Tuesday 31 December 2019

Almost the end of the year

While I often look back at the highlights of the chess year, I don't often look back at my own. This is because my usual highlights are a tournament I directed, or a chess meeting I attended, which is hardly riveting stuff. There is also the issue of my results, which are normally a few good games, followed by ones decided by silly blunders.
However this year turned out to be  little more exciting for me, especially as a player. It started with a trip to Guam to play in the 2019 Oceania Zonal. My main reason for attending was for an Oceania Chess Confederation meeting, but once the smoke cleared, I also collected 2nd place in the Zonal.
Following up this result, I seemed to score some good results in local Canberra events, and had a nice undefeated streak up until June.
Then in August I received the news that GM Max Illingworth was unable to attend the World Cup and I was the next player on the list. While the experience was both memorable and exciting, it was also quite scary as a player, but overall it was overwhelmingly positive.
The second half of the year also saw me do a lot of other travel, presenting an Arbiters course in the Solomon Islands, being the Chief Arbiter at the New Caledonia Open, and finishing the year arbiting the Lidums Australian Young Masters.
Looking back I'm pretty sure I've never had a year in chess like this one, and at my age, I'd be surprised if anything in the future comes close. For 2020 there is still a lot to look forward to, with the 2020 O2C Doeberl Cup running at Easter (I'm the new Chief Organiser), and a trip to the 2020 Olympiad (as a member of the Technical Administration Panel). As for playing, hopefully I can squeeze a few games in, and the form I had this year does no desert me!

Sunday 29 December 2019

Hastings 2019/20

In the last few years the annual Hastings International has faced a somewhat uncertain future. It had relied in part on local council funding, but this wasn't always guaranteed, and a more substantial sponsor was required to keep the event going. Fortunately the search for a new sponsor was successful, with Caplin coming on board.
It looks as though the additional sponsorship has resulted in a much larger and stronger event this year, with the Open attracting more than 120 players, including 18 GM's. GM David Howell is the top seed, with GM Edouard Romain second seed. One Australian is playing this year (Penelope Drastick), with 27 other countries also being represented.
First round was last night, and with the tournament using accelerated pairings, there were a couple of upsets. 2 GM's were upended (Gergely Kantor and Danny Gormally), while a few more were held to draws.
You can follow the action (including live games) from the tournament website, although the 2:15pm start (local time) means a late night if you wish to watch it from Australia.

Faulks,Nick (1900) - Ratnesan,Radha (1477) [C18]
Hastings International Chess Congress Horntye Park, Hastings, United (1.55), 28.12.2019

Saturday 28 December 2019

A very rapid win

The World Blitz and Rapidplay Championship is underway, with the first 5 rounds of the Rapid played last night. The 6th round started about an hour ago, and will run for the next 5 hours (Canberra time). While the event has no Australian players involved, there are a few players well known here who have had some interesting results. GM Hrant Melkumyan drew with World Champion Magnus Carlsen, while 'Blindfold King' Timur Gareyev scored a quick win against South Koran GM Alexey Kim.

Kim,Alexey - Gareyev,Timur [B12]
World Rapidplay, 27.12.2019

Thursday 26 December 2019

2019 World Blitz and Rapid

The 2019 World Blitz and Rapid is starting tomorrow in Moscow. Of course these means that the players taking part had to send at least part of the Christmas in transit, as the opening ceremony is this evening (Moscow time).
Apart from the players taking part (Carlsen, MVKL, Aronian etc) there are a couple of other points of interest.
Firstly, Carlsen isn't the top seed in the Blitz, with that honour going to Nakamura. This is because each event is seeded with the rating list matching the event. As a result the bottom seed in the Rapid is GM D Gukesh from India, who still has a rapid rating of 1799!
Secondly, GM Alireza Firouzja is playing under the FIDE flag, instead of the Iranian one. This is due to the Iranian governments policy of not allowing athletes to compete against players from Israel. So as to compete in this tournament (and not be forced to default games against Israeli players), Firouzja has left the Iranian Federation with a view to changing to a new one shortly.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Congratulations Ian Rogers

Although Christmas isn't until tomorrow, I received one of my presents a little early. It was a Google Nest Mini. described as a 'Family Present' by my son, the purchaser. After setting it up, I decided to test how 'smart' it was.
"Who is the current Australian Chess Champion?" I asked. "The current Australian Chess Champion is .... Ian Rogers" came the reply. This answer not only surprised me, but I suspect would surprise Ian (who retired on 2007) and the 6 player who have won it more recently. It even gave me a helpful reference on Wikipedia for Ian, but not the one it should have, which was the list of Australian Chess Champions.
So congratulations Ian. According to Google you are still the reigning Australian Chess Champion.

Killing time

"Does being good at chess mean you're good at other things?" Probably not, is my usual response when asked this question, as the list of "other things" can be quite vague. But the skills you develop in chess can be carried over to other activities, especially those that require information organisation.
Certainly chess players have also succeeded at Poker, bridge and Share Trading (although many have failed as well). Add Fantasy Football to the list, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen also doing extremely well in the Fantasy Premier League competition. As of last week he was in first place (ahead of a couple of million players), but I'm not sure if he has maintained his lead this week.
One thing working in his favour is having the time to work on his team selections. IM Gary Lane once told me that a number of English IM's and GM's used to enter lots of different competitions, as it was something could do while travelling (and between rounds), and it provided rewards outside chess. In Carlsen's case I suspect the motivation isn't material, but like most people, the desire to succeed at something they think is important.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Mirror, Mirror

In the Sicilian Defence, conventional wisdom has White attacking on the kingside while Black looks for play on the queenside. So much so, a quick kingside attack for Black is a rare sight indeed. But I have just seen one, and I thought I'd share it. It was played at the JZMC Rising Stars event, which is a small round robin for Sydney juniors, organised by WGM Jilin Zhang. It is the first time it has been held, and is designed to provide some extra competition for local juniors. f you want to see the live games (past and future) click on this link, while results can be seen here.

Wu,Celina - Melamed,Daniel [B45]
JZMC Rising Stars, 19.11.2019

Thursday 19 December 2019

Deciding when to castle

I've lost a lot of games of chess by putting off castling until it is too late. Not that I always have a choice mind you, as sometimes my opponent creates enough threats that castling isn't the best choice.
Here is a game from the current Australasian Masters IM tournament, with young Canberran Albert Winkelman punishing a king caught in the centre. 6.Nh3 is a move I'm not familiar with, but it looks no worse than other main lines. However the real killer move is 17.Bh6! which connects the White rooks while exposing the Black king. After that the game was essentially over, although Black did try a couple of tricks before resigning.

Winkelman,Albert (2283) - Maguire,Tom (2139) [B18]
2019 Australasian Masters IM Norm Tourna Melbourne Chess Club (6.1), 19.12.2019

Wednesday 18 December 2019

2020 Australian Championship

The 2020 Australian Championship is being held in Sydney from the 2nd to the 13th of January, at the St George Leagues Club. Unlike the last Australian Open, this is being run as a single round per day event, which may result in a smaller entry, but will also see higher quality chess.
The Championship is a restricted event, with the Reserves tournament open to all players who do not qualify for the top tournament. There is also a 7 day Under 1800 tournament, scheduled in the morning, so some players can play two events if they wish.
There are over 120 players already entered for the 3 long time control events, and I suspect the final total will be well over 150. Details for the tournament can be found at https://aus2020.chesschamp.net/
I will be at the championship as one of the tournament arbiters (proudly wearing my PNG shirts!)

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Climate Change Chess

The ACT Chess Association is holding the 2019 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship on Saturday 21 December 2019. This is the traditional end of year event for ACT chess, and is usually held on the last Saturday before Christmas. As it is normally held outdoors, weather can always have an effect on play, and attendance.
The forecast for this Saturday is for extremely hot weather. At one point it was forecast to be around 42 degrees, but the latest forecast is or a slightly(!) cooler 39. As a consequence it is more likely than not that the tournament will be held in the air conditioned comfort of King O'Malley's.
The tournament will run from 11am to 2:30pm. There will be over $300 in prizes, with entry $10 ($5 for juniors). The format is a 7 round swiss, with G/15m or each game. Registration is from 10:30am at King O'Malley's, City Walk, Canberra City.

Sunday 15 December 2019

2019 Australasian Masters

Following on from the 2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters, the 2019 Australasian Masters is underway in Melbourne. There are 2 events, an GM norm tournament, and an IM norm tournament. A number of players are backing up from the Adelaide event, while both events also see some new faces.
Once again players from Canberra are represented, with IM Junta Ikeda in the GM event and (FM) Albert Winkleman in the IM tournament. Ikeda is off to a good start on 1.5/2, scoring a nice win in tonight's game.  Winkelman drew his first game against IM Alexej Khamatgaleev, but as I write this, the second round results aren't available.
Coverage for both events can be found via https://chessnews.asia/2019-australasian-masters/

Ikeda,Junta (2439) - Liu,Xiangyi (2385) [E91]
2019 Australasian Masters GM norm Melbourne (2.5), 16.12.2019

Saturday 14 December 2019

2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters - GM Bobby Cheng wins with a picket fence score

It is very rare that a chess tournament is won with a perfect score. It is even rarer in a field that contains a couple of GM's, an IM, and a few FM's. So GM Bobby Cheng's 9/9 at the 2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters, is a result for the record books.
He finished 2 points clear of FM Zhuo Ren Lim (MAS), and a whopping 3.5 points ahead of IM Erlend Mikalsen (NOR) and GM Frode Urkedal (NOR) in third place. His winning run almost came to an end in his final game against Kyle Leaver, but Leaver went wrong in the ending, giving Cheng his 9th win.
Lim's 7 points was good enough for an IM norm, the third he has achieved. He now needs to get his rating about 2400 to be awarded the title.
Of the other players, Tom Maguire and Kyle Leaver both had good performances. Maguire was very 'all or nothing' with 4 wins, 5 losses and no draws, while Leaver was a little more solid with 4 draws do go along with his 2 wins. Albert Winkelman started strongly with 3/4, but a disastrous run of 4 straight losses left him well down the standings. FM Michael Kethro picked up some rating points with his 3.5/9, but time trouble was a constant issue.
Sterling Bayaca won the Open with 8/9. After a loss in the early rounds he strung together 7 straight wins to finish a point and a half ahead of Chathula Kiripitige

Thursday 12 December 2019

2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters - Day 6

GM Bobby Cheng has wrapped up first place in the 2019 Lidums Australian Youngs Masters, winning his 8th consecutive game to be on 8/8 with 1 game to play. He defeated IM Erlend Mikalsen in a fairly short game, to maintain his 1.5 point lead over FM Zhuo Ren Lim.
Lim mover closer to an IM norm with a win over FM Michael Kethro, and he now only needs a draw in tomorrows game to achieve this. GM Frode Erkadel was made to work hard by Aaron Lee before winning his 3rd game of the tournament, while Kyle Leaver and Tom Maguire also scored wins to reach 50%.
Tomorrow Cheng plays Leaver and a win will give him a rare (and possibly unique) 100% in an Australian norm event. Lim will also go into his final round as a favourite against Winkelman, whose form has deserted him in the later half of the tournament. All the action begins at 9:30am Adelaide time, with the final placing likely to be known soon after lunchtime.

Maung, Maung Kyaw - Maguire, Tom
2019 Lidums AYM 12.12.2019

Wednesday 11 December 2019

2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters - Day 5

GM Bobby Cheng continues to dominate the 2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters, scoring his 7th straight win today. He had a quick win over FM Leo Maung and now holds a 1.5 point lead with 2 rounds to play.
FM Zhuo Ren Lim kept his chances of an IM norm alive with a win over top seed GM Frode Urkedal. In an even position Urkedal offered a pawn for play against Lim's exposed king, but Lim was able to keep his king safe, and eventually reached a winning ending.
IM Erland Mikalsen has completely recovered from his jet-lagged start, beating Albert Winkelman, and getting to 4.5. Wins were also recorded by Tom Maguire and Michael Kethro, improving the standings for both.

Tuesday 10 December 2019

2020 Olympiad?

The announcement that the World Anti-Doping Agency has imposed a 4 year ban on Russia hosting any 'major' international sporting events has thrown a cloud over the 2020 Chess Olympiad, due to be held in Moscow in August 2020.
When the ban was announced FIDE were very quick to release a statement saying that as contracts had already been signed, that the Olympiad would not be affected. However this is already been called into doubt, and the statement itself is no on the FIDE website.
There have already been rumors of another venue change, with China being mentioned in this regard. As this is early days I assume the FIDE lawyers are now going over the ruling from WADA to see what it actually imposes on both FIDE and the Russian organisers. There is also the matter of the Russian team itself, as it may not be able to play under its own flag.
More news as it comes to hand!

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for the 2020 Olympiad. This post is made in a private capacity, and does not represent the views of FIDE or the organisers)

Monday 9 December 2019

2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters - Day 3

Although the tournament is only half way through, GM Bobby Cheng is the overwhelming favourite to win the 2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters. He is on 5/5, winning a wild game against FM Michael Kethro, where both players were down to their last few seconds for their last few moves. Albert Winkelman's attempts at keeping pace with Cheng were dealt a cruel blow after he came unstuck against FM 'Leo' Maung, pushing him back into third place.
Malaysian FM Zhuo Ren Lim has moved into 2nd place, beating Aaron Lee in a quick game. The win keeps his chances of an IM norm alive, although it is a tough 3.5/4, including a game against GM Frode Urkedal.
The Open event saw the lead change once again with George Bartley losing to Ethan Retnaraja, and allowing Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Sterling Bayaca to join Retnaraja in equal first.

Sunday 8 December 2019

2019 Lidums Young Australian Masters - Day 2

GM Bobby Cheng is the clear leader of the 2019 Lidums Young Australian Masters, finishing the 2nd day on 4/4. The 4th round saw him up against the tournaments other GM Frode Urkedal, and in a long hard battle, he emerged victorious.
In 2nd place is Albert Winkelman, who drew both his games today to finish on 3/4. With his draw against Urkedal in round 3, his 'live' FIDE rating went over 2300, which means he has earned the FM title (when the event is submitted for ratings).
Winkleman is still well placed to earn an IM Norm (which is a tough 7/9), while FM Zhuo Ren Lim (2.5/4) and Kyle Leaver (2.5/4) still have a hance of getting there as well.
In the Open, George Bartley and Chathula Kiripitige lead with 3.5/4. Having already played each other, it is their results against the rest of the field which will decide the tournament.

Urkedal, Frode - Cheng, Bobby
2019 Lidums AYM 8.12.2019

Smirnov wins London Chess Classic Open

Australian GM Anton Smirnov has tied for first at the 2019 London Chess Classic Open. He finished with a very impressive 7.5/9 to share first place with GM R. Praggnanandhaa, who he drew with in their individual game.
The result will certainly cement Smirnov's reputation as a future superstar. Having just finished High School Smirnov is playing a number of events in Europe, the most important being the Tata Steel Challengers in January. As well as providing some tough competition, the winner of this event qualifies for the Masters tournament the following year.
While Smirnov was winning the Open, the final of the Grand Chess Tour was also taking place the same venue.  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren qualified for the final, and their first classical game was a completely bonkers 4 queen ending!

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime - Liren,Ding
Grand Chess Tour Final 6.12.2019

Saturday 7 December 2019

2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters - Round 1

The first round of the 2019 Australian Young Masters and Open and have been completed with Canberra players having some success. Albert Winkelman scored a nice first up win in the Masters, although FM Michael Kethro was less fortunate, although time trouble may have been a factor. In the Open event, 2nd seeded Sankeerten Badrinarayan had a first round win, and followed this up with another full point in round 2.
The tournament home page is lidumsaym.com but you can shortcut to the results (and pgn files) via tournaments.streetchess.net

Winkelman, Albert - Lee, Aaron [A00]
2019 Lidums Australian Young Masters 7.12.2019

Thursday 5 December 2019

2019 Australian Young Masters

The 2019 Australian Young Masters begins in a couple of days. It is being held at the University of Adelaide and features an IM event, a FIDE Rated Open, and an Under 1200 tournament. The IM tournament is a mix of local and overseas players, with FM Michael Kethro and Albert Winkelman taking part.
Normally I watch this event from afar, but have called in as an arbiter at the last minute (this seems to be happening a lot recently!). The tournament website is here, with the first round of all 3 events being 9:30 am on Saturday 7th December (Adelaide Time)

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Sometimes, sometimes ....

For the second game in a row, my basic tactical vision has deserted me. Last week it was missing a simple check, this time is was missing a two move win of a piece. Need to concentrate more ...

Tuesday 3 December 2019

2019 London Chess Classic

The 2019 London Chess Classic has started, with a number of different events on offer. The Grand Chess Tour Final begins this evening, while the FIDE Open has been running for a few days. There is also a number of smaller events, simuls and a Super Blitz Open.
One player already doing well in th FIDE Open is GM Anton Smirnov. Having finished his final year of school he is off to play the winter circuit in Europe, with the LCC being his first event. Currently he is tied for first place on 4/4, in part to this nice win in round 3.

Zujev,Oleg (2316) - Smirnov,Anton (2573) [A00]
11th CSC London Chess Classic Olympia Conference Centre, Lon (3.4), 30.11.2019

Sunday 1 December 2019

2019 ASTC Day 2

Anglican Church Grammar (QLD) has won the 2019 ASTC Open Secondary Section, by half a point ahead of Scotch College (VIC). The tournament was decided in round 4 with 'Churchie' beating Scotch 2.5-1.5. The final round saw Scotch score 3.5 against PAC (SA), but Churchie's 2 points against Sydney Boys High (NSW) was enough to claim the title.
The Girls Secondary Section was won by PLC (VIC) after they scored a 4-0 result in the final round, to leapfrog Sydney Girls High (NSW) and Lyneham High (ACT). These two teams played in the final round and a 3-1 wing for Sydney Girls left them in outright second, with Lyneham finishing third.
Waverly Christian College (VIC) were the runaway winners of the Primary Open, finishing on 18/20. East Marden Primary (SA) and Somerset College (QLD) tied on 11.5, with East Marden claiming second based on the teams head to head result.
Mount View Primary won a closely contested Girls Primary section on 14/20. The final round saw 3 teams with a chance of first place, but a set of 2-2 results left the standings unchanged. Neutral Bay Primary (NSW) finsihed second on tie-break ahead of Turner School (ACT).
The two day event saw a lot of good chess across all the sections. Canberra Grammar provided excellent facilities for the event, and the feedback from the players and visiting schools was uniformly positive.
Thanks for the successful organisation of the event goes to Kate Woodley who put a massive amount of effort into everything connected with the tournament (trophies, sponsorship, signage, room layout, website etc), all while dealing with the worries of an out of control bushfire quite close to her home!