Tuesday 30 July 2019

One really good trick

The first round of the 2019 ANU Open saw a couple of upsets on the lower boards. One was a win by Bevan Clouston, who was able to play his favourite Morra Gambit against WIM Biljana Dekic. Once he played 9.Nd5 is was pretty much all one way traffic, with Closton finding some nice moves along the way.

Clouston,Bevan - Dekic,Biljana [B21]
2019 ANU Open, 27.07.2019

Monday 29 July 2019

The cleverest move

One of the things that makes chess interesting is how (and why) we choose our moves. After assessing the position and coming up with a plan, we select the best move that fits our plan. And in a perfect world this would mean we never make a mistake, and every game of chess would end in a draw.
In practice we often choose a move that we think is pretty clever, and usually it is. But sometimes it is a move that we think is clever, that gets undone by a move that is cleverer. One such example occurred in the following brevity from the 2019 ANU Open. White thought they were winning a pawn or even a piece, only to walk into a checkmate!

White - Black
ANU Minor Canberra, 28.07.2019

Sunday 28 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - FM Luis Sanchez wins with 6/7

FM Luis Sanchez has won a very combative 2019 ANU Open, finishing with 6/7. He started the day with a win over joint leader FM Michael Kethro and then held off IM Junta Ikeda to draw round 6. He then faced Fred Litchfield in the final round, with Litchfield needing a win to overtake Sanchez. After 62 moves a draw was finally agreed, leaving Sanchez half a point ahead of Litchfield and Ikeda. FM Michael Kethro ginished 4th on 5/7, winning the best ANU player prize. CM Lalit Prasad on the Under 2000 prizes, Jayden Ooi was best Under 1800 and Lachlan Ho was the best Junior.
Bazli Karattyatil lead the Under 1600 event from start to finish, scoring 6.5/7. Athena Hithiramani finished in second place for the 2nd year in a row on 6 points, with Ken Zhang and Ramon Luo tied for third.
Games from the top boards of the Open are available at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2019/ (along with the results). There were also a number of interesting games that didn't feature on the DGT boards, but I hope to put a few of them on this blog in the next few weeks.

Saturday 27 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - Day 1

Day 1 of the 2019 ANU Open produced some very exciting chess, with a number of upsets and narrow escapes.
Top seed Junta Ikeda was in trouble in round 3 after some inventive play by Wenlin Yin, but collected the point when Yin lost on time. However Ikeda's luck ran out in round 4 in a tough game against FM Michael Kethro. Kethro had to give up a piece for a passed pawn, but was able to use his remaining pawns to win the game.
This puts Kethro on 4 points, along with FM Luis Sanchez. Sanchez defeated fellow FM Donato Mallari in the 4th round , in a bishop v knight ending. In third place are Ikeda, Mallari and 2017 winner Fred Litchfield. There is a large group of players on 2.5, and while they are in a position to influence the final places, it is unlikely that a winner would emerge from that group.
The Minor (Under 1600) tournament also has two players tied for first. Bazli Karattiyatil and Athena Hathiramani have both won all 4 of their games, and will play in round 5. With another 7 players on 3, the final winner of this tournament is a little harder to predict, although the winner of the top board clash would be a clear favourite with 2 rounds to play.
You can get the results of the tournament, as well as replay the games from the top 4 boards at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2019/ The 5th round begins at 9:30 am tomorrow with the remaining rounds starting at 12 and 2:30

An old ANU Open Game

With the 2019 ANU Open beginning shortly, I thought I'd find a game from when I regularly played this event. I did find a nice win over Andrew Brown (before he became an IM), where I was able to march my kingside pawns up the board, before finding the decisive breakthrough. If I had to point the finger at any particular White move, 11.c5 seems to be too committal, although Stockfish thinks it is pretty equal until 20.Kh1

Brown,Andrew - Press,Shaun [D56]
ANU Open Canberra (4), 23.07.2005

Thursday 25 July 2019

2019 ANU Open Online Coverage

The 2019 ANU Open will have live coverage of the top 4 boards. You can find the links to the live coverage as well as pairing and results at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2019/
The first round starts at 10 am on Saturday, and there will be 4 rounds on the Saturday and 3 on the Sunday.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Knight on rim, prospects are dim

Apparently the following the game was the result of some deep preparation by Mamedyarov against MVL's Grunfeld Defence. It also demonstrates the maxim about having a knight sitting on the edge of the board. And while the resignation may look a little surprising, Black is out of useful moves, and White is at least +4 according to Stockfish.

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2765) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2775) [D85]
Riga FIDE Grand Prix 2019 Riga LAT (4.1), 22.07.2019

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Bxf2 (or f7)

Win or lose, I always like to take something away from any game of chess I play. It can be a good move, or new idea, or just something seemingly unique. While looking for an interesting game to post this evening, I came across an old game I played against Stephen Mugford. It was the very definition of a 'casual' game, as it was played with a glass of red in our hands, under non tournament conditions. What made this game stand out was that we both got a chance to to play BxKB7+ (in the old language). As for the rest of it however, the quality of the moves were far exceeded by the quality of the wine.

Mugford,Stephen - Press,Shaun [C23]
Casual, 18.09.2003

Saturday 20 July 2019

Adams v Torre

The Adams v Torre game is a well known chess classic that turns up in a lot of "Greatest Game" collections. But while looking for it during a coaching session, I cam across a more modern version of the same pairing, from 2002. It of course saw Michael Adams play Eugene Torre, and while it isn't as well known as the original, it still has a very nice finish.

Adams,Michael (2745) - Torre,Eugenio (2523) [C97]
Bled ol (Men) Bled (3.1), 28.10.2002

Friday 19 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - 1 week to go

The 2019 ANU Open is only a week away. IM Junta Ikeda is the current top seed in the Open, with FM Luis Sanchez seeded second. The Under 1600 event is also looking pretty competitive, with 22 entries so far, although this event normally attracts 50 plus players.
You can register online at http://vesus.org/festivals/2019-anu-open/ Registration is pretty straightforward, but if you hit a field that insists on an ID number or rating, just enter 1. The organisers will sort it out.

Thursday 18 July 2019

Win, draw , loss

While I feel that endgames aren't the hardest part of chess, I accept that they can be the most stressful. While your choice of moves becomes narrower, the consequences of getting them wrong is more dramatic.
Here is a snippet of game that demonstrates this point. Prior to this position Black had been winning, but had lost a piece to a tactic. His only hope of saving the game was to distract the bishop long enough and try and force a bishop and wrong coloured rook pawn ending. Probably influenced by being a piece up, White didn't realise there was a second danger in the position. After Black played g4 White need to exchange pawns, and White is still winning. Instead he pushed to h4, and now the position was drawn. At some point Black will play g3 and if the f pawn captures, Black has his desired wrong coloured rook pawn ending.
At this point White made his second fatal choice. Trying to free the bishop, he ran his king towards the b pawn. Black decided there was no harm in delaying g3, and when the king was far enough away, played the winning pawn push!

White -Black
Canberra 2019

Tuesday 16 July 2019

A pretty poor tie-break

Finding a 'perfect' tie-break is a pretty inexact science in most sports. The better ones at least still have some notion of the game remaining as a contest, rather than just stopping at some point and declaring a winner.
So the tie-breaking method to decide the Cricket World Cup was pretty poor by this standard. The game was tied after 50 overs, and then tied after the "Super Over", which is the equivalent of a penalty shootout. The trophy was then awarded to England on 'most boundaries scored' which sounds like something chosen by a committee who didn't think it would ever be required. In chess terms this would be like deciding a drawn World Championship match on "most number of checks".
The most obvious result would have been to share the trophy, which is a policy that I've also been in favour of in a lot of chess events I've been involved in. But failing that, "head to head", "least wickets lost", or "finishing position" would have all probably made more sense.

Monday 15 July 2019

Chess is (happily) weird

With so many GM's these days (over 1000 at least), trying to stand out is harder and harder. In the good old days (ie 1980's) you could earn a reputation by playing openings like the Scandinavian or the Scotch. As these openings have now gone mainstream, players need to do more than that.
The recent trend is to eschew what would be considered more 'classical' positional ideas and instead focus on the initiative. In some circumstances it works, and is very entertaining when it does, but it can be just as entertaining when it doesn't.
In the following game Black is very intent on giving up material for an attack. White's position is solid enough that he could have taken the offered piece on move 18, but waited until move 23 before doing so. Despite Black having open lines and plenty of pawns, his attack went nowhere, and it was White, with good old fashioned central control and better developed pieces that won.

Fridman,Daniel (2638) - Kulaots,Kaido (2560) [B22]
47th GM 2019 Dortmund GER (1.1), 13.07.2019

Sunday 14 July 2019

"That really got out of hand fast"

Two days ago I was reading a complaint about how GM Igor Rausis was using the "400 point rule" to game the FIDE Rating System. The claim was that he was playing lots of weak players to gain around 1 rating point per game, boosting his rating 20 well over 2600. But within 24 hours that went from a complaint about manipulating the rating system to a very credible accusation of using a mobile phone during a tournament game.
Based on subsequent reports and admissions by Rausis, it looks as though he is 'banged to rights'. It seems that Rausis was already under suspicion based on previous tournament games, and so was being monitored at his latest event. This monitoring turned up fairly clear evidence he was using a phone during the game, and as a consequence he is now facing charges from the FIDE Ethics Commission.

Saturday 13 July 2019

2019 Oceania Seniors

The 2019 Oceania Seniors is taking place in New Zealand, as part of a chess festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Howick-Pakuranga Chess Club. The 23 player field consists mainly of NZ players, but there are 3 Australian players taking part.
The first round saw only one upset (Nigel Cooper beating Nigel Metge), but I expect more upsets to occur over the next few rounds. Unlike most open events the field is quite compact in terms of rating, so a winner from the 7 round event isn't easy to predict.
The tournament crosstable can be found here, while there is live broadcast (and replays) of the top 9 boards at this link.

Friday 12 July 2019

The pawn pusher

To call someone a "pawn pusher" is usually considered an insult, but not always. I know some chess players who regard "pawn pusher" or "wood pusher" as a completely accurate character description. On the other hand, if you make a habit of pushing too many pawns, then the following may happen

Tal,Mihail - Tringov,Georgi P [B06]
Amsterdam Interzonal Amsterdam (23), 21.06.1964

Thursday 11 July 2019

More non chess stuff

The more I play chess, the less I seem to blog about it. Instead of coming up with something suitably 'chessy' I'd like to congratulate the New Zealand Cricket team for winning their World Cup semi final against India. But to at least have some chess content, India's attempts to get over the line reminded me of trying to mate your opponent after blundering a piece in the opening. In India's case is was more than one piece, but as in chess, the margin of error was so narrow that once more wickets fell, it was all over.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Every now and then I see an article like this

While not endorsing what is clearly a marketing pitch I feel I do have to share this.
"Getting a home loan is like mastering a game of chess"
I'm not sure that I agree with the headline, but as someone who has had a few home loans in my time, it does take a little skill to organise one. What I did notice though, is that it is easier to get them after you have already had one, which I guess is the same as chess, in that it is easier to play after you've already played lots of games.
(**Disclaimer: Don't ever take financial advice from me **)

Monday 8 July 2019

Hasten slowly!

"Hasten slowly" is a favourite saying of my father, and one that could apply to my chess. I travelled up to Sydney to play in the 2019 NSW Rapidplay and a combination of good luck and a favourable draw saw me finish on 5.5/7 ( a share of third place).
The strategy I decided to employ for this event was to head for simpler positions than I usually aim for in the opening, as at the faster time control (20m+10s) meant that time for calculating complicated variations was limited. Ultimately this strategy paid off, although in a few games a draw might have been a fairer result.
One game that demonstrates how this work was my round 5 game against Ralph Shaw. While seeded a fair way below me, Ralph was having a good tournament (we were both on 3/4 at this stage), so I decided to be a little cautious in how I went.

Shaw,Ralph - Press,Shaun [C63]
NSW Rapid 2019, 07.07.2019

Saturday 6 July 2019

Chess on wheels 2019

The 2019 Tour de France has snuck up on me, but I did catch part of the first stage. Apart from the beautiful French scenery, there will of course be the obligatory "chess on wheels" comments from the media. If you can't get (or don't want) the television coverage, I always find The Guardian's live blog entertaining and informative. 

Friday 5 July 2019

Just chill baby baby

While the end of a chess game usually involves a polite handshake, this is not the case in other games. Apparently getting into your opponents face is a thing in some e-sports, and this then can escalate into something worse. https://www.kotaku.com.au/2019/07/fighting-game-tournament-has-too-much-actual-fighting/ describes this issue at a recent event. But what surprises me is the article suggests that one cause is the fact that the players are close to each other, as opposed to being separated like in other events. If this were so, then there would be a lot more punching at chess tournament, which there isn't. Instead, have a look in the (NSFW) comments section for more accurate reasons!

Thursday 4 July 2019

The pawn wall

For some children chess starts of as a bit of a mystery, and often remains that way. One of their early instincts is to simply move pawns forward, setting up a kind of zig zag pattern (a4,b3,c4,d3,e4,f3,g4,h3). Annoying as this is to see as a chess coach, breaking through such a setup is often beyond their opponents. I usually suggest developing pieces and occupying the empty squares, but for a group of kids whose main attacking idea is Bc4+Qh5, the payoff isn't always obvious.
So dipping into the well of  "who really played this?" games, I have found an example that might be useful. Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen go for a similar zig-zag pawn structure on the kingside, and the unprotected squares provide a nice home  for the knights. But instead of sitting on the position, Carlsen eventually tries to open the position with f5. If Nepo had captured with the e pawn it would have been fine for him, but he took with the g pawn, and after g4 he was suddenly lost!

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2775) - Carlsen,Magnus (2875) [B30]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (7.1), 03.07.2019

Monday 1 July 2019

Like wine tasting

The recent game between Carlsen and Mamedyarov from the Grand Chess Tour event has left me a little conflicted. I cannot decide whether it is some high level brilliance well above my level of understanding, or a club hack played by two GM's. I am leaning towards the latter, and wonder what someone unaware of the identity of the players would make of the game. It might be worth conducting such an experiment in the future, if such games become a feature of top level chess.
Here it is in all its glory. Comment are welcome.

Carlsen,Magnus (2875) - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2774) [A15]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (4.2), 29.06.2019