Sunday 31 March 2019

Gashimov Memorial underawy

The 2019 Shamkir Chess (Gashimov Memorial) has just started in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. Top seed is Magnus Carlsen and the field is an interesting mix of generations. Ding Liren and Anish Giri represent the best of the new generation, but Anand, Grischuk and Topalov are hoping to show that it isn't just a young mans game. Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Karjakin and Navara round out the 10 player field.
For Australian players, the games start at a sensible 10pm (Canberra time), and round 1 is already under way. There are a couple of interesting first round match ups, but the Karjakin - Liren game has already finished in a draw after 45 minutes play!

Saturday 30 March 2019

Actual mate on the physical chessboard

I am currently helping write a book on the history of the Laws of Chess. I am working with Stewart Reuben and Alex McFarlane, and while we plan to go back as far as we can, it will be the modern era (since 1924) which will be the focus.
In the book we hope to put in games that provoked changes, or showed that more work needed to be done. One such game is the Rumens v Mabbs game from 1959, which provoked an enormous amount of discussion at the time. The time limit was 36 moves in 2 hours, and both players were in severe time trouble. Rumens mated Mabbs with his 36th move, but his flag fell before he could press his clock. At the time the rules were a little contradictory, with checkmate ending the game, but the move not being completed until the clock had been pressed. Therefore it wasn't clear if White had won by checkmate, or had lost on time. On appeal the game was awarded to White, and the rules were amended to reflect this.

Rumens,DE - Mabbs,DJ [B84]
London Boys Championship, 30.03.1959

Thursday 28 March 2019

Things to do on a rainy Sunday

The somewhat bizarre adventures of Timur Gareyev at the US Championship continue. Having given up on his dream of winning two events at the same time, he is instead using the extra time to play some of the more esoteric endings in chess. Against Wesley So he was unsuccessful in trying to defend K+R v K+Q, getting mated on move  86. He then play R v R+B not once but twice in the following rounds. Weirdly he managed to hold the draw the first time he reached the position (against Sevian), but then lost against Caruana when faced with the same situation.
While defending these positions are quite difficult, at least in the case of R+BvR, they are usually theoretically drawn (Note: I lost the only time I tried to defend the position). But like learning to mate with B+N v K, or winning a number of technical rook endings, it does take a lot of study and practice. So the next time rain keeps you indoors on a Sunday, break out the chessboard and see how well you do.

Gareyev,Timur (2557) - Caruana,Fabiano (2828) [D27]
63rd ch-USA 2019 Saint Louis USA (7.3), 27.03.2019

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Hitting the self destruct button

I suspect we've all played games where we've blundered quite early on. Usually this is dropping a pawn (or a piece in a few of my efforts), but it is pretty rare to allow a mating attack starting on move 4. In this game from the current European Championship I suspect Black thought that 3... h6 would prevent 4.Ng5, but he missed the far stronger followup.

Trajkovski,Mile (2105) - Bytyqi,Gzim (1994) [B00]
20th ch-EUR Indiv 2019 Skopje MKD (6.169), 24.03.2019

Double duty

GM Timur Gareyev is one of the chess worlds more flamboyant characters. At the moment he is playing in the US Championship, as well as another tournament, almost simultaneously.
For some reason known only to Timur, he thought he could play in the Mid West Open at the same time, ignoring the fact that some rounds clashed, and that he had to travel between 2 venues. As a result he turned up 25 minutes late for his Round 4 US Championship game, and eventually forfeited his remaining Mid West Open games.
Gareyev is not the first player to try this btw, but it does raise the question of whether it is actually legal. As a junior Michael Adams once entered two different sections of the British Championship, and had to run between rooms to play two games at once. There did not seem to objections to this at the time, and the organisers allowed this.
During my previous time on the FIDE Rules Commission this issue was actually discussed, but in the end it was decided not to add any regulations dealing with this. The main reason was that any sensible organiser would hopefully reject an attempt by a player to enter twice, either in different sections, or even the same section. If the player kicked up a fuss, then the 'organisers decision is final' rule would be enforced. 
The Gareyev case is a little different, as the events were held in different venues, and organised by different bodies, but one outcome of this might be to add an extra clause to players contracts, forbidding them from pulling such a stunt!

Sunday 24 March 2019

Fortune favours the insane

In the collection of "how to get an early draw by repetition" games, the following game figures prominently. Played before Karpov became a world class player, Igor Zaitsev bravely sacrificed his queen, but had enough to force a draw by repetition on move 15. In fact there was an even earlier draw available,  starting with 6.Kxf7 7.Qh5+
Since then the game has been played multiple times, with all but 2 games ending in a draw (in my database anyway). Curiously, the 2 non drawn games follow an early recommendation of playing 10 ... Ne5+ 11.Rxe5 Be6 which was assessed unclear in the pre-computer era, but is simply better for Black according to Stockfish. However in the actual games it was one win for each colour, with the White winner being David Smerdon in 1999, after IM Stephen Solomon misplayed the attack on White's King.

Zaitsev,Igor A - Karpov,Anatoly [C43]
Leningrad Leningrad (10), 1966

Friday 22 March 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Time to enter

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup starts in under 4 weeks, and at this stage around 50% of the tournament places have been field. The Premier has 36 entries so far, with 5 GM's, 6 IM's, 1 WGM and 1 WIM in the tournament. There is a limit of 68 players in the event (to make earning titles easier), so it might be a good idea to get your entry in, if you plan to play in this section. The Major (Under 2000) has 36 entries (from 64 places), the Minor (Under 1600) 42 players (from 100), and the Mini (Under 1200) 29 (from 60).
You can register at as well as looking at who else has entered, tournament regulations, and prizes on offer.
(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday 21 March 2019

2019 US Chess Championship - Lots of draws, lots of wins

The 2019 US Chess Championship started yesterday in St Louis, and there was a somewhat curious set of results. In the Open Championship, all but one of the games were drawn. The Gareyev - Xiong game ended in a win for Xiong, but every other game saw the honours shared. This isn't that surprising for an event like this, and has the added benefit (for the organisers at least), of reducing the number of possible winners of the '$64,000 Fischer Bonus Prize' to one.
On the other hand every game in the Women's Championship wasn't drawn. All 6 games ended in a win for one of the players, and as the Fischer Bonus Prize is also on offer in this event, half the field is still in the running.
If you want to follow this event, then you can do so via the tournament website. As the time zones for the US aren't great for Australia, it is probably better to catch the end of the round (which normally has a few games running at 7am local time), than stay up for the start.

A sense of danger

"Don't worry, he has no idea about king safety". This was a quote from GM Elshan Moradiabadi when preparing the PNG team at the 2018 Olympiad. He was talking about one of our opponents, but he could well have been talking about me. Despite having a number of good results and games recently, I still have a tendency to ignore potential threats against my own king, while pursuing plans of my own.
Of course I'm not the only player guilty of this sin. It is very tempting to treat a game as race, where checkmating your opponent before they checkmate you is a viable strategy. When it works, all is right in the world, but when it goes wrong, it can do so in a big way.

Sukovic,Andrej (2235) - Arutinian,David (2555) [B06]
20th ch-EUR Indiv 2019 Skopje MKD (1.101), 18.03.2019

Wednesday 20 March 2019

No fun in winning

Sometimes I will win a game of chess, and find that I did not really enjoy it. This usually happens when I know I've played a number of awful moves, and it is only a mistake from my opponent that has given me the point.
This happened this evening at my club, where around 40 moves of plan-less play was redeemed by outplaying my opponent in a R+3P ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board.
But the game I will show, is from an earlier round of the same tournament. My opponent went for the king side hack, offering a piece I shouldn't take. Instead I decided I  could take the piece, as I thought I saw how I could defend. However after my opponent played 16.Rh6! I realised I was in a bad way. If he had then played either 18.Rh7+!! (forced mate) or 19.Qh4! (covering g5) I would have resigned in short order, but instead he blundered with 19.Qh2? and the tables were truly turned. I converted the winning ending (and even then failed to calculate the best line), but left the club unsatisfied with the point.

Mayen,Gabriel - Press,Shaun [C55]
University Cup, 05.03.2019

Monday 18 March 2019

Are looks deceiving?

Have a look at the game below, after White has played his 15th move. A similar position to this occurred at Street Chess on Saturday, and at first glance I just assumed White had a big advantage. (NB I cannot recall which White rook was on d1, so White's 14th move may have been Raxd1). With the bishop well posted on f3, and being the first to get to the d file, all I could see was White using the initiative to win the game (and in the game on Saturday, this is what happened).
So I am a little surprised that Black won the game given here. Of course the black pieces were being handled by GM Gawain Jones, and he did out rate his opponent by a significant amount, but White should at least hold this. Playing though the game a few times (with the engine off) I suspect that White was a little eager to swap pieces off (especially the bishops), until it reached a point (on move 31) when the final rook exchange left White with a lost pawn ending.
If there is a lesson to be had here, maybe it is that if you look like you have an advantage, keep the pieces that give you the advantage!

Storey,Charles (2268) - Jones,Gawain C (2549) [B73]
Coulsdon Jessie Gilbert Coulsdon (10), 25.08.2008

Saturday 16 March 2019

The last writers left?

One of the duties I usually perform when arbiting small events (less than 20 boards), is to produce a game file. Normally there is enough time during the following round to type in the majority of games, and by the end of the event I usually have around 80% of the games ready for download.
But this has become more challenging over the last couple of years. One of the main reasons is that players either submit unreadable scoresheets, or ones that have illegal or ambiguous moves. As frustrating as this is, it occurred to me that as an activity, competition chess requires a skill that is no longer in fashion. That is, chess is one of the few activities where people are actually required to write. Most office jobs now involve typing things, and when something needs to be written down, it is often as a personal note or brief message. In fact the only other place where I come across a lot of handwriting is in the education sector (especially exams and quizzes), and recently marked a number of quiz papers, the quality of submissions is equally mixed.
As an example, here is a scoresheet I took a copy of from the recent ACT Championships. I have cropped the names to protect the guilty, but as yet, I have not been successful in deciphering most of the moves.
(BTW I have put some games from this event up at but there is still a lot of work to do)

Friday 15 March 2019

A book so nice they named it twice

Taking advantage of an online book sale a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had picked up a bargain when i spotted David Bronstein's "The Chess Struggle in Practice". I'd seen a few people mention it as one of the classics, so buying it for $2 seemed like a great deal.
Alas, when it arrived I realised I had purchased a book I already owned. Bronstein's classic is also known as "Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953" and I already had a copy sitting on my shelf. Nonetheless, I won't be getting rid of my newer copy, as there are a few formatting differences that make it worth keeping. And as a book, it is probably worth reading twice, once in algebraic, and once in descriptive!

Taimanov,Mark E - Petrosian,Tigran V [E58]
Candidates Tournament Zuerich (20), 06.10.1953

Thursday 14 March 2019

Where would we be without satnav?

I find it interesting going through my own games from the pre-computer age of chess. It certainly shows me that I wasn't very good when I started playing seriously, but it also reveals that I wasn't that great at analysis either.
There are more than a few games where I've kind of remember playing well, but after putting it through a modern engine, I've realised that it was more a question of "who makes the second last mistake" that decides the outcome. 
The game I've chosen to show this was not in fact my first (or second choice). However, those games turned out to be true blunder fests (including missed forced mates from my opponents), leaving me with this relatively tame example. There were a couple of opportunities for me to gain the upper hand (14.fxe6! and 18.Bxd5!) but the real mistake for my opponent was 22...Nf5. This allowed me to capture on d5, and get the tactics working in my favour. Fortunately there were no big mistakes after that (although I did miss a line leading to a quicker checkmate).

Press,Shaun - Cohen,Stan [B23]
Doeberl Cup (7), 04.04.1988

Repeating History

The recently completed Batavia GM tournament in Amsterdam tried a new approach to scoring. Before the main game in each round the layers played a blitz match, which was then used to allocate points in case the main game was drawn. The winner of the main game scored 2 points, but in the case of a draw, the winner of the blitz match scored 1 point, but the loser only received 0.5 of a point. 
Whether it changed how the tournament was played I'm not sure, but from the score table, it looked as though there were a lot of decisive games. The added bonus was that there were a number of entertaining blitz games as well. The most noticeable was John Van Der Wiel getting mated on move 15, in a game that has been played a couple of times previously.

Van Der Wiel,John - Warmerdam,Max [C45]
Batavia Blitz, 03.2019

Monday 11 March 2019

2019 ACT Championship - Kethro completes Triple Crown

FM Michael Kethro is the 2019 ACT Chess Champion after finishing with a perfect 7 wins from 7 games. In today's final two rounds he started with a win over Victor Braguine, before beating Brian Butler in the final round. He finished a point and  half against Sankeerten Badrinarayan, who had the unsettling experience of playing his younger brother in the final round (the game ended in a draw). Tied for third were Glenn Ingham and unrated player Darryl Chen. The Under 1500 prize was shared between Paul Dunn and Dexuan Kong, while Velsami Karthick and Ken Zhang winning the Unrated prize (Chen taking a share of third place instead).
The win by Kethro also means he now holds all three ACT Championship titles, winning the Rapidplay in December 2018 and the Blitz in January 2019. This is possibly the first time this as happened, although IM Junta Ikeda may have also achieved the feat in a previous year.
Full results from the tournament  and games from the top 4 boards can be found here.

Sunday 10 March 2019

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 3

With two rounds left to play, FM Michael Kethro holds a full point lead in the 2019 ACT Chess Championship. Kethro defeated Sankeertan Badrinrayan in a fairly wild round 4 game, before scoring a quick win over Tim Pearce. Pearce, who only lost this game, shares second place with Badrinarayan and Victor Braguine.
Round 5 saw a number of interesting finishes, including Matt Radisich playing a nice combination that left him a rook up. Unfortunately his opponents next move  left him in a mating net and resigned immediately. This wasn't the only tragic finish, with another game ending in stalemate in a K v KRBP ending.
Round 6 starts at 10am tomorrow, with the final round starting at 2:30pm. Tournament results and live game links can be found at

Kethro, Michael -Badrinarayan, Sankeertan
2019 ACT Chess Championship

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 2

Three players are still tied for first place after the third round of the ACT Chess Championship. Tournament favourite FM Michael Kethro is one of those players, after winning a long game against Pertti Sirkka. He is joined by Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Tim Pearce, the latter beating Victor Braguine in a game where Pearce's attack on the kingside proved more effective than Braguine's play on the queenside.
Close behind them on 2.5 is unrated player Darryl Chan. A former junior player from Sydney, Chan scored an upset win over Yizhen Diao in round 1, and followed this up with a draw and a win. In round 4 he plays Pearce, while Kethro and Badrinarayan meet on the top board.
All the action begins at 10am and can be followed at

Saturday 9 March 2019

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 1

The 2019 ACT Chess Championship is underway, attracting a field of 34 players. This seems to be the magic number for this event, as the last few years has seen similarly sized fields.
Top seed in the tournament is FM Michael Kethro, and he was made to work for his point by Erik Jochimsen. Eventually a favourable ending for Kethro was reached and he was able to convert by running Jochimsen out of moves. One of the more exciting games of the tournament was between Victor Braguine and Kamrin Aliyev on board 3. Aliyev had a stronger position, while Braguine had greater attacking chances. In time trouble Aliyev missed Braguines attacking plan and was forced to resign when faced with unstoppable mate.
There were a couple of upsets on the lower boards with Darryl Chan beating Yizhen Diao, and junior player Fahim Vidyattama drawing with veteran Bill Egan.
Tomorrows round begins at 10am and games from the top 4 boards are being broadcast live. All the results, pairings and live links can be found at

Thursday 7 March 2019

How to ruin chess sets

Despite enjoying Transfer Chess (or Bughouse) when I was younger, I do have an aversion to the game these days. My main complaint is that it makes sorting out chess sets for the next competition/lesson/club night a chore. So I have mixed feelings about sharing the following chess variant with you.
From the 1866 edition of "The Chess Player's Magazine", a multiplayer variant is described, which has some similarities to Transfer Chess. Two players are chosen as Captains for each team. They then take turns picking from the remaining players to form the teams (so each team size is half the number of players). The boards are then laid out in a line, with one tea, having White on all boards, and the other team having Black. Each match is played as normal, but when one side wins a game, the team captain can take all the pieces left on the board from the winning side of that game (except the King), and distribute them to the other games in progress. The only restrictions are that a side cannot be reinforced above it's initial holdings (eg a second queen cannot be given to player who still has hers), and that the pieces must be placed on their starting squares (eg rooks on a1 or h1, pawns on the second rank). Pieces must be placed on empty squares, so if d1 is occupied, then the queen cannot be added to that game. (NB This implies that reinforcements must be placed immediately) Pieces can be given to one player, or across multiple games. As an added bonus, a winning player can also be used as a substitute, replacing another player whose game is still in progress. If the captain of a team loses a game, she is replaced by the player first picked etc
As I've never heard of this variant before, I'm assuming it didn't catch on. However, it could be fun for a club's end of season function or something to keep kids amused. After a certain point I'm also guessing the balance is going to tilt in one sides favour, as the reinforcements will create wins, which will create reinforcements etc

Wednesday 6 March 2019

World Teams Championship

The 2019 World Teams Championship began last night in Astana. This event brings together the best teams from every continent (Asia, Europe, Americas and Africa) as well as the topped placed teams from the Olympiad. Ten teams are in each section (Open and Women's) and it is a 9 round round robin, scored on match points.
The first round saw a couple of big wins for India and China. They each scored 3.5/4 with Sweden and Azerbaijan being their respective victims. In the Inda-Sweden match, there were a couple of nice attacking wins, including this one by SS Ganguly.

Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2633) - Smith,Axel (2487) [C77]
12th World Teams 2019 Astana KAZ (1.3), 05.03.2019

Monday 4 March 2019

Double Exclam

One thing noticeable in looking at very old chess books and publications, is the absence of what is now familiar punctuation. No ! or ? moves, just wordier comments ('good move', or 'shocking mistake'). Even + for check took a long time to come into vogue.
According to William Edward Winter's "Chess Notes", the first sighting of ! (or in this case !!) occurred in 1874 in "The Westminster Papers". It was included in the notes to the following game, although it's use may not have been intentional.
The game itself is not that high quality, and soon Black finds himself up a rook. (As an aside it is actually very similar to the game I published yesterday). But White chooses not to resign, and eventually Black catches the king in a mating net. However at  move 33 Black misses a mate in one. In the comments, Zukertort states "We prefer 33 R to K7 mate !!". Given that !! usually points to a brilliant and hard to find move, I suspect the exclamation marks here are for dramatic effect, rather than a comment on the quality of the move.

Madan,Mr - Keynes,Mr [C50]
Oxford-Cambridge, 1874

Sunday 3 March 2019

Pin and Win

"Pin and win" is a fairly common piece of advice given to young players. And when it works, the game can be over quite quickly. Here is an example from a junior event I was directing today.

Pinned - Winned [C50]

One pig!

The title of this post refers to a joke that will never be published on this blog! But the gist of it is that for all the good thing you do, it is the one bad thing that will be remembered.
Fabiano Caruana took on Pentala Harikrishna in the St Louis Champions Showdown. Over the 12 rapid and 24 blitz games, Caruana was pretty dominant, winning 35.5-12.5 (rapid counting for double points). But the game everyone remembers is the one given below. It was blitz game number 20, and faced with what looked like inevitable mate, Caruana resigned. Only then was it pointed out that Caruana had missed the winning 62.Qb4+ And long after the score of this match is forgotten, I'm pretty sure this game will be well remembered.

Caruana,F (2828) - Harikrishna,P (2726) [C77]
Champions Showdown Blitz Saint Louis USA (20.1), 24.02.2019