Sunday 30 June 2019

Dealing with wing attacks

I had a chance to follow up my post about the Steinitz Principle with a practical example from a game I played today. My opponent launched a kingside pawn storm but did so before his centre was secure. As a result I was able to push back in the centre, stalling his attack, and eventually winning a pawn. Although I did not play the subsequent rook ending as well as I should, I still manged to score a win, ironically with one of my own kingside pawns promoting.

White - Black
Street Chess, 30.06.2019

Friday 28 June 2019

2019 ANU Open - 27th and 28th July 2019

The 2019 ANU Open is being held across the weekend of the 27th and 28th July 2019, at the ANU Schools of Art and Design, Childers St, Canberra. Now in it's 27th year, the event offers over $3000 in prizes, including a top prize of $1000.
Online entries can be made at and a tournament brochure containing all the event details can be downloaded from there.

Thursday 27 June 2019

The Steinitz Principle

One of Steinitz's revolutionary ideas (for his time), was that a successful kingside attack required a solid centre as a precondition. As with most general rules this doesn't always hold, but it is a piece of advice that club players would do well to pay more attention to.
I'm guessing that this game from the first round of the GCT even in Croatia owes something to this idea, but I'm not actually sure how much. The early g5 thrust idea by Nepomniatchi has become much more common in recent top level games, although Anand then turned the tables by keeping his king in the centre, and launching his own kingisde attack instead. Fortunately for Black, White couldn't do much with the open h file, and in the end the weak central squares were occupied by Black, leading to victory.
While the classicist's of the 20th century may not have approved of play by either side, I'm sure Steinitz would have found this game quite logical from his point of view.

Anand,Viswanathan (2767) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2775) [C55]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (1.5), 26.06.2019

Wednesday 26 June 2019

DIY Chess Sets

I was having a discussion about giant sets sets (like the ones used in Hyde Park Sydney, or Garema Place Canberra) and the topic of replacement pieces came up. Single pieces are often hard to source, and a full replacement set is a little expensive. One suggestion was to simply use traffic cones with a picture of the piece taped to it as a temporary fix. While a practical solution, it probably lacks the aesthetic charm required for such a set.
One solution is to use a 3D printer to make a replacement. For example, someone has used such a device to print a giant rook. This could be used to replace one that has gone missing, and if you click on the link, you will find that inside the rook, is in fact an entire chess set that could be used to play a smaller game!

Monday 24 June 2019

Getting a little better

Despite attempts to make at least one blog post per day, I am once again falling short. Surprisingly the cause of this is that I am quite busy with of all things, chess! It is the middle of the Canberra Interschool season, and some of my days are taken up running events.
One thing I'm pleased to report on is that the understanding of the game has improved among Canberra school students in recent years. Previously I have more than my share of bizarre rule interpretations, but they seemed to have disappeared recently.
One example was in a game today when a player said his opponents fingers bumped his king, but he then moved another piece. When I explained 'touch move' applied when a player touched a piece 'intending to move it' he was happy to tell me that his opponent didn't touch his piece on purpose. Of course there were a few illegal moves played, but even then they were corrected without much stress. Probably the greatest surprise for the 60 odd players who took part was that in competition chess, you don't have to say "check"!

Saturday 22 June 2019

Queen for piece

There has been a lot of recent excitement about Queen sacrifices, especially where a player gives up the queen for long term attacking chances, rather than for a more direct mate. The recent game between Alireza Firouzja and Murali Karthikeyan saw Karthikeyan sac his queen for two pieces on move 9, but go onto win in 53 moves. Comparisons were made to Nezhmetdinovs classic queen sacrifice from 1962, but there have been other similar examples.
Here is a game from 1975 where Kavalek (as Black) gives up his queen for a single piece. He was certainly under pressure when he did so, and even after the sacrifice Portisch was still winning. But Kavalek kept pushing and pushing, and eventually found enough in the position to escape with a draw.

Portisch,Lajos (2635) - Kavalek,Lubomir (2555) [E80]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (11), 27.01.1975

Thursday 20 June 2019

Following on

Following on from yesterdays post, here is a recent example of playing poorly, and yet winning. My opening play was so dodgy that at least one later opponent in the tournament repeated the line, hoping I would play just as badly. I was struggling until  I played 21...c5, which turned the tide so completely that my opponent collapsed in the space of a few moves.

Camer,Angelito - Press,Shaun [D24]
2019 Oceania Zonal (5.4), 20.02.2019

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Play poorly but win, or play badly and lose

When luck is running with you, you can get away with poor play. For the first half of 2019 I've been quite fortunate in that I've escaped from some poor positions to either draw or even win games I probably shouldn't have. This run of luck came to and end last night when my poor play met with suitable punishment. While the game finished with a blunder (I actually missed why 20...Bg6 needed to be played before 20...Nxe5) I was still worse if I had played it in the correct order.

Grcic,Milan - Press,Shaun [D11]
Autumn Leaves, 18.06.2019

Tuesday 18 June 2019

If grabbing the b pawn is bad ....

Grabbing the b pawn with your queen is considered one of the cardinal sins in the opening (Bobby Fischer notwithstanding), so how bad is grabbing the a pawn?
Examples of this sin are not that common, but here is a recent game where Black did this and lost horribly. As to whether the blame can solely be attributed to the pawn grab, (or neglecting the centre, not developing, and failing to castle) is an exercise left to the reader.

Dreev,A (2657) - Loiacono,Antonio (2317) [D02]
10th Dolomiti Open 2019 Forni di Sopra ITA (2.2), 16.06.2019

Sunday 16 June 2019

Double Resignation

One of the stranger incidents in my arbiting career occurred during the NSW Open last weekend. During one game there was a dispute over whether a player had said "adjust" before touching a piece or not. Anyone who has been involved in schools/junior chess knows how hard these cases can be, but in this case it was between to adult players. If the touched pawn was moved then it would be a pretty easy win for the opponent, while if not, then the ending was still difficult.
As there were no witnesses, no action could be taken, apart from warning the player to make it "very" clear when he was adjusting a piece, and to make sure when adjusting it it doesn't first move to another square (this was part of the first players claim).
After a few more moves the claimant approached me and told me he wished to resign the game, as he felt he could not continue playing under the circumstances. While I sympathised with him, I did tell me that resignation was final, which he accepted. Having then walked away, the opponent then approached me, saying that he would be willing to resign the game, as he did not want to upset his opponent. I told him that it was (un)fortunately too late as his opponent had got in first!
Someone did suggest a double loss could be recorded, but I ruled that out, as the game was officially over when the first player informed me of his resignation.

Saturday 15 June 2019

More big board action

This will not be a permanent feature of this blog (I promise), but here is another game played on the giant chess board in Garema Place, Canberra. The usual caveats about seriousness and soundness apply.

Press,Shaun - Patterson,Miles [C02]
Big Board Civic, 14.06.2019

Thursday 13 June 2019

I've only just seen this

BTW I did meet Lee Lin Chin while travelling back from the 2008 Chess Olympiad (along with Gary Bekker). Chess was discussed.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Things that never happen (until they do)

A lot of coaching/teaching books have the classic endgame example of 3 pawns v 3 pawns, where the central pawn push is the only move that wins. For this to work of course, both kings have to be on the far side of the board, otherwise the idea doesn't work. And the situation never occurs anyway, as one side or the other pushes a pawn to prevent this exact situation from occurring.
 Or so I thought, at least until this evening.
White had been winning the diagrammed position for quite a while, and the obvious idea was to give up the c pawn to win the kingside pawns. However it appears that while Black was aware of how to force a passed pawn on the kingside, White was not. So Black took his only chance in the position, and crossed his fingers.

1...g4 2.hxg4 f4 3.gxf4 h4 Now even here White is still winning but Black's luck held out, as White did not run for the kingside but instead blindly pushed on 4.c6 h3 5.c7 Kd7 6.g5 h2 7.c8Q+ Kxc8 8.g6 h1Q 9.g7 Qh7 0-1

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Not all checks are good checks

The 2019 NSW Open saw a number of interesting games. On such game from the early rounds was played by IM Junta Ikeda on his way to winning the tournament. He built up a strong attacking position but it wasn't until his opponent played an ill-judged check (in time trouble), that the attack roared into life. Ikeda offered a queen sacrifice, which would have ended the game very quickly if accepted, but declining it did not help White either.

Siva Sankaran,Anup Kumar (1749) - Ikeda,Junta (2424)
2019 NSW Open Sydney, Australia (1.3), 08.06.2019

Monday 10 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Ikeda wins

IM Junta Ikeda is the winner of the 2019 NSW Open, scoring an impressive 6.5/7. A quick draw with top seed IM Stanislav Smetankin left him a point in front of Smetankin, IM Igor Bjelobrk and IM Gary Lane.
The Under 1600 event was won by Shane Dibley with 6.5/7, half a point ahead of Lee Forace on 6 points.

2019 NSW Open - Rounds 4&5

IM Junta Ikeda is now the sole leader of the 2019 NSW Open after winning both his round 4 and round 5 games. In the top board clash in round 5, Ikeda beat 2nd seed GM Daniel Fernandez, going into an ending a couple of pawns up. Tied for 2nd place are IM Igor Bjelobrk and IM Stanislav Smetankin.
This morning's round has Ikeda up against Bjelobrk, while Smetankin is playing young Canberran, Willis Lo.
In the Under 1600 tournament, Shane Dibley and Lee Forace lead with 4.5/5. They drew their round 5 game, and now play Tim Singleton and Ruofan Xu respectively.
Today sees the last two rounds of the tournament. You can see the scores for the Open and Minor at, while live coverage is available at

Sunday 9 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Round 3

The leading group in the 2019 NSW Open has been reduced to 6 players after round 3. While the top 4 seeds all won their games, IM Gary Lane drew against Fred Litchfield, while FM Donato Malari scored an upset win over IM Andro Wagdy on board 6. The fourth round sees IM Stanislav Smetankin against IM Igor Bjelobrk, WGM Jilin Zhang against GM Daniel Fernandez and IM Junta Ikeda against FM Donato Mallari.
Apart from the upset results, there were a couple of strange finishes on the lower boards. FM Kevin O'Chee allowed his opponent to escape with a draw, after swapping rooks and allowing a bishop and wrong coloured rook pawn ending. In the Minor, there was great amusement when one player left a piece en-pris, only to have his opponent offer a draw (rather than capture it!).
While Round 5 (the evening round) normally sees a large number of requests for half point byes, it looks as though almost all of the leading players will be on deck. You can follow the top 6 boards at, while the tournament results are available at

Saturday 8 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Round 2

The 2nd round of the 2019 NSW Open has finished, with most games still going according to rating. The top 15 seeds are still on perfect scores (2/2), along with 1 unrated player, Gia Huy Nguyen. While the lower rated players had some chances to score upsets, a combination of good defence, or even good luck for their stronger opponents meant they fell just short.
There were a couple of interesting round 2 games, with Junta Ikeda's offer of a queen being a particular highlight, while the board 6 game between Plunkett and IM Wagdy started with 1.Nc3 Nf6 2.g4!?!.
Tomorrows first round (starting at 9:30) will see the leading pack chopped in half, but even then it won't until the evening round that the likely winners will emerge.

2019 NSW Open - Round 1

The 2019 NSW Open has begun, with a field of 132 players in attendance. Top seed is Bulgarian IM Stanislav Smetankin, with English GM Daniel Fernandez the second seed. The Open section has 17 players rated over 2000, out of the field of 65 players.
The Minor (under 1600) tournament has 67 players. Defending champion Frank Low has already suffered an upset round 1 loss to Lucas Ni, while a couple of the other top seeds have suffered a similar fate.
Pairings and results from the tournaments can be found here (Open and Minor) while live coverage of the top 6 boards of the can be found at Chess24.

Friday 7 June 2019

Playing on the big board

If you are in Canberra City during the week, you will find the big chess pieces are now being put out in Garema Place. Most of the time they aren't being used, but for the last couple of Fridays' I, and a few others, have gone down at lunchtime for a couple of games.
However, using the big pieces is a slightly different experience than playing normal chess, as the following game demonstrates. Apart from the difficulty in keeping track of everything, both players were following the 'big piece' playing guide which includes: Move fast, play aggressively, make obvious threats, and don't worry if you lose.

Press,Shaun - Raidisch,Matt [B22]
Canberra Big Board, 07.06.2019

A change in numbers

A number of years ago (at least 20), I was involved in running a high school competition in Canberra, at the Australian National University. The event was well attended, with over 120 players (IIRC). Of those 120 players, there were only 2 female players. At the time this wasn't that unusual, as there was a significant drop in the number of female players once they reached High School.
Move forward 20 years and the 3% participation level has jumped to over 40%. At this years North Canberra Secondary event, almost half the field were female players, as were the top 2 seeds. This was helped by Merici College taking part for the first time, a welcome addition to the ACT Schools chess scene.
As for the tournament itself, Lyneham High School dominated once again, They picked up all the major prizes, and despite the valiant efforts from the top players from other schools, 4 of their players finished with perfect scores (7/7)!

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Both players were lucky to draw!

Black to play
The diagrammed position comes from a club game I was watching last night (NB I have reconstructed it from memory so it may not be 100% accurate). White had sacrificed a piece for an attack that didn't work, and then lost the exchange, to go a full rook down. However Black was short of time, and so White went looking for a way out.
In the position it is Black's move, and worried about the check on c4 played 1 ... Kb7?? White then hit him with 2.Rf6 and in a panic Black played 2...d4?? However while White had been on the receiving end of some good luck, it was now Black's turn the get more than his share. White missed Qe4+! which wins pretty quickly and instead played 3.Qxd4. After 3...Qc8 White should have finished off Black with Qb6+ and Rf7, but the idea that he might win the game hadn't occurred to him. Instead he played 4.Rf7+ Qc7 5.Rxc7+ Kxc7 6.Qc5+  and then checked across the 6th rank until a draw was agreed!

Tuesday 4 June 2019

More sacrifices on h6

I have never found sacrificing a bishop on h6 (or h3) very subtle. You can usually see it coming a few moves ahead and either prevent it with a move like Kh7, or allow it on the assumption it isn't going to work. At long time controls this is probably easy enough to work out, but at blitz ....

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2779) - Grischuk,Alexander (2775) [B30]
7th Norway Blitz 2019 Stavanger NOR (3.2), 03.06.2019

Monday 3 June 2019

Another World Cup

Lots of late nights store, with the Cricket World Cup running for the next month or so. One of the interesting things for this edition is that they have dispensed with the pool system and gone for a singe round robin qualifier. Each of the 10 teams plays each other once, and then the top 4 qualify for the final. While this format is probably the best for getting the best 4 teams into the final, the notorious English weather may have a part to play, with washed out games being the equivalent of a drawn game. But unlike chess, the teams don;t have a say in which games are drawn, so pity the team needing a win in the final round, just as the heavens open ...

Saturday 1 June 2019

More things that aren't chess

While chess grapples with the issue of drawn games and the best method of deciding a champion/tournament winner/rating prizes, the world of 'competitive spelling' (words I spelled incorrectly in my first draft), dealt with the issue by simply giving up. The US National Spelling Bee ended in an 8 way tie when it became clear that the remaining finalists new every word in the dictionary. As usual I defer to Deadspin for commentary on obscure competitions.