Friday 31 May 2019

Nepo wins GP

Ian Nepomniachtchi is the winner of the first FIDE GP ebent for 2019. He defeated Alexander Grischuk in the final 2.5-15, winning the second Rapid game after their standard games were both drawn.
Looking through the crosstable, I'm not sure the knockout format helped in terms of generating decisive results. Over 60% of the games were drawn, with only 11 wins in standard games (from a total of 30 games).
Of course in making this suggestion, I am aware that these figures aren't necessarily different from other formats that have been tried. On the other hand, the benefit of a KO is that there is a definite winner, rather than having multiple players tied for first.

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2773) - Grischuk,Alexander (2772) [C50]
Moscow FIDE Grand Prix Moscow RUS (4.1), 29.05.2019

Thursday 30 May 2019

The big centre

Having pawns on e4 and d4 is considered advantageous, especially when they aren't being directly challenged. But eventually you do have to do something with them. The following miniature is an example of White using the pawns to gain space, and then material, when Black chooses the wrong move.

Stefansson,Vignir Vatnar (2291) - Leosson,Atli Johann (1790) [D10]
Icelandic Open 2019 Akureyri ISL (1.10), 25.05.2019

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Plus 1, minus 1

Magnus Carlsen has won the Lindores Abbey Stars Rapid event, with a very minimal 3.5/6. He did this by beating Viswanathan Anand, and drawing the rest of his games. The loss by Anand consigned him to last place on 2.5/6, with Sergey Karjakin and Ding Liren tied for 2nd on 3/6. The bottm 3 players all won a single game against each other, but it was the extra loss by Anand that decided the event.

Carlsen,Magnus - Anand,Viswanathan [E48]
Lindores Abbey Stars, 25.05.2019

Sunday 26 May 2019

No draw blitz

I am looking at putting together a small blitz event, as a way of promoting chess in Canberra. The idea is to have 2 x 4 player round robins, with the winners of each group qualifying for a single game final. To make the whole thing work withing a specific time frame, I'm looking at making the following changes ...

Tie break for the RR pools: In case of a tie fir 1st, the lower rated player qualifies

Rules for the final game: No draw offers, no immediate repetitions (like the Ko rule in Go), stalemate is a loss, and bare king is a loss.

The rules for the final are so the whole thing must be decided in a single game. When mentioning to people at Street Chess on Saturday, the 'bare king' rule evoked the most comment, as a position like K+R v K+R is either to be decided on the clock, or the first player to play RxR will win (even if KxR is the legal response)

Saturday 25 May 2019

A roll of the dice

Every now and then you can try and pull off an early swindle, by playing an offbeat opening move. Against a highly rated opponent this may not work, but against other players, "rolling the dice" may pay off.
For example, the line 1.e4 e4 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5?! Qd4 is known to be fine for Black, but if White wishes to gamble, then 6.Qh5!?! could prove a surprise for White. The most common reply is 6...Qxe4+ and while Black gets an edge in this line, they have to tread carefully after 7.Kd1. The better choice is 6...g6 when White can look at playing 7.Qg5 and after 7...Qxe4+ 8.Qe3 hope that Black is so scared of discovered checks that they avoid Qxg2!
Objectively this whole line is unsound, but if you are looking at mixing it up at faster time controls, then there may be something here for the adventurous.

Friday 24 May 2019

Pick a player, almost any player

I enjoy reading game collections of great players, especially if the player themselves is the author. I usually pick a new player every couple of months, and play through the games from books that cover their career. Currently I am looking at a couple of books on Bent Larsen, who was one of the leading players of the 1960's and 70's.
Larsen was one of these players with a 'universal' style, in a similar way to Spassky or Keres. He was also a fan of slightly off beat openings, and famously avoided easy draws with 'chancy' moves, figuring that 2 wins and a loss was always better than 3 drawn games.
He was a 'sharp' player, but his attacks were usually built on solid positional foundations. He played many brilliant games in his career (and was on the other side of a few brilliancies as well), but the one I've chosen to feature is his win over Gligoric from the 1967 Capablanca Memorial.

Gligoric,Svetozar - Larsen,Bent [E43]
Capablanca Memorial Havana (12), 1967

Thursday 23 May 2019


The other day I saw an interesting description of games like chess, in terms of complexity levels. (Apologies as I do not have the link to hand). The author said one of the appealing aspects of chess is that the game starts off at a low complexity level, becomes quite complicated in the middle, but most importantly, returns to low complexity levels by the end.
By this he means that the starting position is well known, as what needs to be done is basically understood by serious players, but the middle game leads to a myriad of differing positions, most of which are unique. By the end though, the goal is to reduce the complexity back to known winning (or drawing positions).
This is a new concept for me, but the author sees this a good thing, not just for chess, but for other board games. Without having vast experience with other board games, I'd guess this may be a goal in designing other games. "Analysis Paralysis" is certainly an issue in some games I have played, which does make them less attractive to me. On the other hand, the attraction of multi-player games is that everyone has a chance of winning (or influencing the result) for far longer than chess (drop a queen and its over!).

Tuesday 21 May 2019

The big set

Good news for Canberra chess players who are wondering when the giant chess set in Garema Place is ever getting used. The ACT Government has decided to put the pieces out during the week, as part of efforts to 'jazz up' Canberra's centre. They will be out from around 8 till 2 each weekday, so if you work in the city, or are just passing through, lunchtime is a good time to have a go.
I plan to pay a visit over the next couple of days, to both take some pictures, and see how popular it is. If it attracts a decent crowd, Street Chess might even think of expanding to a midweek blitz event, if only every couple of weeks.

Monday 20 May 2019


The 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series is underway, with the first event currently taking place in Moscow. Borrowing from tennis, each Grand Prix event will now be played as a knockout, with GP points earned by surviving for as long as possible. To avoid one of the defects of chess knock-out events, players who win without going to playoff games earn more points than players who do.
Each of the 4 events has the same field, with the top two finishers qualifying for the Candidates Series. Already there have been a couple of high profile casualties in the first tournament with Lev Aronian, and Anish Giri being knocked out in the first round. 
Live coverage of the event is at the tournament website, with rounds starting at 10pm Canberra time.

Saturday 18 May 2019

Look before you leap

There is a difference between an 'active' sacrifice and a 'passive' one. It is harder to decline and active one, than it is to decline one where a piece is left en-pris. As an example, here is a tap in the Sicilian, which I pulled off today. Leaving my queen en-pris was the best move, but capturing was not. After the sequence of captures I was a piece ahead, as I had hoped. But if my opponent hadn't been so  greedy  (and captured the knight instead), I would have the better game, but not by as much as a piece.

Press, Shaun - Black
Street Chess, 18.05.2019

Thursday 16 May 2019

That Ed Sheeren moment

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov has engaged in a bit of 'celebrity cameo' by turning up for one game in the Russian Teams Championship. Representing Sverdlovsk he played GM Matlakov in a game that ended in a somewhat curious draw. Karpov won/ Matlakov sacrificed a piece on move 18, but Matlakov then took the available draw by repetition. What was odd about this was that the position was repeated 5 times, which indicates that the players were avoiding the wrath of the arbiters for agreeing to a draw before move 30.

Karpov,Ana (2616) - Matlakov,M (2697) [E32]
TCh-RUS Premier 2019 Sochi RUS (7.5), 08.05.2019

Wednesday 15 May 2019

(Another) short shameful confession

I've had a good start to the year in terms of my chess, having been undefeated at long time control in 2019. Trying to work out how long this streak was, I went back through my database to see when I last lost. It was then I discovered I had been doing something naughty for the last few years. Even though I lost more than a few games last year (at the ANU Open for example), these games are missing from my DB. I seem to have fallen into the habit of 'forgetting' to enter my losses, so my record looks a lot better than it really is.
Sifting my way through the games it looks as though my last loss in the DB is from 2017, and I posted about it here.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

The Scotch Game

In one of my early opening books I read that the name of the well know opening 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 was historically incorrect. The opening is of course the Scotch Game, so named because it was played by the Edinburgh Chess Club against the London Chess Club in a Correspondence Chess Match. The author argued that in this case it should really be the Scottish Game, as Scotch referred to the whiskey, and not the country.
Due to an interesting marketing campaign, there may be a chance to repair this historical error. The Lindores Abbey Distillery is hosting a 4 player rapid event towards the end of the month. It will feature Carlsen, Anand,  Ding and a 4th player to be named. It will be held at the distillery, and so, if one of the players actually plays the Scotch Opening (possibly inspired by the local product), it may then rightfully claim the name.
Sadly for me (and many others) the Perth the distillery is near is the one in Scotland (not Australia), and so I will have to follow it online. For the lucky locals, tickets are an incredibly cheap 20 pounds(!), although the space is only limited to 70 spectators.

Saturday 11 May 2019

Mongo only pawn in game of life

I have mentioned "Blazing Saddles" in the context of chess before, but I'd thought I'd throw in another mention, as it was on my TV again yesterday. And as an added Mel Brooks bonus, it was preceded by "Young Frankenstein", which while not having as many chess scenes, is still incredibly funny.

Friday 10 May 2019

King safety first

Normally when we draw up a list of "things that are important" material is at the top of the list. Then things like pawn structure, open lines, and king safety. But in reality the first item on the list should be king safety.
One reason king safety gets overlooked as it is a little harder to quantify than a count of material. Another is that having an unsafe king isn't always a loss, while being down material (without other compensation) usually is.
However, as your opponents get better, leaving your king open to attack will result in more losses. An example of this is in this recent game from the Capablanca Memorial, where Blacks failure to castle in a timely manner is drastically punished.

Adhiban,Baskaran (2701) - Albornoz Cabrera,Carlos Daniel (2566) [A17]
54th Capablanca Mem Elite Havana CUB (2.2), 04.05.2019

Thursday 9 May 2019

There are exceptions

Black to play
While rules can get us pretty far in chess, there are always exceptions we need to be aware of. In the diagrammed position White assumed he had an easy win, which resulted in him dropping half a point.
In the position is is Black's move. White's idea was to create a passed pawn on the Queenside after b4-b5 and then clean up the kingside pawns. However the plan unravelled after 1. ... f3+ (exchanging on g3 does lose for Black) 2.Kd2 Kd4 3.b4 Kc4 4.b5 axb At this point White went in to a deep think, as he realised that his original plan goes badly wrong after 5.axb Kxb5 6.Ke3 Kc4 7.Kf4?? Kd3 8.Kxg4 Ke2 and Black will promote well ahead of White. So instead he bailed out with 6.Kd3 Kb4 7.Kd4 Kb3 and a draw was agreed.
There is a slightly trickier line that White might have tried 5.a5 Kc5 6.Kc3 but after 6. ... b4+ 7.Kb3 Kb5 8.a6 Kxa6 9.Kxb4 Black will still be able to get to e2 if White goes after the g4 pawn.
If White wanted to try for a win it turns out he has to break the "push the potential passed pawn" rule that often applies. Instead of 3.b4, 3.a5! is the winning move. White then pushes the Black king far enough back on the queenside so that when the exchange on b5 happens, the king cannot get back to e2 in time.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

2019 4NCL Final Weekend

The incredibly popular 4NCL teams championship has just finished the 2019/19 season, and while the final outcome wasn't a surprise (Guildford win again!), there were still some results of note. The rise of the Isle of Manx team continues, and they finished second, edging out Cheddleton on game points. White Rose finished in 4th place, just edging out the second Guildford team, again on Game points.
In the 'relegation' section Celtic Tigers (managed by Chris Skulte) managed to avoid the drop with a last round victory, keeping them in the top 4 of the section. Understandably pleased with staying in the top flight, Chris even sent me one of his games from the weekend.

Skulte,Christopher (2140) - MacQueen,Calum (2237)
4NCL Division 1d Telford, ENG (10.57), 05.05.2019

Monday 6 May 2019

Secrets of Opening Shockers

New in Chess have a series of books called Secrets of Opening Surprises. If I remember correctly one of the SOS chapters dealt with 3.Bd3 in the French. It was given as a 'not so bad' variation that could unsettle your opponent.
Whether the player with the white pieces in the following game had read about Bd3 in SOS I cannot say. But if he did, he may have wanted to read a few more pages before wheeling it out.

Bergin,Cian (1512) - Farrelly,Eoin (1644) [C00]
Irish International Open Dublin IRL (7.41), 21.04.2019

Do as I say ...

I ended up in a slightly awkward position at Street Chess yesterday. Apart from providing regular competition to Canberra's serious players it also provides a bit of free coaching and advice to people interested in starting competition chess.
Sometime I am the person providing the coaching, and my coaching method usually involves talking quite a lot. So I was playing a friendly game against a new player, and offering encouraging advice as I went along. I'd picked up a piece early, and was using this to increase my material advantage. I had even got to the point where I had a rook and a bishop, while my opponent only had a few pawns. I was halfway through explaining that more experienced players don't always go for the quick checkmate, but are happy to collect material before finishing the game off, when he quietly said to me "I think you've stalemated me". While I had been happily chatting away, he had moved his king up the board in such a way as it had no retreat, and with his remaining pawns immobilised, he had absolutely no moves at all!

Friday 3 May 2019

A quick promotion

It is quite possible I have managed to sneak a pawn to the other end of the board quicker than this, but I'm not sure if I have done so in a CC game. Usually I am on the White side of the BDG, but this was a thematic event where I had to play both White and Black. Possibly my opponent was hoping I would play Qb4 instead of Qg4, but after queens came off, the fight seemed to go out of him.

RonBurgundy - Press,Shaun [D00]
BDG Thematic

Thursday 2 May 2019

I know that you know, but do you know that I know that you know?

I thought I had come across an interesting trap in the Sicilian. Black lets White think he has made a mistake with 10... Ng4, but after the plausible 11.Nd5 Black gives up the queen on b6, but wins  3 pieces in return. Looking at the stats, White 'fell' for this at least 85 times, and while it didn't always  win for Black, a score of 63% for Black showed that is was quite effective.
However it turns out that White can lure Black into this line, but instead of 'winning' the queen, plays 12.Bxg4! Black has no choice but to capture on e3, but then the queens come off and White is perfectly fine. It even looks as though some White players specialise in this variation, as the same names keep turning up o the white side of the board. I suspect the choice is somewhat psychological, in that Black thinks he is doing something clever, only to have it refuted by the opponent.
Nonetheless, White isn't doing so well to render the line unsound. Black can still play it in the hope that White doesn't play the correct line, as in the following game.

Poulsen,Christian - Weil,Wolfgang [B73]
M√ľnchen Schach-Olympia (No FIDE event) Munich (4), 19.08.1936

Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Chess Tournament (London 1851) - New Release

e+Books has just released a new version of Howard Staunton's book on the London 1851 chess tournament. "The Chess Tournament" was produced at the completion of the event, and contains all the games from the main tournament, as well as every game from the subsidiary events. This new edition is in algebraic notation, but the comments and analysis are the same as in the original edition.
This version is available through the ePlusChess app, which runs on iPad's and iPhone's. The app is free to download, and allows you to read a chess book, and play through the games at the same time. There is also a free copy of "Chess Fundamentals" by Capablanca, which you can download to see how the app works.
In the next few months there will be more books released. This includes Bill Egan's wonderful book "The Doeberl Cup", a updated version of "My Chess Career" by Capablanca, and a collection of classic 19th century games titled "Chess Brilliants". Currently the app has 51 published titles from authors such as Silman, Nimzowitsch, Lasker and Benjamin. There is a mixture of well known classics such as "My System" and "Common Sens in Chess" as well as new titles like "The Perfect Pirc-Modern" by Mosalenko.

*** Disclaimer: I am an employee of e+Books, and typeset "The Chess Tournament". I am also the author/typesetter for a number of books mentioned here ***