Thursday 28 February 2019

Fictional Masters

On the flight back from Guam, I watched the 2015 version of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E". A quite enjoyable film, but it was something in the end credits that caught my eye. Fictional biographies of the two main characters, Napolean Solo and Illya Kuryakin, were being given, and one of the facts about Kuryakin was that he was an International Master with a rating of 2405. This was reinforced by one scene in the move where he was analysing a position, although it looked like opening analysis, as not many pieces had been developed.
Avoiding characters in obvious chess movies or books, I had a look at who else might be a highly rated fictional player. GM Tov Kronsteen is one example, appearing in an international tournament in "From Russia with Love" (book and film).  Roy Batty, from Blade Runner, was also pretty good, but the penalty for losing to him was pretty severe. And in looking at this list over at Bill Wall's chess page, it appears the Forrest Gump knew a thing or two about the game, although as I don't recall seeing this in the movie, his prowess was confined to the printed page.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

2019 ACT Championship 8th-11th March 2019

The 2019 ACT Championship is on next weekend (8th-11th March). This FIDE Rated event is open to residents of the ACT and surrounding areas. It will be a 7 round tournament, with the first round played on Friday evening, and then 2 rounds a day on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Canberra Day holiday). The venue is Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent, Ainslie (next to the War Memorial), with the first round starting at 7:30 pm on the Friday evening. Entry fee is $65 ($45 concessions). Entries are being managed by ACTCA President Cam Cunningham, and you can contact him at
I would recommend anyone who has the time over the weekend to give it a go. If my trip to Guam has demonstrated anything, turning up to a tournament can yield some surprising results! It also provides a good opportunity for some serious, internationally rated chess, as well as being a good warm up for the Doeberl Cup.

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Putting the French to sleep

If there was one opening that stood out at the 2019 Oceania Zonal it was the French Defence. The tournament had 3 or 4 hardcore French players, so it hit the table almost every round. Unfortunately for the French players, almost every French was met with the Exchange Variation.
I played in a couple of games, and should have lost against Tony Dowden in round 2.  But I had a miraculous escape and then noticed other players choosing the same variation (up until a point). As a lot of games ended in a draw, I suspect it was very frustrating for the players with the black pieces, who were often the higher rated player in the pairing.
However a game played by GM Nigel Short shows it could have been a lot worse for them. He chose a slightly delayed exchange variation (after 3.Nc3 Nf6) but whipped up a strong kingside attack and won pretty quickly. Having just played another drawn Exchange French this evening at the club, I may have to look at this refinement for future inspiration.

Short,Nigel D (2648) - Moran,Stephen (2155) [C01]
26th Bunratty Masters Bunratty IRL (1.3), 22.02.2019

Sunday 24 February 2019

On the (delayed) road again

I'm not sure if this is a common occurrence with professional chess players, but it seems that one typhoon can ruin your whole day. In the case of players heading home from the Oceania Zonal in Guam, Typhoon Wutip has thrown a lot of travel arrangements into chaos. There were a few scheduled flights that were cancelled today (the designated departure date), some justified, and some not justified. Flights heading to Manilla were the most affected, as the flight path crossed the typhoon's path, but the decision to cancel the flight to Taiwan by China Airlines made little sense. Every other airline flying to the same part of the world managed to leave Guam without difficulty, something that was noticed by a few of us who decided to deal with Typhoon Wutip by going swimming in the ocean.
The scramble for re-booking flights and accommodation was easy for some, and somewhat more difficult for others. In my case I made the mistake of booking with Expedia (never again) and it took 4 separate conversations before they were able to reschedule my flights. My favourite agent was the guy who helpfully told me I could fly on the 25th, and then confirmed I was still booked on a connecting flight that left on the 24th. Even then the re-booking now has me flying to Sydney (rather than Melbourne) where I catch a Qantas flight to Melbourne, so I can then fly from Melbourne to Canberra. The obvious change to a single Sydney-Canberra flight was rejected by the agent on the grounds "it wasn't allowed"

Saturday 23 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Wins for Illingworth and Ryjanova

The 2019 Oceania Zonal has finished, with GM Max Illingworth and WGM Julia Ryjanova winning the Open and Women's events respectively. Illingworth was paired against FM Stuart Fancy (PNG), and despite needing only a draw to secure first place, played an aggressive opening system, and eventually won the game.
I finished in 2nd place, due to a run of luck which started on day 1 of the tournament. I was paired against Felix Lacno (GUM) in the final round, and he needed half a point for the FM title. Up until this game he had a phenomenally good run (including the win of Illingworth in round 1), but chose this round to play a very poor opening (see game below). He dropped a pawn early on, and then got into a horrible mess on the queenside. Despite an early queen exchange, he just didn't have enough pieces to protect his king, and I ended up outright 2nd.
Clive Ng and John Duneas agreed a quick draw on board 2, as this secured the FM title for both of them. The only other player to reach 6 points was Enofre Manuel (GUM), who recovered a bad position to beat fellow Guam player Elias Tirador.
In the Women's Zonal Julia Ryjanova completed a clean sweep winning her final round game to score 9 points from 9 games. Rebbeca Stones (AUS) finished in 2nd place with 7.5, and Vyanla Punsalan took third on 7.
As predicted in my last post Typhoon Wutip has caused a number of flights to be cancelled, so a lot of players will now be here for at least one extra day. As compensation, it has been decided to hold the Oceania Blitz Championship tomorrow morning.

Lacno, Felix - Press, Shaun
Zonal Guam, 2019

Friday 22 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 5

Day 5 of the 2019 Zonal saw a curious set of results in the afternoon round, with the top 3 boards of the Open being drawn quite quickly. GM Max Illingworth was a point in front, having defeated Clive Ng round 7, and other results left John Duneas and Shaun Press tied for second on 5 points (with Clive). The round 8 pairings saw Illingworth v Duneas and Press v Ng. After a few moves, I received a slightly surprising draw offer from Ng, which I accepted, moving both of us to 5.5. Then a few minutes later Illingworth offered Duneas a draw, which was also accepted. As a result Illingworth on needs a draw in the final round to guarantee outright first. On board 3 Tony Dowden and Enofre Manuel also drew fairly quickly, moving Manuel and Dowden to 5. Joining the players in equal second are Stuart Fancy and Felix Lacno, after they won their round 8 games.
Tomorrows last round sees Illingworth against Fancy, Duneas against Ng, and Press against Lacno. While there are number of possible outcomes (eg Fancy beating Illingworth), a tournament win for Illingworth and a multi-way tie for second on 6 seems to be the most likely outcome.
WGM Julia Ryjanova has already secured first place in the Women's Zonal, maintaining her perfect record of 8 wins from 8 games. Rebecca Stones is second on 6.5/8. while WFM Vyanla Punsalan is third on 6. As the three players have all played each other, the final standings depend upon how well they do against their lower ranked opponents.
The other exciting piece of news is that a typhoon will pass quite close to Guam in the next day. As a result there is a real risk that outgoing flights will be affected, meaning that some players may be forced to spend extra days in the Pacific!

Thursday 21 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 4

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is entering the final stages, with round 7 seeing the joint leaders, CM Clive Ng and GM Max Illingworth meet on board 1. Both players are on 5/6 with Illingworth losing one game (his first), while Ng has had two draws. Ng has the White pieces and is hoping to get at least half a point against an opponent who outrates him by 450 points.
Shaun Press and John Duneas share third place on 4.5/6. Their 6th round game ended in a draw although Press was in a position to play on. There is a group of four players tied for 5th on 4/6. With 3 rounds to play, they are all looking at both catching the lead groups, as well as reaching the 6/9 score required for an FM title.
In the Women's event, WGM Julia Ryjanova leads with 6/6. She is playing WFM Vyanla Punsalan in the first of tomorrows 2 rounds, but if she negotiates that game without slipping up, then the tournament should be hers.

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 3

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is still proving to be a hard fought affair, at least for now. After 5 rounds there are 6 players sharing the lead on 4/5, including tournament favourite GM Max Illingworth. Illingworth has recovered from his first round loss, and is once again the man to beat. Also in the leading group is Felix Lacno, who beat Illingworth in the first round. Lacno is proving very underrated at 1711, as he has a performance rating of over 2200.
With 4 rounds left to play, Illingworth is still favoured to win. The battle for 2nd and third is a little more wide open, especially as a lot of the leading group has yet to face Illingworth.
WGM Julia Ryjanove has maintained her perfect score in the Women's Zonal. She defeated Rebecca Stones in the morning round and Olga Szekely in the afternoon. WFM Vyanla Punsalan is currently in 2nd place on 4/5, but  a loss to Stones in round 5 leaves her with tough task of getting something against Ryjanova if she hopes to finish 2nd.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 2

After 3 rounds of the 2019 Oceania Zonal, only Clive Ng has maintained a 100%, beating Paul Spiller in today's only round. A number of draws on the top boards sees a pack of 5 players tied for second place on 2.5.
Top seed Max Illingworth scored his second win of the tournament to keep his chances of winning the tournament alive, while I once again had a lucky escape, drawing an ending which started with me two pawns down.
In the Women's Zonal, a draw between Olga Szekely and Rebecca Stones means that GM Julia Ryjanova and WFM Vyanla Punsalan are the only players on 3/3. They meet in round 7, in agame that might very well decide the tournament.

2019 Oceania Zonal Day 1

The 2019 Oceania Zonal got off to a surprising start, with top seed GM Max Illingworth losing his round 1 game. Underestimating a strong kingside attack from Felix Lacno, he went pawn hunting with his queen and walked into a mating attack. While Max bounced back to win his second round game, it is clear that the Zonal is proving more competitive than people may have believed.
At the end of the first day there are 6 players on 2/2. Angelito Camer (Aus), Clive Ng (Aus), Efron Manuel (GUM), Elmer Prudente (GUM), Shaun Press (PNG) and Paul Spiller (NZL) all managed to score 2 wins from 2 games, although in my case, it was a fortunate win in a game I was worse in for almost its entirety.
In the Women's event, top seed WGM Julia Ryjanova  avoid any trouble, winning both her games. She is joined by Rebecca Stones (Aus), Vyanla Pusalan (NZL), and Olga Szekely on 2 points.
Tomorrow is a single round day, so my preparation may involve a bit of swimming and site-seeing. The playing conditions for the tournament are excellent, and the venue provides fantastic views of the Pacific.
While there isn't live coverage of the games, results (and some replayable games) can be found at the New Zealand Chess Federation Website. The link is

Sunday 17 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 0

The 2019 Oceania Zonal begins tomorrow in Guam. GM Max Illingowrht and WGM Julia Ryjanova are the strong favorites in the Open and Wonen's events respectively.
Tonight saw the welcoming dinner at the Pacific Start Resort, and those that attended found it very enjoyable. There were traditional dances, nice music and singing, and excellent food. The speeches did not go on for too long, and it proved to be an excellent opening for the tournament.
Tomorrow sees the first two rounds for both events, with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich making the ceremonial first move. At the moment I don't know where the results will be posted (or even who my opponent is going to be) but when I find out I will post a link.

Saturday 16 February 2019

On the road again

I'm heading off to the 2019 Oceania Zonal in a couple of hours. The usual comments about blogging schedules, wifi access, and general tournament coverage apply. The 20 hours of travel is a little shorter than Europe/Olympiad etc, so hopefully I will remain in a good mood.

Friday 15 February 2019

This looks familiar

The post you are about to read wasn't what I had originally intended to write about this evening. (BTW This isn't unusual, as I often cycle through a few ideas before settling on a topic). What I had planned to talk about was the lack of games I could find from the 1982-83 Australian Open. Chessbase only seems to have one or two, but in looking for these games, I came across the one that changed today's topic.
Having featured Valentina Gunina's nice win from the Cairns Cup, I came across a game from 1982 that seemed to share a lot of the same features (and a few differences). Played by Ian Rogers against Pat Halpin (possibly at the Australian Open), is saw an attack on f7, with the idea of catching the Black king in the Open. However, unlike the Gunina game where the attack was winning after the piece sacrifice, the Rogers Halpin game was a lot more turbulent. Halpin actually missed a winning defence on move 17 (17...h6) while two moves later 19.Ba4+ would have brought the game to a swift conclusion. But given how complicated the position was, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the game was played in time trouble (for both players), which would explain some of the missed opportunities.

Rogers,Ian (2355) - Halpin [B94]
AUS Australia, 1982

Thursday 14 February 2019

Here, take this.

Valentina Gunina scored a nice attacking win over Marie Sebag in the currently running Cairns Cup. It was a fairly typical Sicilian King side attack v Queen side attack game, where the attack on the King side crashed through first.
The key moment was when Gunina left a knight sitting unprotected on b5,offering it to Sebag's queen. This kind of offer is what the late Patrick Connell referred to 'sucker bait'. And in this case it was. Sebag grabbed to knight, and after that, Gunina's attack was unstoppable.
Obviously the temptation to grab material is a strong one, but offers like this usually come with strings attached. Indeed, at this level, such offers should be doubly suspicious, as you don't get here by giving stuff away for free.

Gunina,V (2501) - Sebag,M (2476) [B90]
1st Cairns Cup 2019 Saint Louis USA (5), 10.02.2019

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Decluttering my chess

'Decluttering' seems to be all the rage at the moment, with a whole industry based on the concept of 'throwing things away' developing. Deciding that this is a good band-wagon to jump onto, I've decided to apply the same principles to my chess.
As hinted at last week, I have decided to try 'simple chess', aiming for clear cut positions in the opening, where the aim is to have one or two obvious plans, based on creating and targeting weaknesses in my opponents position.
For the second week in a row, I seemed to get this to work quite well. 2.c3 is a new line for me (I have previously played the Closed Sicilian) but it gave me the position I was looking for. Following the KISS principle, I only need to come up with some short term plans, find a few nice tactics, and by move 30, my opponents position had completely collapsed.

Press,Shaun - Grcic,Milan [B22]
University Cup, 12.02.2019

Monday 11 February 2019

Unhappy Anniversary

Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of one of the more momentous occasions in chess history. On the 10th February 1996 Gary Kasparov played the first game in his first match against IBM's Deep Blue chess computer. To the surprise of most observers, Kasparov lost the first game, making a couple of errors in the middlegame and getting hit with an unstoppable attack.
Whether Kasparov took the first game too lightly, or simply walked into a position more to Deep Blue's liking, I'm not sure. But after that Kasparov knuckled down and won 3 of the remaining 5 games to win the match 4-2.
Of course the rematch the next year ended far more unhappily for Kasparov. Against an improved version of Deep Blue he went into the final game tied at 2.5-2.5, but then famously blew up, to lose the match by a single game.

Comp Deep Blue - Kasparov,Garry (2795) [B22]
Philadelphia m Philadelphia (1), 10.02.1996

Sunday 10 February 2019

Space is the place

"The Game of Chess" by Siegbert Tarrasch is an instructional manual that was first published in 1931 (with an English edition publish in 1935). Written at the end of Tarrasch's career, it is a distillation of his approach to chess, laying out the principles which he thought were necessary to follow in playing good chess.
Looking at reviews on line it seems  highly regarded, but at the same time, less well known than "My System" by his great rival, Nimzowitsch. Possibly this is because "My System" was considered revolutionary at the time, while Tarrasch was seen to be defending the older style of play. Nonetheless, looking at both books, there seems to be an overlap in certain areas (eg Rooks on the open files and the seventh rank).
At the end of the book he gives some example games, including the one below. There are two reasons why I've chosen this game. Firstly, the system Euwe chooses against the English, is one that Tarrasch highly praises, and is still recommended as an anti-English system today. Secondly, it is a good example of how the player with extra space can use this the generate a strong attack. Euwe gets over the 'half way line' first, and as a result soon has the White king in his sights.

Kleefstra,HD - Euwe,Max [A09]
Amsterdam Spielmann Toernooi Amsterdam (3), 29.03.1933

2019 Oceania Zonal

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is running from the 18th of February through to the 23rd in Guam. This 9 round swiss will determine Oceania's representative at the next World Cup event.
At the moment GM Max Illingworth is the top seed in the Open event, and is the clear favourite to win the tournament. Almost all the member countries in the zone are sending their strongest players, with the exception of New Zealand, who while sending a reasonably sized contingent, aren't being represented by the 'upper tier'.
The top seed for the Women's event is WGM Julia Ryjanova (AUS), and she is also a clear favourite in that tournament.
The location of the tournament (and the subsequent makeup of the field) has attracted a large amount of discussion within Australian chess circles. Most of this discussion revolves around how the distances required to travel serve as a disincentive for stronger players to take part. While this is a valid issue, I will point out (based on years as a tournament organiser), that it doesn't take much before strong chessplayers find a reason not to do anything.
On the other hand, as the purpose of the zonal is to bring each federations best players together, it has generally succeeded in doing that. Before swisses became more common, each country would have only sent one or two players to compete in a round robin, and would have seen a similar, but smaller field. And holding the event in different federations is also important, as it helps develop chess in areas outside Melbourne, Australia.

(*Disclaimer: I am a member of the Oceania Chess Confederation Executive who awarded the event to Guam, and am participating in the tournament)

Saturday 9 February 2019

Lifeline Bookfair 2019

The 2019 Lifeline Bookfair started today, so I made my biannual trip to EPIC in Canbbera. As in past years I arrived before it opened, so as to try and get the pick of the chess books on offer. And as in past years there seemed to be quite a large collection on offer.
However, as my own collection grows, the opportunity to add new books diminishes. While there would have been around 60 books, I seemed to own most of them. However I did at least manage to grab a few, the most interesting being a book of opening traps in 'Fianchetto Openings', while the most useful was David Levy's classic 'Sacrifices in the Sicilian'. Apart from that there were the usual collection of Reinfeld books, the obligatory copy of 'Play Better Chess', and an increasing number of books on Sudoku, Crosswords and other things of lesser interest to chess players.
If you want to get along, the sale runs over the weekend. While they do replenish the stock for most subjects, if past history is anything to go by, all the chess books have already been put out. That doesn't mean there won't be some good ones left, but they might be harder to find.

Thursday 7 February 2019

The Gambit Killer

Lasker's Defence to the Evan's Gambit is often held up as the model of the 'Gambit Killer'. Instead of trying to hang onto the extra pawn, Black is happy to give it back, in exchange for a better position. Lasker first used it in 1895 against Tchigorin, and the discovery of this line was credited with putting the Evans Gambit out of business.
There are a couple of curious things about this story. Firstly, the opening had been played a number of times before Lasker used it (as early as 1834). Secondly, the line is by no means forced on White, which no doubt contributed to it's revival in the 1990's by Kasparov. Indeed, almost every time I've seen a modern Evans Gambit played (either in print or in person), Lasker's Defence never seems to be used.
But the line is still a good one, if played, as demonstrated by Lasker at the St Petersburg Tournament of 1895-96

Chigorin,Mikhail - Lasker,Emanuel [C52]
St Petersburg Four Masters St Petersburg (1.3), 17.12.1895

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Off to a good start

It is always good to start the year's chess with a nice win. Up against one of my regular opponents (Milan Ninchich), I was able to put the summer's study of Capablanca games to good use. He allowed me to fracture his pawn structure with a capture on f3, and I then spent the rest of the game targeting weaknesses and improving my position. What especially pleased me was a I was able to keep my pieces coordinated, while preventing his from doing the same.

Ninchich,Milan - Press,Shaun [C55]
University Cup, 05.02.2019

Monday 4 February 2019

Creating your own market

I have absolutely no idea what is being described in this link
I think it is some kind of chess but how close it is to actual chess is difficult to judge (at least to me). What is probably the most interesting thing here, is that the author being profiled (Siafa Neal) offers lessons and exhibitions for paying customers.
An interesting approach to being a coach I guess. Create your own product and hope other people are interested. Almost like modern software!

Sunday 3 February 2019

Belconnen Chess Club starts for 2019

This coming Tuesday evening (5 February) the University of Canberra-Belconnen Chess Club will resume activities after the silly season break.

The club will get straight into it with Round 1 of the University Cup 2019.

Time control will be 60 minutes with 30 second increment, one round to be played per week for a total of seven rounds, using standard swiss pairing rules. The time control allows for earlier finishes, encouraging more juniors to participate and as many as possible should join in. New players are welcome to join in later rounds and will be granted a maximum of two half-points for missed rounds. Tournament results will be submitted to the Australian Chess Federation for ACF rating purposes.

UC-Belconnen Chess Club annual fees are $25 or $15 for concessionals.

Please come early (from 6:45pm) so we can start play as close as possible to the planned start time of 7:15pm.

Club details, including a location map, are at:

Friday 1 February 2019

Best game from Gibraltar

Awarding a "Best Game" prize used to be tricky. Usually players needed to submit the games themselves, as no one else had a record of the moves. Often players were either too show to submit their games, or instead, submitted every win they had, even the ones that were complete flukes.
But with the advent of DGT boards (or people typing games in), finding good games is easier. Of course the criteria is still a little subjective, with 'flashy' games standing out, but usually the winning game is worth playing through.
The winner of the best game prize from Gibraltar was an interesting draw between GM Gawain Jones and GM Alejandro Ramirez. It contains a couple of things that make it stand out. There was an unusual opening variation, there was a piece sacrifice, there was an an attack against the king, there were some good defensive moves, and finally the game didn't last too long! Of course there was debate about the final moves (Black could have blocked the check with Bg7, forcing White to play on), but in the heat of battle, Black clearly wanted to play it safe.

Jones,Gawain C B (2691) - Ramirez,Alejandro (2567) [C10]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta ENG (4.13), 25.01.2019