Saturday 30 November 2019

2019 ASTC Day 1

The 2019 Australian Schools Teams Championship is underway at Canberra Grammar School. With 3 rounds out of the way, some sections have seen clear favourites emerge, while others have a number of teams still in contention.
In the Secondary Open Scotch College (Vic) and Anglican Church Grammar (QLD) lead with 11 and 10 respectively. They meet in the morning round, with the heavy win for either team prbablt guaranteeing first place. The fight for third looks like it will be between Canberra Grammar (ACT) and Sydney Boys High (NSW) who also play in the 4th round.
The Secondary Girls event is wide open, with 4 teams in with a chance of first. Sydney Girls High have to play both Lyneham High (ACT) and PLC (Vic), with Kings Christian College (SA) hoping a slightly easier run home is to their benefit.
Waverly Christian College holds a big lead in the Primary Open, but they still have to play Somerset College and Emmanuel School who are currently 2nd and 3rd. Mount View Primary (Vic) lead the Primary Girls, but just an the Primary Open, have to play Neutral Bay (NSW) and Turner School (ACT), who occupy the nest two places.
Full results are being posted after every round, and can be found at Round 4 starts at 9am tomorrow, with the final round starting at 12:30 pm.

Friday 29 November 2019

Octa Chess

When I turned up at Belconnen Chess Club the other evening, I found a number of envelopes addressed to the club at the door. This was slightly unusual, as we normally don't receive correspondence at the venue. Inside each one was a description of a chess variant title "Octa-Chess".
Without giving too much away, it is normal chess on an expanded board, with the addition of 1 extra piece. The piece is called a "Pike" and moves 2 squares diagonally  (with the ability to jump I assume), but capture moving 1 square up/down or left/right. The reason it is called Octa-Chess is is shaped like an octagon, with it being 20 squares across at its widest (middle 2 ranks) and 12 squares long at its highest (middle 10 columns).
Not having a board handy (or coding a computer version as yet), I'm guessing that the Knights and Pawns will suffer (due to the larger board), while Bishops will become stronger (for the same reason). With 8 extra Pikes the game will also be longer than normal chess, but as chess variants go, it isn't a bad one.
The game was invented (I assume) by Tell Arstargazer and based on the distribution of letters, I'm guessing Belconnen Chess Club isn't the only club to receive a copy of the rules.

Thursday 28 November 2019

Short timers disease

2019 has been a pretty good chess year for me. Up until this evening I had only lost 4 long time control games all year, and 2 of those losses were against Liren Ding. So reaching the end of the calendar year, I just needed to avoid any accidents to end up with a big plus score.
Then I managed to lose the following game. It didn't get off to a good start when I misplayed the opening (Qe7 instead of d6 is book), but my opponent took a lot of time to work out what to do. So much so that after Qxb5 I was dead equal. And then I blundered!

Butler,Brian - Press,Shaun [C63]
Canberra Club Championship (9), 27.11.2019

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Can't help myself, bad habits.

Over the years I have tried to rid myself of my bad chess playing habits. This change includes calculation sacrifices to the end end, avoiding risky openings, and playing simplified positions against junior players.
However I still can't help ignoring my own advice when facing the Two Knights as black. Despite some setbacks in recent years, I will still play the Traxler if given the chance. This is despite knowing that modern computer analysis does not think it is sound. Still, if my opponent isn't aware of all the tricks, it can still score some good wins for Black.

Kong,Dexuan - Press,Shaun [C57]
Swiss Festive Fun (4), 26.11.2019

Monday 25 November 2019

A guide to Canberra

Next weekend the Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship will be held in Canberra, Australia's Capital City. For those not familiar with the sights of the city, here is a visual guide to Canberra (NB It may be slightly out of date)

Sunday 24 November 2019


White to play and win
Solving studies is a good way to improve your chess but it isn't for everyone. Like solving cryptic crosswords, you either get them, or you don't. But also like cryptic crosswords, once you crack the code, you can usually solve lots of them quite easily.
I'm not sure where this study fits in to that theory. It is White to play and win, and to be honest, the first few moves kind of suggest themselves. With Black threatening to promote on c1, White's first few moves are designed to deal with this. It then gets more interesting after that, and the full solution is quite entertaining. But like a lot of long studies, it turns out that while there is one line that fits the overall theme, there is an alternative line which is a lot less fun.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Knowing when to dig in

Faced with a totally lost position, there are often 3 choices. Firstly you can simply resign and head home. If you don't wish to do that, then you can either dig in, or play for tricks. Which one works best often depends on the situation you are facing. If you suspect your opponent may not always find the best move in a complicated position, then playing for tricks is probably the best strategy. If however, you suspect your opponent may struggle to find the best plan, then digging in and defending often pays off.
Continuing on from yesterdays post, the rest of the game saw me trying to avoid insta-death by choosing moves that did not lose on the spot. While I didn't get everything right, by keeping the game going, the onus was on my opponent to find the win. Eventually his shortage of time began to tell, and not seeing any clear path to victory, exchanged in what looked like a winning ending (which it probably was). However my counterplay looked stronger than it was, which again meant he need to find a winning plan, and when he didn't, I was able to reach a drawn King and Pawn ending.

Press,Shaun - Chan,Darryl [B19]
Canberra CC (8), 20.11.2019

The most powerful knight in the world

I had a totally bizarre experience in a game I played this evening.  In an 'castle on opposite sides' Caro-Kan my opponent offered me a pawn which I unwisely gobbled. With my queen under attack, I retreated it to d3 which prevented my opponent playing Ne4. Much to my surprise my opponent still played this move, and this is were the weirdness really kicked in. I decided I couldn't take the knight, as if I did, the knight on e4 would capture the bishop on c3. This of course is the knight I had just captured! So instead I chose to retreat the bishop to e1 (covering f2). Then I decided my opponent could simply play Rxb2+ as after Kxb2 Rb8+ Ka1, the knight on e4 would move to c2 (yes it is an illegal move) and I would have to give up my queen!
It was only then that I realised I was giving the knight on e4 magical powers and that I should have played Qxe4 when I had the chance. Deciding that my brain was still capable of playing tricks on me I soon offered my opponent a draw, which he wisely declined. However, I did manage to defend a completely lost position and eventually salvaged a draw (which will be shown in par 2 of this post)

Press,Shaun - Chan,Darryl [B19]
Canberra CC (8), 20.11.2019

Tuesday 19 November 2019

The match that never was

In the late 1980's my game console of choice was the Sega Master System. It wasn't the most popular console on the market, but it did have a nice choice of titles. What it was missing at the time was a chess program, or if it did have one I couldn't find it.
It turns out all I had to do is wait until 1991, when Sega Chess was released. Of course by that time I had moved on to PC based games, and the Master System was banished to the garage (where it still sits today!).
But through the magic of the Internet Archives I was able to find, and play, Sega Chess, and I have to say it wasn't that bad. I started it on the beginner level, which I do against all new programs, and looked at what it would do against the Kings Gambit (my usual 'test' opening). While I wasn't surprised it dropped a piece early on (usually caused by a shallow look ahead), it played pretty sensibly after that. Certainly the moves looked like 'real chess', which was important back when newish players used chess computers to improve their own play.
The game lasted about 50 moves, but to my shame, when typing it in for this post, I realised I missed a couple of bank rank mates  on move 26 and 27! So rather than bore you with the extra moves, I will only post the moves up until that point ('and white wins' is how it usually goes).
You can find the game here (it works in your browser) and if you can stand the clunky interface and cheesy 8 bit soundtrack, it is actually a useful program for building up your tactical vision. As I have recommended in the past, start off at the lowest level, and every time you win, move up to the next level.

Press,Shaun - Sega Chess [C30]
1991 Rematch ICCF, 19.11.2019

Monday 18 November 2019

The advantages of Seniors chess

I was looking at the latest results from the 2019 World Seniors Chess Championship in Bucharest and I saw something that makes total sense for an event like this. One of the side activities offered by the organisers (and sponsors) is Wine tasting. As someone who has played a lot of Olympiads, this is certainly a well known 'unofficial' activity, but to see it as a formal part of the tournament is quite nice.

Sunday 17 November 2019

How many mistakes?

GM John Nunn thought you needed to make 3 mistakes in the opening to lose quickly as White, and 2 mistakes to lose if you were Black. The following game is certainly a quick loss for White, although what the real mistakes were is open to debate.
10.c3 was definitely one, as Blacks next move showed. I'd also point the finger of blame at 9.Na4 although at that point White was already running out of good moves. And while I didn't think exchanging on c6 was correct, following it up with 6.d4 was the first real mistake. After 6...Ba6 White had a problem with getting the king to safety, and the rest of the game was about exploiting this fact.

Radisich,Matt - Press,Harry [B30]
Street Chess, 16.11.2019

Friday 15 November 2019

The facts don't Ly

A hat tip to Harry Press for drawing my attention to some local (ie Australian) youtube chess content. GM Moulthun Ly has a large number of chess videos at youtube, covering a wide range of topics. He mainly focuses on opening ideas (Anti-French lines, traps in the London) as well as analysing recent games. His most recent video is a look at the Reverse Halloween Gambit which was played by GM David Smerdon against Jason Chan in Queenstown in 2006.
The videos are very well produced and Moulthun explains the ideas and variations quite clearly. If you are interested in having a look, you can find Moulthun's page here.

Thursday 14 November 2019

2019 World Seniors

The 2019 World Seniors has started in Bucharest with very strong fields in all sections. There are 30 GM's taking part along with a large number of titled players. There are 4 Australian players and 3 New Zealand players at the tournament, and as luck would have it, 2 of the Australian players (Charles Zworestine and Aurel John-Buciu) were paired against each other in round 1!
The rounds start at midnight Canberra time, and there is live coverage of the top boards from each tournament.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

A rapid attack

Lev Aronian has just won his second Grand Chess Tour event of the year. Along the way he won this nice game against Karjakin, using an interesting move order idea in the Italian.

Aronian,L (2772) - Karjakin,Sergey (2754) [C53]
Superbet TB 2019 Bucharest ROU (2), 10.11.2019

Sunday 10 November 2019

2019 Vikings Weekender - IM Junta Ikeda wins

IM Junta Ikeda was the convincing winner of the 2019 Vikings Weekender, scoring 6/7. He lead the field by a point and a half going into the final round, but a drew with FM Jason Hu (in the last game to finish) allowed the chasing pack to narrow the gap. After finishing the first day with 4 wins, Ikeda drew with IM Sephen Solomon is round 5, beat Willis Lo in round 6, before drawing with Hu in round 7.
Second place was shared between IM Stephen Solomon, Fred Litchfield and Wenlin Yin. Solomon went through the event undefeated, but 4 straight draws in rounds 3 to 6 left him on 5 points. WIM Biljana Dekic finished strongly to claim the Under 2000 prize, while Ryan Hii won the Under 1600 prize.
The Minor (Under 1600) was won by Craig Stewart with 6.5/7. Lee Forace finished in second place on 5.5, with Erik Jochimsen, Jason Gillard, Lily Cai and Yutta Mantoro tied for thrid on 5. Lily Cai picked up the prize for best Female player, Jacob Wong was the best Under 100 players, while there was a 4 way tie for best junior.
The final day saw a couple of losses that could be described as real tragedies. In one game a player had just reached a winning rook and pawn ending (the Lucena position), but with around 20 seconds on the clock, spent too much time deciding the best course of action and lost on time. In the second a player was offered a draw, but decided to play on, with what was unfortunately an illegal move. As the piece touched (a queen) could only be moved en pris (to block a check), the player resigned instead.
Once again the tournament was enjoyable for all who took part, and was played in good spirits. The ACT Chess Association was able to distribute $3300 in prizes, due in part to the generous sponsorship of the Vikings Club, Street Chess and Jim Flood.

Saturday 9 November 2019

2019 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

IM Junta Ikeda holds a 1 point lead after the first day of the 2019 Vikings Weekender. He won all 4 games played today, finishing with a win over CM Lalit Prasad. In second place are Willis Lo, IM Stephen Solomon and Prasad. Tomorrow mornings round sees Ikeda against Solomon, a pairing which will likely decide the outcome of the $1000 first prize.
Solomon went through the day undefeated, but drew with Lo and Fred Litchfield. Litchfield chose an interesting line of the Sicilian Dragon, where a lot of material is exchanged, and Black tries to hold the subsequent ending.
In the Minor, Jason Gillard and Craig Stewart share the lead on 4 points. They play in round 5, with the large group of players on 3 hoping for a draw between them.
The tournament attracted a good field of 56 players, with a smaller field in the Open offset by a larger field in the Minor. Apart from the lure of $1000 for first place, the ACT Chess Association is offering plenty of sectional prizes, so tomorrow should see more hard fought chess.

Friday 8 November 2019

2019 Vikings Weekender Coverage

If you want to follow the 2019 Vikings Weekender online, then go to
Apart from updated results, there will be live coverage of the top boards of the Open (and possibly the top board of the Minor). The tournament starts tomorrow at 10:30 am, with 4 rounds on Saturday and 3 on Sunday.
At this stage the top seeds are IM Junta Ikeda, IM Stephen Solomon and FM Jason Hu. There is also a strong group of ACT players taking part (Litchfield, Lo, Yin and Press) so it should be a very competitive event.
Online entries are still being taken at or you can enter at the venue from 10 am tomorrow morning.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Olympiad on the move?

A very recent announcement from the FIDE President indicates that the 2020 Chess Olympiad may not be in Khanty-Mansiysk as originally  announced. The whole event may be moved to Moscow, with the new created chess Para-Olympiad being held in K-M instead.
While some people seem to welcome this development, I confess to being dissapointed if the venue is changed. I quite like Khanty-Mansiysk, and have found the small city Olympiads (eg Bled) more social than those held in big cities. There is of course an extra travel leg (3 hours flying time from Moscow), but this isn't that onerous (especially for teams who have already spent 20+ hours in transit).
Hopefully there will be further announcements in the next few days, especially if the move necessitates a change of dates. While teams based in Europe can probably organise their travel quite easily, for the rest of us, planning trips like this have a greater lead time.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

A modern king hunt

The European Team Championship has just finished, with Russia winning ahead of The Ukraine and England. One of the highlights from the tournament came in the round 7 match between Russia and Germany. Daniil Dubov sacrifices a rook to drive Rasmus Svane's king out into the open. Once Svane misses the only defence on move 29 (Qxe6!), Dubov has a forced mate, which is doesn't miss.

Dubov,Daniil (2699) - Svane,Rasmus (2592) [D37]
22nd European Teams Batumi GEO (7.4), 31.10.2019

Monday 4 November 2019

It almost plays itself

The following game is one I use quite frequently so demonstrate the strength of a centralised knight. But not only due I use it as a teaching aid, but I've also implemented the same idea in some of my own games (including one I played last week).
The whole system was developed by Pillsbury, and was one of the reasons why the Queens Gambit became such a popular opening in the first half of the 20th Century. Since then Black has found a number of more dynamic defences, but it is still worth studying, especially if you want to use 1.d4 as an attacking opening.

Pillsbury,Harry Nelson - Marco,Georg [D55]
Paris Paris (12), 08.06.1900

Friday 1 November 2019

Rolled Gold

If you are looking for some classic chess software, the Internet Archive is a fantastic resource. Recently they upload over 2000 classic MS Dos games, and there around 50 chess titles among this list. Probably the program most people rember is Battle Chess, and there are a few versions of that. Also upload are Chessmaster 2100, Sargon III and Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.
All the programs can be run inside your browser, so there is no need to download Dos-Box or another emulator. And if you get tired of chess, there are lots of other programs to try.
This is the link to the chess programs and you can find non chess programs by following the navigation links.