a winning position.
Full results and a link to the live coverage can be found at The fifth round for both tournaments starts at 10:30am tomorrow (Canberra time).

One of the more interesting games from the tournament was the round 3 clash between Smirnov and Clarke. Clarke found an interesting (and correct) piece sacrifice, even allowing Smirnov to promote his e pawn. But just at the crucial moment, Clarke got carried away by visions of checkmate, and played into a losing line. If he had simply captured the new queen (21. ... Rxc8) then Smirnov had nothing better than 22.Bd2 Rb1+! 23.Kxb1 Rb8+ 24.Kc1 Bb2+ with a perpetual.

Smirnov,Anton - Clarke,Brandon [B90]
Vikings Weekender, 17.11.2018

2018 World Championship - Another (interesting) draw

The 5th game of the 2018 World Championship once again ended in a draw, but at least this one looked interesting. Caruana played an early pawn sacrifice in the Sicilian, but Carlsen found the right replies (NB The theory up to move 11 dates back to the early 1980's). By move 16 White had a pawn on c7, but this was easily covered by Carlsen's King, which he decided to stroll around the board over the next 17 moves, before it ended up on f5 (having journeyed as far as c3 by move 26).
Tonight is the last game before the colours 'switch', with Carlsen being white and then white again in round 7 (to avoid the same player always being White after a rest day). Hopefully he will decide this is the best opportunity to grab the lead in the match, and as a result we see a more unbalanced position out of the opening.

Caruana,F (2832) - Carlsen,M (2835) [B31]
WCh 2018 London ENG (5), 15.11.2018

Thursday 15 November 2018

2018 World Championship - some alternative coverage

While serious chessplayers are going to look at chess24 or for the World Championship coverage, there are a couple of other sites that offer a slightly different perspective. covers sports in a slightly humorous way, and they are bringing this approach to their chess coverage.  "Woody Harrelson attends World Chess Championship Ceremony, Screws everything up" was one of their early headlines, but overall they are covering in the same way they cover other sports. They even did a preview of the match, revealing some of the  twitter fights that happen at the highest levels of chess.
For slightly more analytical coverage, then is the place to visit. While fivethirtyeight is well known as a politics/statistics site, it does cover lots of other areas, including sports. The World Chess Championship has been heavily featured over the last few days, with today's story about the 'leak' of Caruana's preparation via youtube being one example.
While the broader coverage of the World Championship is a good thing for chess, the fact that the match has started with 4 draws hasn't been missed, either by the article authors, or by those commentating at home.

2018 Vikings Weekender - Strong field getting ready

The 2018 Vikings Weekender looks like it will be one of the strongest events in recent years, with almost half the field rated above 2000. GM Anton Smirnov is the top seed, with IM Junta Ikeda carrying the flag for the home town. So far 21 players have entered, although registrations are open up until the day of the event.
The Under 1600 is also looking good, although players for this event have been a little slower in registering. The tournament begins at 10:30am on Saturday 17th at the Lanyon Club in Canberra. You can register at the top link, or enter at the venue from 10am on Saturday.
I will be the tournament arbiter, as well as handling online coverage etc. The top 4 boards of the Open will be broadcast, over at

Tuesday 13 November 2018

2018 World Championship - A semi rest day

The third game of the 2018 World Championship did not rise to any great heights. Again it was a Sicilian Rossolimo, with Carlsen the first to vary from Game 1 (6. ... Qc7). However neither player pushed terribly hard, and while there were opportunities for both players to play more challenging moves, the game didn't really veer to far from equality.
The main point of interest for me was in fact how the game ended. Caruana sacrificed his knight for a pawn, and then a move later the draw was agreed. To the serious chess player this is an obvious draw (An eventual bishop and wrong rook pawn ending would have been reached). But for the more casual player this might have seen strange (Black is a piece up!). Stewart Reuben one said to me "A player should only resign when it is clear to all the spectators why he has done so". This could apply to agreeing draws in some situations as well.

Caruana,Fabiano (2832) - Carlsen,Magnus (2835) [B31]
WCh 2018 London ENG (3), 12.11.2018

Monday 12 November 2018

2018 World Championship - Game 2

The second game of the 2018 World Championship was another interesting draw, but in around half the time of the first game. This time it was Caruana with the opening surprise, choosing a new move in the Queens Gambit Decline. Carlsen took his time in navigating the early middlegame (passing up the opportunity to try and win, or try and sacrifice material), before a rook and pawn ending was reached. Caruana was even a pawn up but to no avail, as the position was drawn for quite a while.
Tomorrow is a rest day, but I assume both players will be spending the day hard at work.
In related news it seems the organisers have underestimated the popularity of the match, with the regular tickets (70 quid each!) only allowing half an hour viewing during the first 3 hours of the match. Not a good look for the organisers (Agon) and something that I am sure will count against them when their contract comes up for review.

Sunday 11 November 2018

2018 World Championship - A tough draw

The 2018 World Championship began with a marathon 115 move draw. After 1.e4 (and not 1.d4 as played by Woody Harrelson), Carlsen chose to play a Sicilian Defence, which was a little surprising. He managed to get an advantage in the middlegame, but in time trouble missed a couple of stronger ideas. He did realise this by trying one of them just after the first time control, but by this stage it was too late. Nonetheless, it seems part of the match strategy is to wear Caruana down, and so a drawn out rook and pawn ending was played, before the players split the point.
Despite the result, Carlsen should be happy with the first game. He took the initiative with Black (both in his opening choice, and play), and showed he was prepared to grind in an equal position. The positive for Caruana is that he managed to hold on, and was able to match Carlsen in the latter stages of the game.
The next game is in a few hours (it is 2 games, then a rest day schedule), so it will be interesting to see whether Carlsen chooses something mainline, or goes for an opening that creates an early middlegame.

Friday 9 November 2018

2018 World Championship tips

With the 2018 World Championship starting in a few hours, it is time to put my reputation as a tipster on the line. Having looked at both players records, recent form, likely opening strategies, quality of the support team, etc etc, I realise that I'm still going to go with my gut on this one. And my gut thinks that Carlsen will win. While I think it might be a close match, I'm going to predict a 6.5-4.5 final score, with a win for Carlsen in match 11 to wrap it up.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

It started with this

There has been a lot of talk about Ding Liren's undefeated streak (96 games and counting), although it has been pointed out that Sergei Tiviakov had a 110 game streak in 2004-05. And while this is indeed impressive, I still think the Bobby Fischer 20 wins in a row is still the gold standard for elite chess players.
It began at the Palma de Mallorca Zonal in 1970 and only came to an end with a loss to Petrosian in the Candidates Final match. The run of wins included two 6-0 match wins against Taimanov and Larsen during the Candidates series.
The game that started it all is quite an impressive one, with Fischer finding a nice (if thematic) piece sacrifice against Rubinetti. I don't know when it dawned on Rubinetti that he was losing, as he seemed to play like someone who didn't think the sacrifice was sound (trying to swap the bishop with 19. ... Nh5 being an example). What I am certain of however, is that Fischer knew he was winning well before Rubinetti decided to tip over his king.

Fischer,Robert James - Rubinetti,Jorge Alberto [B87]
Palma de Mallorca Interzonal Palma de Mallorca (17), 02.12.1970

Tuesday 6 November 2018

A real draw this time

A lot of recent games between myself and Milan Grcic have ended in quick draws. Usually Grcic isn't happy with his position, offers me a draw, and after some thought I accept. At least tonight's draw was a more full blooded affair, especially after I decided to go pawn grabbing. The pawn sacrifice on on move 8 is theory btw, and even 14.Qxa7 has been played a couple of times before. But after that it got a bit complicated, although I had seen a potential double bishop sacrifice for Black when calculating Qxa7. After the first bishop sac I thought he would take the quick draw, and at first I thought the second bishop sac was just for show. But 26. ... R3b5 gave me a bit of a shock, until I realised I could always surrender the queen for the second rook.
In the post mortem  we debated whose pawns would be faster in the 2R v Q position, but Stockfish thinks Black should simply keep checking and take the draw (so I assume White would win the race)

Press,Shaun - Grcic,Milan [B34]
Swiss Festive Fun, 06.11.2018

Monday 5 November 2018

World Championship begins Saturday

The 2018 World Championship Match begins this Saturday in London. Due to the 11 hour time difference with Australia, the viewing time of 2am (3pm London) is certainly not ideal. Otherwise a $US20  subscription for live coverage of the match might be money well spent.
The other thing you could spend your money on, is having a punt on the outcome. Current odds have Caruana paying around $3.25 (for a $1 bet), which is pretty generous odds for essentially a two person contest. It pays to shop around however, as at least one other site I've seen has Caruana shortening from $3.25 to $2.75, no doubt as other punters look to get on a good thing.
Of course I still think that Carlsen will win the match, but that shouldn't prevent you from looking for value in your betting.

Sunday 4 November 2018

Showing real class

This weekend saw the playoffs for the ACT Schools Championship to decide which teams will take part in the Australian Schools Teams Championship. The most closely contested event was the Primary Open section where 3 evenly match teams took part. With one match left to play (Radford v Garran), any of the three teams (Radford, Turner or Garran) could qualify, depending upon the result.
Garran needed an unlikely 4-0 win to finish in first place, while Radford only needed 2 points. Any other result would see Turner go through, as they had already played all their games. After the first 20 minutes, it began to look as though Garran was in with a chance, as they stood better on all boards. But a win for Radford on board 3 changed that equation, with only Turner or Radford now in the running. However Garran scored two wins and with a superior position in the remaining game, it looked as though Turner was off to Adelaide. Then in  a finish reminiscent of a more high profile junior event this week, dogged defence by the last Radford player paid off, as his opponent faltered, and he pulled off a miraculous win to see Radford qualify by the narrowest margin.
A tragic loss for Garran, a missed opportunity for Turner, and a fortunate outcome for Radford, but most importantly, the whole event was played in good spirits and with good sportsmanship. No complaints or appeals (which occurred in the World Youth), just sincere congratulations to the winning team.
In the other sections Canberra Grammar will be representing the ACT in the Open Secondary, while Turner won the Girls Primary playoff against Caroline Chisholm, earning the chance to defend the title they won last year.

Saturday 3 November 2018

2018 Women's World Championship

The first round the 2018 Women's World Championship is this evening, starting at 9pm Canberra time (3pm local time). This will be the last Championship run as a knockout, as the new FIDE management team have announced a new format for the next cycle.
The Oceania representative is Kathryn Hardegen, who is facing the top seed Ju Wenjun in the first round. Hardegen, who finished second in the 2017 Oceania Zonal, certainly has a big task ahead of her to advance to the second round, but stranger things have happened in a knockout.
The event website is and you can follow the lives games from here.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Chess Posters

While looking for something else (a 16th century document of the Rules of Chess) I came across a small collection of chess posters from the National Library of The Netherlands. You can see them at this link
Meanwhile my search for the oldest published set of rules for chess continues ...

Wednesday 31 October 2018

All hallows eve

As it is Halloween, here is a Halloween Gambit to celebrate. While played during a rapid event, both players were pretty decent, so it may teach you something.

Klepaczka,Tomasz (2240) - Bulski,Krzysztof (2549) [C47]
EU-ch rapid Warsaw (3), 15.12.2012

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Another classic worth knowing

You can learn a lot just by paying attention. Or in the world of chess, by studying the classics. This was made particularly clear to me at the club tonight, when I managed to win a nice game by borrowing a strategy off Capablanca. Having damaged my opponents kingside pawn structure (doubled f pawns after BxN on f3), I locked his dark square bishop out of the game. Then with the 'extra' piece I shifted over to the queenside to reach a winning ending.
Kind of like this game ...

Winter,William - Capablanca,Jose Raul [C49]
Victory Congress 1Chief Tournament Hastings (5), 15.08.1918

Sunday 28 October 2018

Accelerated Steinitz Gambit

The Steinitz Gambit usually occurs in the Vienna Opening, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4!? Qh4+ 5.Ke2 It is correctly named, as Steinitz played this line on plenty of occasions, although not always with plenty of success.
There is a line of the King's Gambit, also named the Steinitz Gambit, which is the same line as above, but with the knight moves removed (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.d4?! Qh4+). This was the line I witnessed at a junior event today, although White went wrong with 4.g3?  Black missed the obvious win of a piece after 4 ... fxg3 5.Bg2 gxh2+ 6.Kf1 Qf6? and White eventually won after finding a nice forced mate which involved a queen sacrifice. But as the game was too 'up and down' to show the full power of the opening, I've chosen a different game instead.

Jacobs,Byron A (2245) - Gelfer,Israel (2355) [C33]
London Lewisham op 1st London, 1981

Build your own clock

If you aren't satisfied with the current crop of chess clocks, you can always build your own. Using some inexpensive electronics, plus a set of instructions found here, you can make your own. They even supply pre-built clocks, which still gives you the ability to write your own control code.
While electronic clocks are now quite common place, the one piece of code I would be interested in adding/testing, is the ability to set a time via a wifi/bluetooth interface, cutting down on the time required to reset clocks at the start of each round!

Saturday 27 October 2018

Celtic Tigers

As Australia lacks a proper national team competition, it looks as though the 4NCL (UK) is the next best thing. I have a connection with the White Rose team (as a sponsor, and very bad player), while the manager is Rupert Jones (who carries an Australian passport).
Another team with a strong Australian connection is the Celtic Tigers. They are managed by Chris Skulte, who was an active player on the Australian scene, before work carried him off to Europe. Their top team played in 4NCL division 2 last season, but a second place finish sees them promoted to Division 1 for the new season. Building on this success, they are now adding a second team in Division 4, to provide more opportunities for new players (including David Webster, another wandering Sydneysider).
They have an excellent website, providing coverage of all their adventures (both on and off the board). There is also a newsletter produced every couple of months, which can be downloaded from the site.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Doing without h3

One of the sins we commit as chess players is taking advice as 'read'. For as long as I can remember 9.d4 is the main line of the Ruy Lopez was not recommended, 'because Black plays 9 ... Bg4'. Instead 9.h3 followed by 10.d4 is considered best.
However, handled the correct way, playing d4 before h3 is probably as good as the main line. I tried it in my final round game of the Olympiad, and had quite a good position, until I fell apart after move 30. And going back 100 years, Capablanca showed and instructive way of handling the position, albeit in a slightly different line.
Allowing the bishop to go to g4, before hitting it with h3, gives Black the choice of returning along the diagonal, or moving back to h4. This was the choice of Capablanca's opponent, whereupon Capa played g4 (not worrying about king safety) and shifted play to the queenside, with Black effectively a piece down.

Capablanca,Jose Raul - Black,Roy Turnbull [C87]
New York Rice prel New York,NY (1), 1916

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Oceania Rivalry

At the chess Olympiads I have been involved with, there has always been a little bit of rivalry between the 'small' Oceania federations. Initially this was mainly a Fiji v PNG contest, but with the addition of newer federations, this now includes Guam, Palau, Nauru and the Solomon Islands. (NB 'Small' refers to the chess playing population, as PNG has more people than NZ)
This year the team that did best out of this set of countries was Guam, who scored 8 match points (Fiji and Solomon Islands did not send a team). This was extra impressive as they were seeded 181st, with just one FIDE rated player on the team. Apart from a 4-0 loss to Iraq in the first round, they scored something in each of their matches, and they defeated Central African Republic and Mauritius along the way. Four other drawn matches moved them ahead of their Pacific rivals, with a last round 2-2 against Ghana being the most important.
They scored 18.5 game points, with Elmer Prudente on Board 1 finishing with an impressive 6/11. He was ably supported by Roger Orio on board 3, with 5/10. 

As a follow up to their good performance in Batumi, the federation is hosting the 2019 Oceania Zonal. This will take place between 18th and 24th February 2019 and is open to all players registered with Oceania federations.
Orio,Rogelio L (1793) - Capella,Rurik (1979) [A45]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (5.3), 28.09.2018

Monday 22 October 2018

Isle of Man 2018

Billing itself as the strongest Open tournament ever, the 2018 Isle of Man tournament has begun overnight. The top half starts at around 2450, and board 37 saw an all GM pairing, so maybe the claim is true.
What is clear is that the top 20 players had to work to collect their points, and half points. Nine of the top twenty pairings were drawn, which is remarkable given the 20th seed is Boris Gelfand (2701). While there were no upset wins for lower rated players in this group, Viswanathan Anand looked to be quite a bit of trouble against young FM Raunak Sadhwani before turning the tables to grab a full point.
The start times are a little inconvenient for live viewing from Australia (east coast at least), but if you wish to stay up past 12:30 am you can see all the action via the tournament website.

Xiong,Jeffery (2656) - Karavade,Eesha (2374) Isle of Man Intermational Ches Douglas (Isle of Man) (1.29), 20.10.2018

Sunday 21 October 2018

Chess Training

Congratulations to IM Guy West for his win in the 2018 Chess Train tournament. This was an 11 round rapid event played over 5 days in a few countries in Europe. The players played 2 rapid games a day, while travelling on a train from Prague to Warsaw and back. The trip looked very popular, with over 100 players taking part. Apart from West, Australia saw FM Tim Reilly, Sean Watharow and Jean Watson forming the victorious Aussie Wood Ducks team. Full results are here.

Friday 19 October 2018

Dress code / Uniform

Not FM Rupert Jones
For a quite long time FIDE were very keen to have teams (and players) adhere to a dress code in important events (eg Olympiad, World Cup etc). At first it looked as though they were going to be quite heavy handed on the matter, but of late, it seems that they were happy to let federations set their own standards.
In practice, most federations at the Olympiad supplied their teams with some sort of uniform, and the standard of dress was reasonably high. Australia was an exception to this (as in the uniform wasn't paid for by the ACF), while Rupert Jones (PNG) seemed more comfortable playing in t-shirts and stretch pants, rather than the PNGCF polo shirt work by the rest of the team.
The recently completed European Club Championship had a similar dress code, although Magnus Carlsen was a notable refusenik (at least for a few rounds). Early on he, and a few other GM's, played in shorts, despite this not being allowed. Eventually the word was given that the dress code was being enforced, and long pants became the fashion.
Personally I prefer to see dress code 'guidelines' rather than 'regulations', leaving it up to the players to decide what is appropriate. Not every team at the Olympiad had a uniform, but those that did not still managed to play in what I thought was perfectly acceptable outfits. Certainly there did not seem to be any issues at the tournament, and for me, this is probably the best way to go.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Caruana is in form

During the 2018 Olympiad I was only able to catch small glimpses of the action in the main hall, and so I missed one quite significant result. Fabiano Caruana scored an impressive 7/10 on Board 1 for the USA, with a TPR of 2859.
He played a number of the worlds leading GM's along the way, with wins over Anand and Mamedyarov being the standouts. This result is even more impressive, as it is quite possible that he 'held back' on some of his openings, keeping them up his sleeve for his match against Carlsen.
Looking at these results and games, I think the upcoming World Championship match is going to be a lot closer than I originally thought. Caruana has a real chance of taking the title now, and Carlsen may even be a slight underdog.
Carlsen is playing in the European Club Championship, and had a lucky escape in round 6 against Liren Ding. He missed a tactic against Ding, and only some resourceful defensive moves saved half a point. If he makes a similar mistake against Caruana, then he may not be so lucky.

Caruana,Fabiano (2827) - Anand,Viswanathan (2771) [E03]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (4.1), 27.09.2018

Wednesday 17 October 2018

No more lonely knights

Apparently this is a real thing
As the above story states (slightly NSFW btw), it is a hookup app designed to bring chess players together (a kind of online Bermuda Party!). There appears to be some connection with the upcoming World Championship match, which makes the logo used for the match less of a surprise (according to Anish Giri)

Monday 15 October 2018

2018 Vikings Weekender 17th-18th November 2018

The 2018 Vikings Weekender is being held on the weekend of the 17th and 18th November 2018. This is one of the three big weekend events held in Canberra, and is being sponsored by the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club.
This year the tournament will be held at the Lanyon Club (Heidelberg St, Condor) located next to Lanyon Shopping Centre. It is a larger venue than last year, allowing more players and a more comfortable setting.
First prize is $1000 for the Open, with a $500 first prize in the Under 1600 section. There will be 7 rounds, with a time limit of G/60M+10s in both sections. Entry is $65 (GM's+IM's free), $45 for concessions and juniors.
Further details can be found at You can register your interest for the event at that page as well (NB Payment isn't required, but early entries do help the organisers). Registering with a FIDE ID is pretty straight forward, but if you don't have one, just enter non-zero values in the mandatory ID and rating fields (The page is picky about value checking for some reason!)

(NB I am the arbiter for this event and will be paid for my services)

Saturday 13 October 2018

Olympiad highlights - a visual journey

One of the many things done well at this years Chess Olympiad was the production of a number of good videos. Some were played at the closing ceremony, while others are available on the Olympiad Youtube Channel.
One highlight of the closing ceremony was the performance of 'Oh Capablanca' by Juga. You can watch her performance in the clip of the closing ceremony, or just listen to song directly.

2018 ACT Junior Championship

Congratulations to Joshua Lee for winning the 2018 ACT Junior Chess Championship. He scored an impressive 8/9 to win the FIDE rated tournament, a full point ahead of Lachlan Ho, Yizhen Diao and Ruofan Xu. He only looked in difficulty against Ho, and a quick last round draw against Dexuean Kong was enough to capture the title.
Athena Hathiramani was the best placed female player, in an event which had a female entry of a little over 25% Erin Milne tied with Hathiramani and won the Under 12 Girls trophy.
It was interesting to see the difference in results between players with a FIDE rating and those without. The FIDE rated players beat all their non rated opponents (with the exception of a single draw), even if they had worse positions during the game. Clearly the experience at playing at a higher level comes in handy in situations like this, as the 'saves' were often due to their opponents eventually losing concentration and blundering back.
There were 42 players in the tournament which was a healthy number for an event like this. The majority of players were aged under 12, so hopefully this group will provide the next generation of ACT champions.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Elshan Moradiabadi

The PNG performed quite well at this years Olympiad, and a significant amount of credit has to go to the team captain, GM Elshan Moradiabadi. We finished with 20.5 game points, which is the highest total we have ever achieved in an 11 round Olympiad. Apart from an opening 4-0 loss to Belgium, we scored something in every match, and had a few narrow 1.5-2.5 losses which could have gone the other way.
Elshan quickly realised we were all either rusty or inexperienced so was quick to tailor his coaching methods to suit this. His opening preparation was very thorough, and he was able to show us a number of surprise lines in well known openings. In almost all games we achieved playable positions going into the middlegame (which was what he was aiming for), although we (as a team) didn't always do such preparation justice (I threw away a number of good positions for example). He was always upbeat even we were sure we had crushed his will to live, and proved to be an inspiring captain and coach.
As a professional player, coach and author, he went straight from the Olympiad to take part in the St Louis Chess Club Fall Classic. With little rest, and running a bit of fever, he was still able to hold it together to score a very good round 1 win. Playing through the game I was struck at the winning approach he used in the game was very similar to what he was trying to teach us. He achieved a stable pawn structure, with extra space on the kingside. He then found the best squares for his pieces, before launching a winning kingside attack.

Moradiabadi,Elshan (2534) - Boros,Denes (2439) [D02]
St Louis Fall B 2018 Saint Louis USA (1.1), 10.10.2018

Wednesday 10 October 2018

The Election

tl;dr Dvorkovich ran a better campaign and had a better message than everyone else.

Long version

I found the 2018 FIDE Campaign quite interesting, although I was a little surprised at the outcome.
I was much more involved this time, as I was assisting Paul Spiller in his run for Oceania Zone President, and this turned into more general assistance to Nigel Short in his campaign for FIDE President. In the lead up to the Olympiad I was spending a lot of time ringing Oceania Federations (or at least trying to), and exchanging emails with the campaigns and federations.
From the outset PNG was not going to support the Makro ticket, as a consequence of what had happened regarding the PNG delegate in 2014. ("What do you think we were going to do?" was a comment I made to more than one person). Our position was therefore Short on the first ballot, and Dvorkovich on the second ballot if necessary. And initially I thought that Makro was going to win, based on the techniques used in 2014 (lock federations in early, bully/promise delegates with offers of positions, run the election in a way that favours the incumbent).
However once I arrived in Batumi things began to change. It became clear after the first few days that the Dvorkovich campaign was in this to win. The PNG delegation was invited to meet Dvorkovich after one of the rounds, and arriving at the suggested restaurant, noticed there were probably over 100 people of other federations in attendance.  Nonetheless he spent a good 45 minutes talking to us, taking note of out suggestions. At this point I realised that the election was going to a lot closer than the FIDE ticket had hoped.
In the expo area of the Olympiad both the Makro ticket and Dvorkovich ticket had stands. (There was no stand for the Short ticket as 'insurgents don't do stands!') While the Dvorkovich stand was putting out the positive message, the Makro campaign was running on the other tickets negatives (including producing some awful propaganda cartoons attacking the other candidates). The Makro campaign had also attempted to counter the well financed Dvorkovich ticket by trying to outlaw the giving of gifts etc (which had been a standard campaign technique for Makro etc previously). This was ignored and a number of federations availed themselves of the Dvorkivich goody bag.
Meanwhile the Short campaign was chugging along, mainly working on the other delegates during Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Short was working on the belief that he had 25 federations supporting him, which while not enough to win, was large enough to have a say in the final outcome.
Makro had also complained to the Ethics commission in the hope of getting Dvorkovich barred from the election. Once this complaint was rejected it became clear that the Makro ticket was in trouble (and they now knew it). The decison to reject the complaint was also an interesting one, as it showed a more independent mindset among some FIDE office holders. One of the issues from 2014 was every disputed case went in Kirsan's favour, which wasn't the case this time.
Closer to the actual vote all campaigns began to push a bit harder. Dvorkovich threw a couple of nice functions (one of which had mermaids), while the organisers threw a party for the Makro ticket (as an aside I and others offered to organise an event for Short at the Oasis Hotel where we were staying. This would have involved 8 bottles of wine and 250 Lari across the bar!) By this stage it was becoming very clear that Dvorkovich was close to winning on the first ballot (and he said as much to us).
I had planned to attend the whole day of the election, but an error in our team submission meant I had to play instead. I did get to attend the morning part of the election, but had to leave just before the vote began. However this was revealing enough, as the FIDE officials at the front of the room didn't appear that popular. Haiti made a complaint for the floor about how they were tricked out of voting, while the Slovenian delegate had to explain why their proxy was given to Makro the day after the board unanimously voted to support Dvorkovich (A stay in hospital was the apparent reason).
Before the vote each candidate gave a speech. Nigel Short Dvorkovich went first, followed by Nigel Short. Short used his platform to criticise the FIDE establishment. However he pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the end, by announcing his withdrawal and asking for a vote for Dvorkovich instead. Apparently this strategy was decided the day before, in the belief that staying in may have muddied the waters ('A GM move' said one person, 'A real d**k move' was another comment). By doing it this way he still had the right to give a speech, essentially making the contest 2 against 1. This seemed to catch Makro flat footed, as he was prepared for 2 rivals, not one.
After the speeches the voting took place, and in the end it resulted in quite a wide victory (by 25 votes to Dvorkovich). The Short team thought the difference was in the people who would have voted for them, although I think a couple of federations switched from Short to Dvorkovich.
With my game finished I returned to the congress to see a happy Dvorkovich team posing for photos, including with some people who had been on the opposite side an hour before!
Overall I thought it was a better election than in 2014, where personal animosity was the main driver. At least this time there were real policies put forward and decisions could be based on that. The Dvorkich campaign tapped in the desire to change things after 23 years, and this was a significant factor. Hopefully this will translate into an improved FIDE, but even if the new admin comes up short, at last the federations now know they are able to effect change at the ballot box, which I think is the most important thing.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

The quickest

As I was bust playing most days of the Olympiad, I didn't really focus on what was going on around me in the tournament hall (especially as the Arbiters disapproved of players leaving the board too often). So I'm just catching up with the other games, and looking for what was quirky or interesting.
There were a number of 1 move games in the tournament, where players did not appear. In some cases this was because teams did not arrive, chose not to turn up (Qatar defaulted to Kuwait in the final round), or players being sidetracked by the FIDE elections. Of the games that were played I have chosen both the shortest win, and the shortest draw. While short wins are common, short draws are now harder to come by, as there are no draw offers allowed before both sides have played 30 moves. But repetitions are still allowable, and this was how that particular game finished.

Arab,Adlane (2482) - Nevska,Gerda (1819) [E71]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (1.3), 24.09.2018

AlHuwar,Jasem (2245) - Linster,Philippe (2273) [A05]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (8.2), 02.10.2018

Last round nerves

Last round nerves can be a coach killer. In the case of PNG we had two players who failed to deal with the pressure, and two players who conquered it. One of these players was Tom McCoy who was playing in his very first Olympiad. After a late night team meeting it was decided that Tom was going to suit up for the last round, giving him an outside change to reach 50% (he was on 3/7 at this stage). The decision paid off for the team as he played an excellent game, including choosing a very sharp continuation on move 18. Possibly nerves were affecting his opponent as well, as in the complications there may have been a missed drawing line. Having gained the advantage, Tom played a very good ending, eventually scoring the win, and helping PNG finish with a 'Desmond' (2-2) against Saudi Arabia.

McCoy,Tom - Al Thebaiti,Ahmed M (1988) [B40]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (11.4), 05.10.2018

Back in Canberra

A quick update now that I have arrived back home to Canberra. It was a pleasant two day journey from Batumi-Tbilis-Doha-Sydney-Canberra by Train, planes and busses. Now I hope to get some sleep before writing more about the last two weeks.

Saturday 6 October 2018

2018 Chess Olympiad - Days 11 & 12

For the 2018 PNG Chess Olympiad team the final two rounds were the ecstasy of victory and the agony of ... non-defeat. In round 10 we played the US Virgin Islands, and scored a big 3.5-0.5 win over them (I gave up the only half point). Then in the final round we were paired with Saudi Arabia, a match that looked challenging for us.
Board 1 Stuart Fancy, and Board 4 Tom McCoy then stepped up and collected two points for us. Tom's game was particularly good, deciding on a gutsy tactical continuation that in the end collected him enough pawns to win the game. (As a result he also finished on 50% for the tournament). I let the team down by rapidly throwing away a good position, and needing just a draw for the match win, Rupert Jones missed a one move tactic and went from +0.0 to a lot less than that.
So 2-2 was a better result than we expected, but left us feeling we missed a bigger opportunity. Overall the team performed very well, with our game points score of 20.5 ahead of a large number of teams, while out match points score of 7 equalled or exceeded our more recent efforts.
In the overall event China did the double, winning both Open and Womens. A full report on this (and many other things) will appear when I travel back to Canberra.

Thursday 4 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Days 9 & 10

The last couple of days at the 2018 Chess Olympiad have been very hectic, with the FIDE election proving to be a big distraction (but more on that in another post).
In the chess, the PNG team has 'hit the wall', only scoring 1.5 from rounds 8 and 9. FM Rupert Jones won his game against Haiti as the team went down 1-3, while he was the only half point in a bigger 0.5-3.5 loss to Mauritania. In a lot of instances we had good positions out of the opening, but then lost control of the game and went on to lose. This is probably a combination of both tiredness, and a lack of regular chess at this level.
In the Open section Poland are the somewhat surprise leader on 16 points. The 11th seeds have not lost a match as yet, and have played a number of close rivals. The group behind them contains the USA, China, Armenia and England. The Australian team is in slightly positive territory (10/18), with the good news that the two Olympiad debutantes (IM Bobby Cheng and IM James Morris performing ahead of their ratings).
China leads the Women's Olympiad by a point ahead of Ukraine, Armenia and USA. Australia is back in mid field, with a damaging loss to Switzerland in the last round partially the reason.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 8

The 7th round of the 2018 Chess Olympiad saw PNG score it's second 4-0 win of the tournament. Up against Palau we were rating favourites on each board, but such matches can always be a little tricky. In the end we won on each of the boards but we had to work hard to do so. I had a brain snap after winning some pawns in the opening, where I failed to count a sequence of captures correctly and missed the win of a piece, but my position was good enough to win anyway. Tom McCoy scored his second win of the tournament on board 4, while Helmut Marko and Stuart Fancy won after determined resistance from their opponents. The win puts us up to 4 match points, and 13.5 game points. We play Haiti in today's round, and while seeded above them, this is another tricky match for us.
At the top end of the tournament there is now a three way tie between Azerbaijan, Poland, and the USA. The Russian team is struggling back on 10 points, only 1 point ahead of the 33rd placed Australian's. In the Women's Olympiad, Armenia is the outright leader, having inflicted the USA teams first loss in round 7. The Australian team has dropped back to midfield, having faced a number of strong teams as a result of their flying start.

Monday 1 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 7

Yesterday was the 7th day of the Chess Olympiad, with round 6 being played. PNG continued its run of narrow losses, this time losing 1.5-2.5 to Aruba. We scored a win and a draw on the top 2 boards, but losses on 3 & 4 left us on the wrong side of the result sheet. So we remain on 2 match points, although our game points score (9.5/24) is more than a large number of teams placed ahead of us.
The last few days at he Olympiad have also been filled with meetings and electioneering. The attempt by the Makro campaign to have the rival Dvorkovich ticket disqualified from running was rejected by the Ethics Commission, although Serbia has been barred from voting at the election. There is a sense on the floor that Dvorkovich might just have enough votes to win, but if other elections (from say 2016) show, negative campaigns have a lot of sway. There is also the mechanics of delegates and proxies to take into account, with at least two Oceania Federations guilty of 'phoning in' their vote, rather than seriously engaging in the electoral process.
Today PNG play Palau in an all Oceania match up. With a brief respite from meetings, hopefully we will be a well rested team, and we can score our second win!