Tuesday 27 February 2018

Did Black move first?

While digging through some information concerning the "Immortal Game", I came across a piece of information I have never seen before. According to the July 1851 edition of "The Chess Player" by Horwitz and Kling, Anderssen actually played with the black pieces during the game. But before you think the result has been misreported for over 150 years, the game is given with Anderssen (as Black) still making the first move. It does not seem to be a typo in the magazine, as the notes attached refer to Black as the winner.
If this were the case Anderssen's play is even more impressive, as playing with white as black can be quite off putting. I've seen it done on occasion (usually after a quick loss at skittles and the players are too lazy to swap the pieces) but even then, the king and queen are often swapped, so that short castling is still to the right for 'Black'.

Monday 26 February 2018

2018 ACT Chess Championship 9-12 March 2018

The 2018 ACT Chess Championship is being held on the long weekend of the 9th to the 12th of March 2018. It will be a 7 round FIDE rated Swiss with the first round on Friday evening (9th), and 2 rounds on each of the following days. Time limit is 90m+30s
The tournament will be held at Campbell High School, and there will be a cafe/canteen running during the tournament. The tournament is open to all ACTCA members ($25/$15 per year) and for players without an international rating, this provides an ideal opportunity to get one.
Further details (including entry information) can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/actchessassociation/

(** I will be a paid official at this event **)

Saturday 24 February 2018

Neglecting development

One of the big risks in neglecting development in the opening is that you increase the risk of getting hit by a surprise tactic. Here is a short example of this, from a game I played today at Street Chess.

Press,Shaun - Tiwari,Rajiv [D00]
Street Chess, 24.02.2018

It's not always how many moves

For a couple of different reasons, I've been looking over some the work I had previously done in the field of Anti-Cheating in Chess. While doing so, I came across a slightly different take on detecting engine use in online chess.
The simple approach is to compare the moves played with what a strong engine might play. However this generally only catches people who aren't smart enough to cover their tracks, although this is still quite a large number of guilty players. As discussed in this answer on Quora, it is often a shorter run of moves that is the giveaway, rather than the entire game (Note: This method was recognised as a possibility when I was a member of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee). Also mentioned in the answer are the conditions for turning on (or off) an engine during the game.
The other issue with move matching is that it returns differing results for different styles of games. The classic example of this were the respective performances of Mikhail Tal and Anatoly Karpov at the Montreal 1979 Super Tournament. In a retrospective examination of the games by Professor Kenneth Regen, Tal has the highest move match with modern chess engines, at a little under 70% (IIRC). Karpov had the lowest match of the players in the event, at least than 50%. Interestingly, they tied for first place with 12/18.
The explanation for this is due to the differing styles of players. Tal's games involved a lot of positions where the second or third best move was significantly worse than the best choice (due to the tactical nature of the positions), while Karpov's positions had a number of moves that were good, and it was a matter of his long term understanding of the position as to which one was chosen.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

In praise of club chess

For some players, the regularity of club chess can be a real chore. Facing the same opponents, not being able to skip a week to go to the movies, or simply becoming too strong are some of the reasons that come into play.
For other players (including myself), playing at a local club is what makes chess, chess. Knowing that a mistake in one game isn't the end of the world, or engaging in multi-year theoretical debates about favourite openings, is something that keeps members playing week in week out. And while the chess isn't perfect, it usually is interesting enough that each player (and spectators) get something out of it.
A few weeks ago I published one of my wins from the current tournament at Belconnen Chess Club. Here is a far more interesting game from round 3 of the same event (This time it isn't mine, as I played like a knuckle-head last night and lost). Milan Ninchich looked like he was gone for all money against Miles Patterson, until he found a clever double rook sacrifice at the death, to salvage a draw by repetition.

Ninchich,Milan - Patterson,Miles [B02]
University Cup Belconnen, 20.02.2018

Resigning with all the pieces still on the board

It is very rare that one player loses a game, while all 32 pieces are still on the board. Of course with rules concerning the use of mobile phones during the game in force, it has probably become a little more common, but even then it is at least noteworthy.
Here is a remarkable example from 2013, with Vasilly Ivanchuk resigning in 19 moves. Lest you think the early resignation was a function of Ivanchuk's eccentricities, Stockfish has him at -2.6 when he threw in the towel.

Ponomariov,Ruslan (2742) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2755) [C05]
Makedonia Palace GP Thessaloniki GRE (6.1), 28.05.2013

Sunday 18 February 2018

How did I miss this story?

When I last visited the UK (late 2016, early 2017), I did not get a chance to visit Portmeirion in Wales, which is something I have done on two previous occasions. If I had, I may have walked into the middle of a chess related row, between fans of the TV series "The Prisoner", and local residents.
Each year there is a recreation of the human chess game that was seen in the episode "Checkmate", on a space of open lawn. For years the board had been a temporary one, but it was decided that a permanent one should be built. Local residents objected and an argument ensued.
In the end the Prisoner fans one, and the board has gone in. For more detail, plus a picture of the game, you can click on this link (Warning, it does have some annoying auto play video of other news stories)

Friday 16 February 2018

In author mode

I'm currently in 'Author Mode', trying to write some new titles for e+ChessBooks (Disclaimer: I am employed by the company as a software developer). It is a mixture of typesetting older books, converting some newer books to electronic format, and putting together some original content.
The work I am trying to get finished first is a reworking of a 19th century collection of brilliancies, which was published without annotations. As a result I've spent the past week going through the games (with computer assistance) trying to find different ways of saying 'Black missed a better defence with ...'. And while the attacking play is quite ingenious, I have to agree with Bent Larsen's contention that he would have easily been World Champion in the 19th Century (if he had the same chess knowledge) as he would have simply defended better.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

FIDE chickens looking for roosts

The fallout from the 2014 FIDE election continues to roll on, with the FIDE bank account in Swistzerland being frozen. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/13/world-chess-body-has-swiss-bank-accounts-frozen-president-accused/)
As the above article says, this is due to  FIDE President Kirsan Ilymzhonov being under US government sanctions for his involvement in financing aspects of the conflict in Syria. Of course this has been an ongoing issue for FIDE for a few years now, but has come to a head at a somewhat unfortunate time.
The article does quote FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegal placing the blame directly on the FIDE President, but he would do better to look at the actions of some of his other FIDE colleagues. One of the problems that FIDE face is that they have no real mechanism for removing Ilyumzhinov, but this is a problem that the organisation created for itself.
In pushing so hard for Kirsan to win the past two elections (2010 and 2014), the FIDE executive essentially ran roughshod over any idea of executive accountability. This has meant that there are no real mechanisms for holding anyone accountable for their actions (unless you are a former FIDE executive member or unsuccessful candidate), and so Kirsan will remain president until the next election.
That this has occurred is of little surprise to me, based on what I witnessed during the 2014 election in Tromso. There was a definite 'win at all costs' mentality on show there, which I personally thought crossed the line in terms of what should have been an independent process. An obvious example of this was Kirsan's promise of $40,000,000 to support chess, which while being an obvious lie, was praised or excused by members of the FIDE Executive, rather than condemned by the very people who knew it was untrue.
After the election was I was even accused of being depressed because 'my guy lost', to which I replied, "No, I'm upset at the level of behaviour I've seen from people I expected better of". And it is this attitude of privilege over principal that has left FIDE painting itself into a corner.
Of course it is the same people who campaigned so passionately (and in some cases unethically)  for Kirsan's election who are now turning around to claim that they are the only people who can fix it. I have no doubt that they themselves believe it, and that is part of the problem with the current executive. Better for all would see them confess their past sins, take some responsibility for this fiasco, and then consider what they should do in retirement.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Crossing the board

There have been a couple of celebrated games where the Black king gets checkmated on the opposite side of the board. Normally a piece (or greater) sacrifice was involved and the king was frog marched to its doom. Most games I have seen take more than 20 moves before checkmate is achieved, but the following looks like some sort of record, in that Black is mated on e1 in only 15 moves. Unlike some other record setting games, this one does look legitimate, with Black just blundering in the open.

Abdel Aziz,Shehab (2116) - Tawfik,Neamet [C21]
Cairo op-B Cairo (1), 2000

Sunday 11 February 2018

Order to Chaos

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura are currently playing a match for the unofficial title of Fischer Random World Champion. After 4 games Carlsen leads 5-3, having won the 4th game.
The match is over 16 games, with the first 8 played at a slower time limit (40 moves in 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes flat) than the last 8 (15m+10s). Scores are also doubled for the first 8, which accounts for the slightly odd score. For the first half players are shown the start position 15 minutes before the start, while for the rapid they will only have 2 minutes to see the position (NB the same position is used for each pair of white/black games).
I've had a quick look at the games, and there seems to be just enough in the initial setups to challenge the players. To my untrained eye, it seems that the positioning of the rooks is a significant factor in what sort of game you will see. If the rooks start off in (or close to) the corners (as they did in games 3-4) you get a 'normal' position, much sooner than if the rooks already occupy the centre files. I also noticed that sound pawn structures seems a little less important than I'm used to, but then I realised that seems to be the trend in normal chess at this level anyway.
I'd like to show you a game, but attempts at getting the pgn view to work have been a little tricky. If I discover the secret tomorrow, I might update this post.

Saturday 10 February 2018

You snooze, you lose

Today was the first day of the 2018 Lifeline Bookfair in Canberra, so I made the effort to try and get there early. While I'm not mad enough to bring a tent and sleep by the door (in fact, no one is) I do try and make sure I'm at least close to the door when it opens.
The strategy was reasonably successful this year, as almost all the second hand chess books were still on the table, although a few had been picked up by one fleet of foot chess parent!
As I've mentioned in the past, I usually don't buy that many books these days, as I already have copies of most of them. I did get an Informator No. 2, to go with the No. 1 I picked up last time. A couple of problem books, a collection of games by Rubenstein and of course a copy of "Play Better Chess" by Barden were also some of the books I grabbed.
Luckily I was in early, as about 5 minutes after I made my selection, a lot of books went in one sweep of the hand as someone just tipped half of them into an open bag. I'm assuming it was a second hand book seller, as a more discerning collector would have at least checked the prices.
If you do plan to visit tomorrow, I'm not sure if there will be many chess books left. They usually have extra boxes for most categories, but if past years are anything to go by, the whole chess collection goes out at the start and does not get replaced.

Thursday 8 February 2018

A proto-Traxler

While the Traxler did not make its debut until the late 19th century, there were games played earlier than that, that at least showed some of the ideas that were employed. One example was a game from 1850 where Black allowed a fork on f7 and sacrificed the rook on h8 to gain time for his attack. Unlike the Traxler proper, there was no sacrifice on f2, although the bishop on c5 still played an important role.

Moor - Dubois,Serafino [C50]
Rome Rome, 1850

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Gratuitous Blogging

The Belconnen Chess Club has reopened for the year, which means gratuitous blogging of chess wins from me. For the first round of the 2018 University Cup I was up against Matt Radisich, which is a tougher than usual round 1 pairing.
After I plunked a knight on d5 I felt I was better, although there was a miscalculation by myself on move 27 which Matt did not take advantage of. After that I went into a R v BN ending, which normally favours the two pieces, but fortunately a combination of a better placed king, and a tactical trick missed by Matt (36.Rf1) was enough for me to convert.

Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [B26]
University Cup, 06.02.2018

Goodnight Sweetheart

For non serious chess players, the Knight (or the horsey) is the most interesting piece on the board. Its slightly unusual movement, and its ability to jump over other pieces quickly gains it attention above and beyond its station. It is hardly surprising then, that moves involving knights stand out. Knight forks are spoken of far more than Bishop forks or Rook forks, while under promoting to a knight is a pretty big deal. And long sequences of knight moves do get noticed, as the following game demonstrates. From move 22 to 34 Anand (as white) moves nothing but his Knights, forcing the black pieces to duck and weave from square to square.

Anand,Viswanathan (2787) - Topalov,Veselin (2805) [E04]
World-ch Anand-Topalov +3-2=7 Sofia (6), 01.05.2010

Monday 5 February 2018

Plan, calculate, move

White to play and win
Here is a position from the recent Gibraltar tournament (one of the Amateur events I believe). It is White to play and win.
Given the unbalanced nature of the position, trying to pick an obvious move is a little difficult. Instead a better approach is to try and develop a more general winning plan before choosing a specific move. Once you have a plan, then you can calculate more efficiently, and hopefully come up with the correct move.
(Note: When I first saw it, I did get the right plan, but still manged to choose the wrong first move, so this method isn't fool proof)
Thanks to WFM Alana Chibnall for sending it to me.

Sunday 4 February 2018

An odd, but important game

If I asked you to name a game where White sacrifices a queen on d8 and mates after a double check from rook and bishop, you wouldn't be wrong if you said 'Reti v Tartakower'. But as with most things, this game wasn't the first example of this idea, just the most popular. Well before, Ernst Falkbeer (of the Falkbeer counter gambits) demonstrated the winning method, in an odds game. Falkbeer started without his queens knight, which in this case may have been more of a help than a hindrance, as he was able to castle one move quicker than normal, and getting his rook ready for the mate.

Falkbeer,Ernst - Simpson,Mr

Friday 2 February 2018

Aronian wins Gibraltar Masters

Lev Aronian has won the 2018 Gibraltar Masters, after a marathon playoff session that involved the top 4 finishers. In fact the final round results left 7 players tied for the lead on 7.5/10, but the tournament regulations only allowed the top 4 (on tie-break) to go though to the playoff.
In the semi-finals, Vachier-Lagrave defeated Nakamura to end his attempt to claim a 4th successive title, while Aronian defeated Rapport. Then in the final Aronian beat MVL to claim his second title (the first being a multiway tie in 2005, which in fact lead to the introduction of the playoff system).
IM John-Paul Wallace was the best of the Australian players finishing 5/10, although his final round win came at the expense of WIM Heather Richards. A win for Richards would have seen her score a WGM norm (by the narrowest of margins) but it wasn't to be. Alek Safarian finished alongside Richards with 4 points, while WFM Alana Chibnall score 3.5 (matching my score from last year).

Aronian,Lev - Nakamura,Hikaru [B06]
2018 Gibraltar Masters, 01.02.2018