Monday 30 September 2019

Another World Cup best of

Another good game from the 2019 World Cup involved Jeffrey Xiong and Jan Duda. It was all the more significant because this was a 'must win' game from Xiong, as he had lost the first game in round 4. After move 26 White has a clear advantage, but if you wonder why Duda didn't capture on d5 on move 28, then you're in the same boat as me. It turns out that Xiong simply moves the rook to d1, pushes the f pawn to f4, and at the right moment plays f5+, checks on e1, captures on d5, and wins with Re7!

Xiong,Jeffery (2707) - Duda,Jan-Krzysztof (2730) [C24]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (4.2), 21.09.2019

Saturday 28 September 2019

Another lesson in king safety

While the following game was played at my local chess club (and not in somewhere like Khanty-Mansiysk) it does have a passing resemblance to the game I presented from yesterday. White gets a nice position out of the opening, but it is only when Black neglects his king safety (in this case by capturing on f5), that the position falls apart. Despite attempts to find a way out, Black cannot cover every entry point of White's heavy pieces, and the combination of a passed pawn and threats against the Black king soon prove decisive.

Patterson,Miles - Grcic,Milan [A04]
Belconnen CC (3), 25.09.2019

Down to 3

The World Cup is now down to 3 players. Teimour Radjabov defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the second game of their semi final, while Liren Ding and Yangyi Yu finished their semi final at 1-1. This means Ding and Yu will go to tie break games to see who plays Radjabov.

Radjabov,Teimour (2758) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2774) [A34]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (6.2), 27.09.2019

Friday 27 September 2019

Best World Cup game of rounds 1 and 2

With so many games being played at the 2019 World Cup it is hard to decide which one is the best played game. The organisers are offering a special prize in this category, and have opened it up to the public to vote on. A panel of experts is making up a shortlist and then the most popular game wins.
For the first 2 rounds the game between Firouzja and Dubov got the nod. The voting for the best game in rounds 3&4 is still open at this time, and if you wish to vote, follow the links from here.

Firouzja,Alireza (2702) - Dubov,Daniil (2699) [B31]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (2.2), 14.09.2019

Tuesday 24 September 2019

The Collywobbles

"Collywobbles" is a term that both means an upset stomach, and the semi-regular choke by the Collingwood AFL team. It turns out that the second definition was in play on Saturday night, as Collingwood lost their preliminary final, despite being the overwhelming favourite against Greater Western Sydney.
Chess players can always sympathise, as it is very easy to turn a winning position into something less than that. Tonight's Belconnen Club Championship round saw a number of endings where players went from simply winning, to either drawing or losing.
The most tragic example came from the position below. White has an easily winning bishop ending, which quickly became a winning pawn ending. However he forgot about Black's a pawn and went from winning on move 5 (6.b4! is simple enough)  to drawing on move 6 (after 6... a4!). 
In fact White was lucky not to go from hero to zero, as he was just able to get his king across to c2 in time to corner the black king.

White (Collingwood Fan!) - Black
Belconnen CC, 24.9.2019

Protect not punish

One of the concepts that new (or young) players have is that the laws of chess are as much about protecting them as it is about punishing their opponents. During a school coaching session yesterday there was a player who wanted to change their move on the grounds that their initial move was 'bad'. When I pointed out that they had taken their hand off the piece and that meant the move stood, they argued that it was a silly rule. My counter argument was that if she was allowed to ignore the rules, so was her opponent, and that her opponent could now checkmate her by simply playing two moves in a row. I'm not sure how convincing that argument was, as she then simply resigned and started a new game.
The concept of rules being a protection applies in other ways. One of the most common causes of disputes is 'touch move' where one player claims their opponent touches a piece, and the other denies it. In the absence of witnesses the normal practice is to accept the denial, unless the player concerned has 'form' in this area.  While some may argue that this is unfair to disbelieve a players claim, it does protect players from false or mistaken claims made by an opponent.
Of course this did not help in one case I read about recently. During an international junior event a player moved while the opponent was away from the board. Then before the opponent returned, they played a move for the opponent (with a rook), but returned the piece to the start square. When the opponent returned and played a different move, they claimed the opponent had touched the rook and had to move that instead, which lost in all cases. Normally this would be rejected by the arbiter, but as the games were being played on DGT boards, the 'fact' that the rook had been moved was registered, and the claim was upheld!

Sunday 22 September 2019

2019 ACT Teams Rapid

The 2019 ACT Teams Rapid was the first non junior teams event in Canberra for many a year. The idea for reviving teams in chess in Canberra came from WFM and IA Alana Chibnall, who put in a large amount of work to make it happen.
As this format is unfamiliar to local players, the turnout of 10 teams was actually quite pleasing. The 3 chess clubs in Canberra all fielded official teams while Street Chess, ANU and a couple of high schools also had entries.
The format was a 7 round swiss, 4 board matches, and game points counting for final standings. The other rule was that teams could not have a average rating above 18501650, and it was this rule that made the day both enjoyable and successful.
The winning team was the ANU Chess Society team, who finished on 18/28. Second was Belconnen Chess Club on 17, followed by the Canberra Chess Club team on 16.5. As the next 3 teams finished on 16.5, 16 and 16, it showed what a close event it was.
The prizes for the best scores on each board went to CM Lalit Prasad Bd 1 6.5/7, Mark Hummell Bd 2, 6.5/7, Yizhen Diao Bd 3 6.5/7, Donghoon Shin Bd 4 6/7. Belconnen Chess Club also won the Larko Cup for the best score by an ACTCA club.
Feedback from the players was overwhelmingly positive, and this tournament looks like being an annual event. With a solid start in terms of teams, it is likely that it will grow in future years to become a significant part of the Canberra chess scene.

Website redesign

Not mine, but the FIDE website. The front page has been redesigned to have the more important information (news, events) front and centre, with the links to other pages placed elsewhere. As it only launched two days ago there are still some broken links, but visit to check it out.

Saturday 21 September 2019

The Chess Lesson

Sitting on my desk is the March 1985 edition of Chess in Australia. The front page shows the results of the first Karpov v Kasparov World Championship Match, which was abandoned after 48 games. The decision was controversial as Kasparov had just won 2 games in a row, although Karpov still led 5 wins to 3 (6 wins needed to win the match).
Kasparov won the follow up match (which was limited to 24 games), with Karpov famously suggesting that the first match essentially trained Kasparov in how to beat him. If so, the first 9 games were a hard lesson for Kasparov as he lost 4 games (and drew 5), including this one in the third game of the match.

Karpov,Anatoly (2705) - Kasparov,Garry (2715) [B44]
World-ch30-KK1 Karpov-Kasparov +5-3=40 Moscow (3), 17.09.1984

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Happy 25th Twic

The Week in Chess has turned 25 years old this week. Run by Mark Crowther in that time, it quickly established itself as the 'goto' news source for chess. Back in the late 1990's when Paul Dunn and myself presented The Chess Show on 2SSS TWIC was the main source of overseas chess news for the show. It also provided the first reliable source of pgn files from current events, which proved invaluable for the travelling chess professional.
Starting as a side project, it quickly developed into a full time job for Crowther, and made him a real celebrity in the chess world. The fact that has continued to run for 25 years shows how highly regarded it is in the chess world, and a real appreciation for for Mark Crowther's efforts.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

A missed opportunity

One of the big things I missed while overseas was the Lifeline Bookfair. I did kind of participate, as my son kindly rang me while I was in Khanty, and asked me if there was anything I wanted him to buy for me. As it was a voice call I had him read out a few titles, and picked up a couple of books (including one I discovered I already had).
Based on early reports it seemed I hadn't really missed out (only about a dozen books I was told), but later summaries described a large pile of books available on Friday morning, including a number of very good titles. This seems to be more accurate, as a visit to at least one second hand bookshop in Canberra showed they had acquired quite a large number of chess titles, and were now selling them at a bit of a mark up.

Monday 16 September 2019

While I was travelling

While I was traveling back from Russia, I did try and keep up with what was happening in the World Cup. With 32 round 2 games in progress there was still plenty of action. While there were a lot of games to choose from I've decided to highlight the comeback win for Safarli. He got absolutely destroyed in the first Round 2 game by young Indian GM Nihail Sarin, in a game which drew praise from everyone, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen. So faced with a must win game to stay in the match, Safarli chose to play an Evan's Gambit! This strategy worked in two ways, with Sarin spending a lot of time in the opening, and keeping the game unbalanced. The game had a dramatic finish as well, with Sarin dropping a piece in time trouble.
With momentum running his way, Safarli then won the first playoff game, before winning the match with a draw in the second.

Safarli, Eltaj - Nihal, Sarin [C52]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.14

Saturday 14 September 2019

Last day in Khanty

Today was my last full day in Khanty-Mansiysk, as I am heading home early tomorrow. While I wasn't entirely happy with how I played (especially in Game 2), it was certainly an experience I never imagined I would have.
I only made it here though an extraordinary amount of luck, and while I think that luck could have gone to someone far more deserving than myself, it did come about through me playing in the right event. In my case, entering the 2019 Oceania Zonal wasn't about qualifying for the World Cup, or even earning titles, but simply to support the organisers in Guam, who made a huge effort to hold the tournament in a pretty remote location.
While playing Olympiad chess for the last 20 years is something I find constantly amazing, playing here was on another level entirely. Even now that I have finished I still feel like a fish out of water, especially as I know this will never happen again. So my journey back home starts with a 4:30am wake up call tomorrow, followed by 40+ hours in transit. And when I get back to Canberra it will shower, sleep and a return to where I belong, at my local chess club, and running Street Chess on Saturdays.

Friday 13 September 2019

An outrageous bluff

After the disappointment of yesterdays game, I decided to cheer myself up with a little site seeing around Khanty, before heading back to the venue to watch the playoff games. As much I don't like matches being decided by faster and faster games, I do admit they are exciting to watch.
I suspect one of the reasons is that there are more inaccuracies, which makes the games more accessible to average players. Even more entertaining is when everyone except the two players can see what is going on, as happened in at least one game I saw.
Sam Shankland needed to beat Eltaj Safarli to stay in the tournament, having lost the previous 10m+10s game. This was looking very unlikely at move 27, as Shankland blundered with 27.a4?? But Safarli began to think, and it became clear to the commentators, that Safarli was only looking at 27...Ra6, instead of 27...Rxd6, which wins a piece. After a couple of minutes thinking, Safarli played 27...Ra6, letting Shankland of the hook, for one move at least. However Shankland still had a problem, in that moving the rook from a1 dropped the a pawn. So based on the fact that Safarli had already missed Rxd6, he made the incredibly practical decision to play 28.a5. This paid off in the short term when Safarli missed the tactic a second time, playing 28...Rc6.
However the story did not have a happy ending as Shankland wasn't able to turn the resulting position into a win, and went out 3.5-2.5 in the tiebreaks.

Shankland, Sam - Safarli, Eltaj [D94]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.12

Thursday 12 September 2019

Shaun blows a sandshoe

While my second game in the 2019 World Cup had the expected result, I am disappointed with how I played at the end. One of my usual plans against the English Opening is to play a reversed Closed Sicilian, but after what happened in the first game, I decided playing the same line a tempo down wasn't a good idea.
What I chose instead wasn't that great either, but it did make Ding think for a good 15 minutes on move 5. My first real mistake was putting the knight onto b6 instead of playing an immediate c5, and after that the pawn on e5 cramped my position. The other issue was that every time I wanted to castle, Bxh7 was devastating. The I got to a position where I though I could castle, as he couldn't take my hanging bishop on d7 (Rd8 wins the Queen), but I'd stupidly overlooked b5 first, when my trick no longer works.
So out in 2 games as expected. I am staying on for a couple of days to be a spectator, before heading back to Australia on Saturday.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

No upset but not upset

Game 1 of the first round in the 2019 World Cup is done and dusted. At least in my pairing the result went according to rating, with Liren Ding beating me in 34 moves.
Based on his most recent games I had prepared lines in the Ruy Lopez, but it turned out he had been looking at my not so recent games, and had prepared some lines against the Closed Sicilian. I did not mind this as I figured I could play enough sensible moves to reach some kind of middlegame, but once I got there I started to play less sensible moves.
In his post match comments Ding thought that 21.Nb2 was better than 21.Re1, although GM Ian Rogers thought 14.Rb1 was unnecessary, and 18.b3 was where my troubles really started. For me both 17...Be6 and 19...Nd4 caused me a lot of trouble. I also did not expect 22...Ne3, but decided I had little choice but to take the offered pawn, knowing the open lines were bad for me.
Nonetheless I found it quite an enjoyable experience. I was incredibly nervous leading up to the game, but once the game started, it was about playing moves, even if they weren't the best ones.
Now I have to go back and do this again tomorrow, with the Black pieces. While this does not make it any easier, having played one World Cup game, I know what to expect for my second.

Press, Shaun - Ding, Liren [B26]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.10

Tuesday 10 September 2019

White in the first game

The 2019 FIDE World Cup was officially opened last night with an entertaining opening ceremony, which contained the usual assortment of welcoming speeches, singing and dancing, and human chess pieces. As part of the ceremony, there was the drawing of colours, in which the top seed (Liren Ding), chose the black pieces for the first game.
After the ceremony there was a players meeting where the rules were covered. While it was a mixture of seriousness and good humour, there were a couple of interesting points that came out of it. Firstly, this looks to be the first World Cup without any female players. Secondly, no one admitted to being a smoker when the topic of the smoking area came up. Nonetheless I'm sure there are still a few smokers in the field, which might be confirmed if smoke is seen escaping from the ladies bathroom.
I'm spending the last few hours before the first game doing my prep. Ding may pull a surprise for this game (and to be honest he could pretty much play anything against me), but in recent games he has stuck to the same opening choices. All I need to do is not overload my brain with too many lines, keep my nerves in check, and I should be able to play at least a few moves before the holes in my opening repertoire become obvious.

Monday 9 September 2019

The Russian commute

I've realised than when I travel to overseas chess events, I'm more of a commuter than a tourist. This was certainly the case in getting to Khanty-Mansiysk, which took around 2 days of planes, trains and airports.
The trip itself was largely uneventful, except for a bit of a detour on the Moscow Metro system where I confused north and south and started by heading away from Sheremetyevo Airport, before realising what I had done!
The 1am flight from Moscow to Khanty was full of sleeping chess players, including Ian and Cathy Rogers, who are here to cover the first week of the World Cup. For anyone who played at the 2010 Olympiad, the Olympic Hotel (where most teams stayed) is still the same as it was, including the downstairs bar that was popular with a lot of us.
The opening ceremony for the World Cup is this evening, with the first round starting tomorrow. According to the schedule the rounds are at 3pm, which is 8pm Canberra time. I face top seed Ding Liren in the first round, although the drawing of colors has not taken place yet, so I do not know if I am white or black. With the usual security restrictions in place, I won't be taking my phone to the venue, so any updates from me will have to wait until I get back from the venue.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Time to move on

Today is my last day in the Solomon Islands. I've had an enjoyable 5 days , running a FIDE Arbiters course, but now it is time to move on.
I am off to the World Cup, which involves travel for the next 2 days. First stop is Brisbane, then Dubai, Moscow and finally Khanty. My plan is to do a lot of sleeping on the plane, although I'm not convinced I will be successful. Depending on my results in the first round, I will probably be heading back by the end of next week, just in time to run a few local school events in Canberra!

Friday 6 September 2019

2019 ACT Rapid Teams Event

The first local (ACT) teams event for a number of years is being organised by the ACT Chess Association with the help of the ACT Junior Chess League. It is open to everyone, regardless of age, and is being held on Saturday the 22nd September 2019. The venue is Campbell High School (next to the War Memorial) and will be a 7 round event played with a time limit of 15m+5s increment.
Teams will consist of 4 players, with an average rating of no more than 1600. This will hopefully make the tournament more competitive, with no "superstar" teams dominating the competition. Of course the rating limit may require a bit of strategic thinking, as it may be the case that a team of 1550's across 4 boards might do better than a team of 2x2000+2x1200.
The local ACT Clubs will also be competing for the Larko Cup, which will be awarded to the best team from a single club. The tournament starts at 10am (registration from 9:30), and even if you don't have a full team, you can still organise one on the day. It will be FIDE rated, and surplus funds will support the Australian Schools Teams Championship being held in Canberra later this year.
Full details can be found on the tournament brochure here.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Really long castling

I've been trying to keep an eye on the Chess960 from St Louis while running an Arbiters Seminar in the Solomon Islands. While I'm not a big fan of the format (at least in serious competitions) it does have its moments. In one of the early games, the start position had the kings on c1/c8 with rooks on either side. The games looked pretty normal, until most of the back rank had been cleared, when suddenly the kings moved from the c file to the g file, dragging the d rook with them. While legal in Chess960, it still came as a bit of a surprise.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

How to be a millionaire

Chess has hit the finance pages with news that Magnus Carlsen has bought the chess training site Chessable for 1 million pounds. Carlsen, who already has the successful 'Play Magnus' app, looks to be branching out into other areas of chess business. For developers this is also a good sign as it does demonstrate that a well designed and popular website or app is worth investing in. It may also spark the growth of new innovation in this area, as people search for the next big (and profitable) thing.

Ten years later

The first leg of my latest overseas journey is underway. After a gap of 10 years I am heading back to the Solomon Islands, to run a FIDE Arbiters seminar. Last time I was there (in September 2009) I was playing in the Solomon Islands International, which I was fortunate enough to win.
With the Solomon Islands hosting the 2020 Oceania Under 20's Championship, the Oceania Chess Confederation and the Solomon Islands Chess Federation have organised a 3 day seminar in Honiara to help train up more local arbiters. It's been a few years since I last helped run an arbiters seminar, but apart from significant changes to the FIDE Fair Play guidelines (AKA Anti-Cheating) most of the rules and regulations are pretty much the same.
Checking on my old posts from 2009 I noted that I was able to send regular updates from Honiara, so I expect to be able to do the same this time.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Surprising little rules

I'm off to run an Arbiters Seminar in the Solomon Islands this week, and have been going through old exam papers and lectures notes. While double checking the recent changes to the Laws of Chess, I was reminded of an old, but possibly overlooked rule. In the case of a capture, your move has not been 'made' until you release the captured piece from your hand. As a result, pressing your clock with a captured piece is actually illegal.

(** Update: As has been pointed out in the comments section my reading skills need some work, in that I read 'capturing' as 'captured'. So please ignore everything in this post)