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 ...