Tuesday 30 April 2019

2019 Grenke - Carlsen dominates

Following up from his decisive win at the 2019 Shamkir event, Magnus Carlsen continued his hot run of form by winning the 2019 Grenke Chess Classic with 7.5/9. He finished 1.5 points ahead of Fabiano Caruana, and pushed his rating up to 2875, which is getting close to his highest ever rating (2882 in 2014). After starting the tournament with 2 wins, he drew the next 3 games before finishing with 4 straight wins. While the game against Svidler is probably the most interesting (Svidler allowed Carlsen to mate him with a pawn!) his final round game is a fantastic example of accurate calculation and moving from one advantage to another.

Carlsen,Magnus (2845) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2773) [A37]
GRENKE Chess Classic 2019 Karlsruhe/Baden Baden GER (9.3), 29.04.2019

Sunday 28 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open - Win for Song

FM Raymond Song improved on his second place finish at last weeks O2C Doeberl Cup by finishing equal first in the 2019 Sydney International Open. He finished on 7/9 to tie with WGM Padmini Rout, taking the cup on count back.
He faced GM Daniel Fernandez in the final round and at one point had a winning advantage in a rook and pawn ending. However the choice of the wrong plan allowed Fernandez back into the game, and the game ended in a 68 move draw. Rout then caught Song, beating IM Junta Ikeda in a nice attacking game. GM Abhijit Kunte was outright equal third on 6.5/9 (alongside GM Daniel Fernandez), drawing with GM Darryl Johansen in the final round.
Junior player Jack Keating won the Challengers with a very impressive 8/9. Seeded 46th(!) he won 7 games and drew 2, to finsh a full point ahead of Adrian Chek.
The relaunched Sydney International Open and Challengers, proved a great success. Hosted by Macquarie University as part of the Macquarie University Chess Festival, the 4 festival events (Open, Challengers, Junior Rapidplay and Blitz) attracted 260 players over the 6 days. The organisers (including me) were happy with both the numbers and the tournament finances, and are looking forward to holding it again in 2020.

Johansen,Darryl - O'Chee,Kevin [D37]
Sydney International Open (8), 28.04.2019

Saturday 27 April 2019

Why would you?

A few years ago this happened at Street Chess ("Stolen laptop halts play"). Sadly a new criminal has struck, stealing a bag of DGT clocks. Once again it was a crime of opportunity, and occurred while other equipment was being transported to the playing area. Fortunately we had a backup system (old analog clocks), so the show did go on, albeit with the tick tick tick of past millenia.
What anyone would do with stolen digital chess clocks (apart from play chess) is a good question. Not the easiest gear in the world to fence, so the belief for now is that they have ended up in a convenient garbage hopper.

Thursday 25 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open - Day 2

FM Raymond Song is continuing his impressive form, leading the 2019 SIO with 4/4. He scored his second win in a week over WGM Padimi Rout, this time with an early piece sacrifice, which while not giving him an immediate reward, gave him enough pawns to win the ending. Half a point behind are GM Abhijit Kunte, IM Junta Ikeda, GM Daniel Fernandez, FM Jack Puccini and FM Daniel Gong. Round 5 sees Song against Kunte and once again, a win for Song (or even a draw) will put him on track for at least an IM norm.
Round 5 starts at Noon, with Round 6 at 6 pm. There will be live commentary at the venue by GM Ian Rogers, while you can follow the games online at chess24.com

The e pawn then the d pawn

Some opening advice I read when younger was "if you start with e4 then your aim is to play d4. If you start with d4 then your aim is to play e4". A bit simplistic of course, but when it works, it works!

Kunte,Abhijit - Steadman,Michael [E65]
Sydney International Open (2), 24.04.2019

Wednesday 24 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open

The 2019 Sydney International Open, which is part of the Macquarie University Chess Festival, has just started. The returning event (which previously ran up until 2014) has attracted over 170 players across the 3 events. The top tournament has 60+ players, while the Peter Parr Memorial Challengers has more than 70 players taking part.
GM Abhijit Kunte is the top seed, followed by English GM Daniel Fernandez. Another player looking to do well is FM Raymod Song, who is hoping for a second IM or GM norm, following on from his outstanding performance at the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup.
The tournament runs for the next 5 days (until Sunday), with rounds at 12 noon and 6pm. There is also a junior tournament taking place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and eligible players can still enter that event.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 5

GM Hrant Melkumyan has won the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup with an impressive 7.5/9. He lead FM Raymond Song by half a point going into the final round, and they were paired together on the top board. After a combative game, which saw Melkumyan sacrifice a couple of pawns, a repetition left the top two standings unchanged. Song finished outright second, and collected a GM norm as well. A quick draw on board 2 between GM Abhijit Kunte and IM Igor Bjelobrk meant Kunte finished in a tie for third, along with GM Anton Smirnov (who beat GM Darryl Johansen) and GM Deep Sengupta (who beat IM Junta Ikeda).
The Major was won by Jaime Frias who scored 6.5/7. A full point behind were Vladimir Chugunov, Zhiyuan Shen and Anthony Fikh. The Minor finished in a tie between Jordan Brown and Jason Pan, with Brown winning the first place trophy on countback.
The tournament attracted 254 players across the 4 sections, as well as another 114 players in the Blitz event. The organisers were happy with both the numbers and the overall event. There were no major disputes and the tournament ran smoothly across the entire 5 days.

Song,Raymond (2329) - Padmini,Rout (2364)
2019 O2C Doeberl Cup Premier Canberra, Australia (7.3), 21.04.2019

Monday 22 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

After 8 rounds of the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup there are now only two players who can take first place. GM Hrant Melkumyan won both his games yesterday to maintain his tournament lead. He is on 7/8, half a point ahead of FM Raymond Song, who also scored two wins.
Song started the day with a very quick win over WGM Padmini Rout, and followed it up by beating IM Trevor Tao. Not only did these wins keep him in contention for first place, but also earned him a GM norm, as even a final round loss would leave his TPR above 2600.
Fittingly, the board 1 pairing for the final round has Melkumyan against Song, and with the pressure off Song in terms of his title norms, an interesting battle is expected. 
GM Abhijit Kunte finished the day in outright third on 6/8, but has already drawn his final round game with IM Igor Bjelobrk. The draw caps a good tournament performance for Bjelobrk, but a first round bye for Igor meant there were no title norm opportunities for him.
The Major is set for a close finish with Jaime Frias and Zhiyaun Shen on 5.5/6. They drew in round 6, and are therefore watching both their own moves, and moves on the other boards in the final round. The Minor is even closer, with 5 players tied for first on 5/6. In this case 4 of the leading players are paired against each other, but a tie for first is the most likely outcome.

Sunday 21 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

GM Hrant Melkumyan is the outright leader of the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup after 6 rounds. Melkumyan was the only leading player to win both his games on the third day, and he now holds a half point lead over the 5 players who share second place.
Melkumyan started the day with a win over IM George Xie in round 5, and defeated GM Darryl Johansen in round 6. Xie had a shocker of a day on Saturday, losing to Melkumyan, and then being defaulted in round 6 after 15 moves, when it was discovered he was carrying his mobile phone in his pocket. While the phone was switched off (this being checked by the arbiting team), this is still ground for an instant loss. Xie accepted this ruling, but then decided that as the loss left him with little chance of winning a prize, he would withdraw from the event.
Round 7 sees Melkumyan versus GM Anton Smirnov on board 1, with GM Deep Sengupta v IM Igor Bjelobrk on board 2 and FM Raymond Song v WGM Padmini Rout on the third board. Song drew both his games yesterday, but is still on track for a GM norm.
Last night also saw the 2019 Doeberl Cup Blitz event, with 114 players taking part. Tom Maguire won the tournament with 8/9, ahead of Fred Litchfield and Sravan Renjith on 7.5.

Saturday 20 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The second day of any Doeberl Cup is when the tournament really kicks into gear. All 4 events (Premier, Major, Minor and Mini) are running simultaneously, which means over 250 players all gathered in the one room. In past years this has resulted in some organisational headaches, but this year everything is running much more smoothly.
The Premier is of course the main focus of the weekend, and adter 4 rounds there is a 5 way tie for first. WGM Padami Rout, GM Deep Sengupta, FM Raymond Song, GM Anton Smirnov and GM Darryl Johansen are all on 3.5/4. The standout performance from this group is FM Raymond Song, who is already well placed for both an IM and GM norm. His current TPR is just above 2700 and more importantly, he has already played the right mix of titled and overseas players. He is playing GM Anton Smirnov in the 5th round, and a win or draw would leave him well placed for the rest of the event.
There are a number of strong players still with a chance on 3 points, including top seed Hrant Melkumyan. Melkumyan was held to a draw in round 3 by young FM Jack Puccini, but returned to the winners list in round 4, beating Canberra junior Albert Winkelman. One other player of interest on 3 points is FM Jason Hu, who won his 4th round game against IM Stephen Solomon.
The Major and Minor got of to their predictable starts, with a large number of upsets on the top boards. The top 4 seeds in the Major scored a combined 50% against there lower rated opponents, while the top 10 seeds in the Minor did a little better, scoring 60%.
Tonight is the traditional Doeberl Lightning, which starts at 7pm. This event will be FIDE rated for the first time, and organisers expect around 100 players for the 9 round event.

Friday 19 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup is underway, with the first day seeing the players from the Premier in action. The slightly smaller field in the Premier resulted in the first days play being a little tougher for the top seeds than in previous years. While round 1 saw very few upsets, the second round saw draws on 3 of the top 4 boards, and only 1 of the top six seeds finishing the day on 2/2.
In the last game of the night to finish, IM Gary Lane resisted the temptation to grab pawns in the ending to draw with top seed GM Hrant Melkumyan.  FM Raymond Song looked better against GM Deep Sengupta on board 3, but Sengupta found the draw in the always tricky Q v Q and Rook pawn ending. GM Anton Smirnov won a knight v bishop ending against IM Stephen Solomon, while FM Jack Puccini upset IM Junta Ikeda in one of the more interesting games of the evening.
Smirnov is part of the leading group on 2 points, along with IM Brodie McClymont, Puccini, IM Padami Rout, GM Darryl Johansen,  IM George Xie, and IM Trevor Tao.
The day got off to a slightly worrying start, when the organising team arrived at the venue to find no tables. A mix up in communication meant a delayed delivery, and a slightly rushed set up. Nonetheless the tournament was started on time, with all but one player present (an overseas IM failed to arrive). Fortunately we were ale to call on the services of 'super sub' IM Vladimir Smirnov, to avoid a first round forfeit in the affected pairing.
Today sees the start of all the other events.With a few last minute entries, the total size of the event is a little over 250 players, which is a good turnout, considering the drop in number for the Premier. All the tournament results and pairings can be found at www.doeberlcup.com.au There is live coverage of the Premier at chess24.com or and you can follow the link to there from the tournament website. You can see the top games from the boards via the same link, noting that the round 1 games are incomplete at the moment.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

From Doeberl Cup's past

GM Hrant Melkumyan first played in the Doeberl in 2014, and has gone close to winning it on a couple of occasions. This year he is the top seed and rating favourite to win the tournament. But as past years have shown, it isn't an easy tournament to win, as one misstep can prove fatal.
In 2016 Melkumyan was close to winning, but it turned out to be IM James Morris's year. However he did have the satisfaction in beating fellow GM (and regular Doeberl visitor) SS Ganguly.

Melkumyan,Hrant (2653) - Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2646) [E21]
Doeberl Cup 54th Canberra (5), 26.03.2016

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Getting ready

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup is only a couple of days away, and everything is almost read for a long weekend of chess. With 1 day to go before entries close, there are 245 players registered, a small increase over last year. Numbers are up across all events, except for the Premier, which has only 51 players entered so far.
Armenian GM Hrant Melkumyan is the top seed, with Australian GM Anton Smirnov seeded second. Third seed is GM Deep Sengupta (IND), who has just finished equal first in the 2019 Bangkok Open.
If you wish to watch the action in person, the venue is the Southern Cross Club in Woden, ACT. The venue is quite large so spectators will have the opportunity to see all the action up close. GM Ian Rogers will also be doing live coverage of the tournament at the venue. This normally starts about an hour after the round begins, and runs until the top games for the round have been completed.
The tournament will also be broadcasting the top board games via Chess24. Visit the https://www.doeberlcup.com.au for all the links to the coverage, as well as results and information about round times etc.

Monday 15 April 2019

2019 Bangkok Open

GM Jan Gustafsson has won the 2019 Bangkok Open, on tie break over GM Deep Sengupta. Both players finished on 7.5/9, but Gustafsson won the first place trophy by virtue of a slightly better tie break. Australian GM Zong Yuan Zhao finished in a tie for 3rd on 7, while GM Moulthun Ly finished a further half point back.
Sengupta's result augers well for his continued journey to Australia, where he is playing in next weeks O2C Doeberl Cup. He will be joined by GM Abhijit Kunte, who's final round loss to Zhao left him on 6 points. However Kunte is unlikely to face Zhao at the Doeberl as Zhao (and Ly) have not entered their 'home' event at this stage.

Gustafsson,Jan (2633) - Duong,The Anh (2302)
19th Bangkok Chess Club Open 2019 Centara Grand Ladprao Hotel, B (8.1), 13.04.2019

Sunday 14 April 2019

Scannable Scoresheets

If you are looking for an easier way to do game entry, a solution may be at hand. https://www.reinechess.com/ is providing a test service which allows scoresheets to be scanned, and pgn files produced. It does involve the use of specially formatted scoresheets (and neat handwriting), but unlike other solutions I have seen, the requirements are not that onerous.
The system is web based, but importantly, it is an open source project (with the code on Github), so it can be reconfigured if necessary.  To install your own version requires some technical knowledge (it is written in python and uses the flask framework) but if you are into image and text processing it looks like something worth exploring.

Friday 12 April 2019

Philidors Legacy

I did not collect many games from the 2019 Dubbo Open, which is a bit of a shame as there were some quite interesting efforts. One game I did get involved one of the classic mating patterns, Philidors Legacy. At the time I had the impression that White was unaware of what was coming, as he would have taken on f2, and probably lost more slowly. Fortunately for 'miniature' fans he did not.

Chippendale,Matthew - Chibnall,Alana [A03]
Dubbo 2019

Thursday 11 April 2019

Some harsh words

Up until a certain point we have our own 'pet' opening systems. The one true opening that will defeat all that dare challenge us. For me it is the Traxler. For a lot of other players it is the Morra Gambit in the Sicilian. But to quote Mike Tyson "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth".
GM Nigel Short was recently on the black side of a Morra, and took it apart pretty effectively. While the KO was delivered on move 22, the 'punch in the mouth' came a fair bit earlier. Then, after the game Short took to twitter to express his disdain for the whole opening system.

Langreck,John (2203) - Short,Nigel D (2636)
19th Bangkok Chess Club Open 2019 Centara Grand Ladprao Hotel, B (4.8), 09.04.2019

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Playing against type

What do you do when you feel you are no longer improving? One idea is to study something that is the complete opposite of what you have been working on up until now. The reasoning behind this is to find big improvement in new areas, rather than small improvement in something you already know.
Certainly this seems to be working for me at the moment, as I am studying some of the positional classics from the 1920's and 30's. But rather than show one my my imperfect games, I'm choosing a game from someone who seems to be going in the other direction.
In recent years Magnus Carlsen has been content to target small weaknesses in his opponents position, and then grind out a win. However this strategy ran into a brick wall during his World Championship Match against Fabiano Caruana. Possibly as a reaction to this, he has played more dynamic chess at the Gashimov Memorial, and has been reqraded with another strong tournament performance. The stand out game from this event was the following attacking win over Anish Giri. It is worth pointing out that Giri himself also played an atypical game, taking the pawn on e3, and allowing Carlsen to launch a strong, and eventually winning attack.

Carlsen,M (2845) - Giri,A (2797) [A29]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2019 Shamkir AZE (7), 07.04.2019

Sunday 7 April 2019

2019 Dubbo Open - Day 2

GM Darryl Johansen has won the 2019 Dubbo Open, finishing on 5.5/6. Starting the day on 3/3 Johansen defeated newcomer Blake Lynch in round 4, drew with CM Leon Kempen in round 5, before beating WFM Alana Chibnall in the final round. Leon Kempen had a chance to join Johansen in first place, but drew his final round game, to finish outright second on 5. There was a 5 way tie for third between Trevor Bemrose, Matt Radisich, Paul Russell, Dominic Fox and Andriy Bukreyev.
Local junior Eamonn Fitzgerald picked up the best junior prize, while John Pascoe and Chris Nadolny tied for Best Under 1400. Apart from the prize winners, good performances were recorded by tournament newcomers Blake Lynch, Vladimir Chugurov and Matthew Chippendale, all scoring 4/6.
Overall the tournament was a great success, with a good entry of 42 players. As the arbiter, I did not have any major incidents to deal with, although I did have one amusing situation. Two players had medical conditions preventing them from recording their moves, and as fate would have it, they were paired to play each other during the event. I acted as the scribe for the game, which was played at a significantly faster the usual, contained a couple of interesting illegal moves, and ended with a strange double blunder.
Next year is the 20th Dubbo Open, and the organisers are planning to make it a bigger event, both in terms of numbers, and prize money.

2019 Dubbo Open - Day 1

The 2019 Dubbo Open started with a couple of surprises. The first one was the appearance of GM Darryl Johansen as the tournament top seed. Johansen was enjoying a driving holiday in country NSW and decided to drop in and play.
The second surprise was  the number of first round upsets, with 6 of the 20 games going the 'wrong way'.
This in part was due to a number of unrated player who turned out to be better than normal beginners. In fact two of the players, Blake Lynch and Vladimir Chugunov finished the first day with 3 from 3, and share the lead with Johansen and Leon Kempen.
Half a point behind the leaders are Andriy Bukreyev, Alana Chibnall and Trevor Bemrose. Chibnall was held to a draw by unrated Bukreyev and plays Bemrose in tomorrow mornings round.
The tournament organisers are pleased with the turnout of 42 players, which is a 33% increase over previous years. While Johansen is heavily favoured to win, there is still a battle for the minor places. Full tournament results and standings can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/dubbo2019/www2019DubboOpen/

Friday 5 April 2019

The five hour limit

The 2019 Dubbo Open starts tomorrow, and there is a reasonably large contingent of players from Canberra attending. Taking into account meal breaks and other contingencies, the travel time between the two cities is around 5 hours by car. Based on nothing more than experience, 5 hours travel seems to be at the upper end of how long players are willing to spend traveling to an event.
This not only applies to travel by car, but also via other means. For example, there are a massive number of Indian players taking part in the 2019 Dubai Open, which involves flight time of around 3 to 4 hours. On the other hand, when trying to attract Indian players to events in Australia, the long travel time was often given as a reason for the lack of interest.
Of course some events are too good to pass up (Zonals, Olympiads etc), but for the casual player too much travel time is one obstacle that is hard to overcome.

Too quick on the trigger

One of the things I have noticed about teaching younger players, is that they wish to play the first move they think of. It is a hard habit to get them out of, especially when I am sometimes guilty of the same offence. An example of this is a game I played the other night at Belconnen Chess Club.
After my opponent dropped a pawn due to an hallucination (see move 13), I had a much better position. Choosing to simplify to a better ending, I left the c pawn hanging due to the bishop fork on e4. But, if I had slowed down a bit and looked at *all* checks and captures I would have found a significantly better move.
While it did not make a difference to the final result, it is still something I would rather not miss, as there will come a time when a quick and lazy move may well cost me the game.

Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C45]
Murphy Memorial, 02.04.2019

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Know when to hold 'em

When my chess career started, all I wanted to do was exchange pieces. This had nothing to do with my endgame technique, but simply as away of prolonging the game, and avoiding quick and brutal checkmates. Of course this strategy didn't improve my win ratio, and it took me a number of years to look beyond automatic captures.
At the current Gashimov Memorial event, Magnus Carlsen created a good example of 'exchanging to win'. Against regular opponent Viswanathan Anand he created a target on the queenside, and then exchanged off the pieces that were not needed to exploit it. He was helped by Anand at some crucial points, especially at move 28 and 29, but once the a pawn was captured it was simply a matter of running Black out of moves.

Carlsen,M (2845) - Anand,V (2779) [D37]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2019 Shamkir AZE (2), 01.04.2019

Monday 1 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open -- 24 to 28 April 2019

If you are planning to maximise your chess in April, don't forget to enter the 2019 Sydney International Open. This resurrected event is running from the 24th to the 28th of April, at Macquarie University in Sydney. Eagle eyed readers will realise the the 25th of April is ANZAC Day in Australia, so it is possible to play 7 of the 9 rounds, even if you have to go back to work (for Sydneysiders of course).
Full details of the event are at http://siochess.com/ while you can enter at this link Checking out the last set of entries, the event is very top heavy with titled players, so if you are looking to gain rating points (or upset a few GM's), no is the time to jump on board. (NB There is a late fee so enter early).

(** I am an unpaid member of the organising committee for this tournament **)