Saturday, 29 February 2020

Look before you leap

When faced with an obvious good move, it often helps to see if you have an even better one. This was clearly demonstrated in a game at street chess today, when one of the younger competitors though he was winning a rook against one of out older competitors.
While the knight fork on c2 was certainly tempting, if Black had taken a couple of deep breaths, he might have found the even stronger 7... Bxc2! 8.Qe2 Nd3+ forcing White to give up a queen for 2 pieces. Instead Black could not retrieve his knight and White eventually went on to win.
Of course this all could have been avoided if White had played 7.Bb5+ c6 8.Ba4, which is a standard idea in this type of position.

Hellman,Oscar - Cheng,Jerry [D00]
Street Chess ICCF, 29.02.2020

Friday, 28 February 2020

At last the 1948 show

The 2019 FIDE Congress is finally underway, and like most FIDE Congresses (in non election years anyway), it has been a fairly peaceful affair. The main item on the agenda was the approval of a new set of statutes, to reflect the new governance that FIDE plans to operate under.
Probably the major change is the introduction of Presidential term limits. FIDE Presidents can now only serve a total of two 4 year terms in that role. The schedule for elected commissions has also been changed , so that they are now elected 2 years after the Presidential elections.
Despite some mutterings from some federations that they would oppose its approval, the General Assembly voted 110-1 (with 1 abstention) in favour of the new statutes (apparently Wales was the only no vote). 
As this was the major business conducted at the Congress, I'm assuming the real implementation work will be done at the next Congress in August 2020. It will be interesting to see how the new commission structure has worked since 2018, especially in terms of promises made, and promises kept.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Develop, sac, mate

Here is another example of turning a lead in development into a rapid mating attack. While Black indulges in a bit of pawn grabbing, White completes his development. He then opens up the position with a piece sacrifice, before checkmating the Black king.

Spielmann,Rudolf - Flamberg,Alexander [C29]
Mannheim (42), 1914

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

A trick you shouldn't miss (but I did)

It has been said that Knight and Pawn endings are juts pawn endings with an extra piece. The rules for winning (or drawing) are basically the same (create outside passed pawns, centralise your king etc), with there are a couple of tactical components that pure pawn endings don't have.
In a game I played at the (new) Gungahlin Chess Club last night, I failed to spot one of this tactical tricks, although I was able to spot another.
I had simplified into a minor piece ending a pawn up, and had then won a second pawn on move 47 (Knight fork!). On move 50 my opponent played Nf5 and I thought my h pawn was dropping (NB we were both in time trouble at this stage). I chose to exchange bishops, figuring that one extra pawn should be enough to win (which it was). What I missed was 50 ... h5!. If 51.gxh5 the Knight goes, while if 51.Bxg5 hxg4+ 52.Kxg4 Nf2+ wins a piece. While I am not certain, I think I've either seen or had this trick played against me before, so it is something I should have found.
By the way, there was one last tactic in the ending that I had planned to play, but in the end chose not to. On move 64 I had planned to win by 64 ... b4 65.Kb5 Nc6! when the knight is safe as 66.Kxc6 g4 67.Nd2 Ke5! results in one or other of the pawns queening.

Radisich,Matt - Press,Shaun [C22]
Rama Memorial, 25.02.2020

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

2020 Dubbo Open - 28th and 29th March 2020

The 20th Dubbo Open is being hold on the weekend of the 28th and 29th March 2020. As usual it will be a 6 round event with a time limit of 60m+10s increment. There will be 3 rounds on Saturday and 3 round Sunday.
The venue is the Dubbo RSL Club, with registration open from 9:30am on Saturday. As this is the 20th anniversary tournament, the organisers are hoping to attract a large field of past players, and past champions. This years event has a very impressive first prize of $750, with plenty of other prizes on offer.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Short v Hort

A blast from the past occurred at this years Bunratty Masters tournament, when GM Nigel Short faced GM Vlastimil Hort in round 3. They first played each other almost 40 years ago, when Hort was already established as one of the worlds top players, and Short was the rising star.
These days Hort is one of the elder statesmen of chess, as both a player and commentator. Short is now a FIDE Vice-President, but is also still active over the board. Indeed, after beating Hort in the following game, he went on to win the tournament with 5/6.

Short,Nigel - Hort,Vlastimil [C67]
Bunratty Masters, 22.02.2020

Sunday, 23 February 2020


The practice of strong gamers playing under another identity (often masquerading as a newbie) is sometimes known as "smurfing". It happens in online games such as Starcraft, and now it has become news in the chess world.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen has engaged in a bit of this recently, winning a number of online events while hiding his identity. Starting off as "DannyTheDonkey" he quickly moved on the "DrDrunkenstein". Under these names (and a few others) he won a number of events, often while live streaming the action. Importantly, he didn't try and pretend to be someone else (which may have raised some ethical issues), but simply left it up to others to guess who he was.
"Smurfing" is generally considered OK in the online gaming community, as long as it isn't used to gain an otherwise unfair advantage (eg creating accounts to throw games to other players). Usually it is done as a kind of challenge, where a player starts off with a low ranking and then sees how quickly they gain build it up again. It is even used in games like Poker, where a strong players starts an online account with $1 in it, and sees how long it takes to earn $100,000!
The full glorious story is available here, and is well worth a read. If anything, it may encourage more players to enter events like this, as playing an anonymous Carlsen may just lead to your "fifteen minutes of fame".

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The crazy big centre

In a follow up to an earlier post about failing to push both the e and d pawns, here is a recent game where Black gets steamrolled by White's big centre. The opening is "almost" a Grunfeld, but the move order meant that Black had no opportunity to trade knights on c3. As a result the pawn centre has grater mobility, and after only 10 moves, Black is almost lost.

Thybo,Jesper Sondergaard (2592) - Scheidegger,U (1741) [A15]
19th Burgdorf Open 2020 Burgdorf SUI (1.3), 14.02.2020

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Are chess clubs dying?

In the Internet age, the conventional wisdom is that chess clubs struggle for members. The attraction of playing from home, and choosing when you play, looks like a better option, at least on the surface. This article from Port Macquarie certainly takes that tack when discussing the decline in numbers at the local chess clubs.
While this may be the case in that area, numbers in the chess clubs in Canberra seem to be going in the other direction. For a number of years the situation was that any two local clubs would be doing well, while the others would struggle. But over the last year, all the clubs in Canberra (Tuggeranong, Canberra, and Gungahlin) have attracted larger numbers of players. Attendances at Street Chess are also increasing (even with the entry fee increase) and other activities like the ANU Chess Society are attracting big numbers.
One of the reasons (at least in Canberra) is that people seem keen to move from social and online chess, to face to face chess. Rather than internet chess keeping people away from clubs, it is instead generating a new pool of players. The trick is to tap into this pool, using a good social media strategy. A good club website is a start, especially one that turns up via obvious search terms. (eg If you type "canberra chess" into google, the Canberra Chess Club page is the first link). Running a good email list (with weekly results) also helps, as it encourages members to keep playing. And if you want to go all out, Facebook and Twitter are also good ways of notifying potential new members of upcoming events.

I've seen this ending before

The game fragment below comes from "The Coldest Game", which is currently streaming on Netflix. It is the end of the first match game between Gavrylov and Mansky, with Mansky finding a brilliant combination to win the game.
When I saw it I immediately knew that it was based on a real ending, but for the moment, I cannot remember which game it came from. A position search in chessbase failed to find anything, but that probably means the arrangement of non critical pieces (the pawns on the kingside) don't match.
What is important is how Black forces through his pawn, sacrificing a rook and bishop, before ending the game with a seemingly quiet pawn move.

Gavrylov - Mansky
The Coldest Game, 1962

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Getting caught on the crease

Early in my chess career I read some good general advice about pawn moves in the opening. "If you start with 1.e4, then your goal is to play d4, while if you start with 1.d4 your goal is to play e4".
While most general rules fall down in certain circumstances, getting your d pawn (or e pawn) stuck on the second rank can leave you in a bad way. In the best case you might lack pressure in the centre, or need a couple of extra moves to develop, while in the worst case, it obstructs your development and leaves a permanent weakness in your position.
As an example here is a game from when I was a lot younger. While White didn't seem interested in moving his d pawn I made sure I moved both my e and d pawns as quickly as possible. It didn't give me a winning position out of the opening, but it did help when my opponent got carried away with his attack and sacrificed more material than was sensible.

Ali,Mos - Press,Shaun [A03]
Tuggeranong CC, 24.10.1988

Monday, 17 February 2020

Doing the Double

If my research is correct, the last player to win the Australian Championship and the Doeberl Cup in the same year was Ian Rogers, back in 1986. There may be instances when there was a shared first in both events, but in terms of players winning the title for both events (on countback), Rogers looks to be the most recent.
In recent years it has certainly become a much harder feat to achieve, as most of the Doeberl Cup champions have come from overseas. IM James Morris won the Doeberl in 2016, but before that Ian Rogers (2007) was the previous Australian winner.
This may change this year, with current Australian Champion Temur Kuybokarov the current top seed for the event. He has been in good form over the summer, and I expect him to be one of the clear favourites for first place. Nonetheless the Doeberl has always proved to be a tough tournament to win (especially in the 9 round format), so if does take out first place it will be an achievement worth noting.


There are some openings that look "hackable" and there are some openings that are "hackable". The Pirc is an opening that is sometimes one then the other. Here is a quick win from the English 4NCL which at first glance looks like a smooth hack from around move 7, but on closer inspection, was probably salvageable for Black,  at least for a few more moves. The big mistake happened on move 12, when Whites attack really became unstoppable.

Hebden,Mark - Benhamida,Aisha [B08]
4NCL, 14.02.2020

Sunday, 16 February 2020

2020 ACT Championships

The first big FIDE rated event in Canberra for 2020 is taking place early next month. This is the 2020 ACT Chess Championships, and the details are

When: 6-9 March 2020 (Canberra Day Weekend)
Time control: 90 minutes 30 second increment

Format: 7 rounds FIDE Rated Swiss

Venue: Campbell High School, Treloar Crescent, Campbell

Organiser: Cam Cunningham

Arbiter: Shaun Press IA

Tie-Break: None (Shared title)

Prizes (including rating prizes): Dependant upon entries. (NB: Last years event had a prize pool of some $1600)

Entry Fees: $65 ($45 Concessionals)

ACTCA Membership: Non 2020 ACTCA/ACTJCL Members will need to join for 2020 ($25 Adult, $15 Junior)

To register (or to ask for more details): Please email

Rounds: 7 (Round 1 Friday evening, two rounds per day Saturday through Monday)

Friday (Round 1)
(Please come before 7pm, especially if you need to register and pay)

Saturday, Sunday and Monday Rounds
Morning 10:00am
Afternoon 2:30pm

Friday, 14 February 2020

The Coldest Game

Years ago I enjoyed watching the TV series "I Spy". It was about a pair of intelligence agents travelling the world posing as tennis players. While it looked like a plausible cover, I thought that travelling the world as a professional chess player would be a better one.
The new movie "The Coldest Game" takes that approach, within the context of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. American Professor Joshua Mansky is forced by the CIA to play the Soviet Champion Alexander Gavrylov in a USA v USSR match, while at the same time trying to contact a mole who has details of the Soviet missile movements.
It was released at the end of 2019 to generally good reviews, and is now available on Netflix. At this stage I haven't watched anything more than the trailers, but I plan to watch the whole thing in the next few days. Of course the chessplayer in me is most interested in whether they get the chess scenes right, but I don't mind a good spy movie, so even if they don't, it might still be worth watching.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

When you're hot you're hot ...

Chess is most definitely a confidence game. If you think you are playing good chess, then often you play good chess. But when you decide that your'e not, then all sorts issues pop up. Tentative moves, missed defences, and talking yourself out of good lines are just some of the symptoms.
Now I don't know if this is the case with Sam Shankland in the following game, but after a good run over the last few years (including a US Championship), this might be a game he wishes to forget.

Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2721) - Shankland,Sam (2683) [E52]
Prague Chess Festival - Masters (1.4), 12.02.2020

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

I don't think this year will be as good as the last

As noted previously, 2019 was quite a successful year for me as a chess player. I don't think this will be the case with 2020.
Instead of starting the year with an undefeated streak lasting almost 6 months, I have already lost a game, in only my third try. Playing Paul Dunn, I managed to drop a piece (and a pawn) to a two mover, and he carefully nursed the position to its inevitable conclusion. Having played Paul as far back as the late 1980's / early 1990's, this is actually the first time he has beaten me in a tournament game. When I checked with him to confirm this, his instant reply of 'Yes!' indicated he was well aware of this fact.
Of course I have plenty of time to turn this around, but I'm note sure that 2020 will see any great heroics from me over the board.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The 2020 Indian Team Championship saw a curious incident when GM Adhiban Baskaran was defaulted for wearing a watch during the game. After 9 moves of his game against IM CRG Krishna, the game was stopped after Krishna noticed Adhiban wearing a watch, which was against the competition rules.
What complicated the decision was that Adhiban's watch was a good old fashioned analog watch, and was incapable of receiving or producing information. Why this type of watch was also banned (in India at least) had more to do with the difficulty on telling the difference between smart and non-smart watches, rather than any problem with the watch itself.
There have been a few similar incidents in the recent past, although they have involved smart watches. A game in the 2019 NSW Championship was ended when a player was found to be wearing a smart watch, while in the 2018 Chess Olympiad, I turned up to at least two games wearing my Garmin fitness watch and had to hurriedly hand it off to an arbiter before I was forfeited.
It is important to note that the FIDE Laws of Chess specifically mention electronic devices, and that analog watches aren't considered in that category. Back in 2010 the Rules Commission discussed the technology behind watches in FIDE rated events, and not only were watches permitted (at that time), but having a watch that produced a noise (like an alarm or beep) was not enough to default a player.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

More central pawns

Following up on my earlier post about the London System, here is a similar treatment of the Colle System. The added bonus here is that White was Edgard Colle, playing his own system. His opponent (and winner of the game) was  M.E Goldstein, who was at one stage, an editor of Modern Chess Openings. Goldstein later moved to Australia, and was a regular participant in the Australian Championship.

Colle,Edgard - Goldstein,Maurice Edwards [D05]
Weston Super Mare Weston (1), 03.04.1926

Friday, 7 February 2020

Has Basketball been solved?

If you were allowed to, would you play chess without a Queen, but with some extra pieces for compensation? For example, instead of a queen, you have two extra knights (on f3 and c3)? Or 2 extra bishops? Or is this not enough?
The reason for this question has more to do with Basketball than Chess. The Houston Rockets NBA Team has decided to play there most recent games with the traditional 7+ foot centre, instead trading height for speed. Despite criticism for this choice, they did beat the LA Lakers today in what is seen as a significant upset.
I suspect one of the reason for this approach is that their General Manager, Daryl Morey,  has a graduate degree from MIT, and a background in Computer Science and Statistics. It looks as though he has crunched the numbers (points per cm?) and decided that more value can be achieved with less resources.
So if you had the choice, instead of the traditional arrangement of pieces, what would you spend your 39 points on? All Queens? All Smalls? or something in between?

Bookfair 2020

Today was the first day of the 2020 Lifeline Bookfair in Canberra. I, as usual, was part of the queue that formed before it opened, hoping to pick up some second chess books.
This year there seemed to be quite a good collection and I even found a number that I don't already own (or so I thought). I ended up buying around half a dozen books, and in a first for me at the book fair, some quite recent issue of New in Chess magazine that someone was getting rid of.
Of course when I got home I realised I purchased a copy of a book I already did own, but that is always a risk for me, and I'd rather buy a duplicate, than miss out on a title that I really wanted.
The Bookfair runs until Sunday at EPIC Canberra, and there are still plenty of chess books left, if you are planning to make the journey.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Barden ends his streak

Leonard Barden has ended his world record streak of daily chess columns, announcing his retirement from his London Evening Standard column a few days ago. His streak of producing a column every day for over 63 years was not only a record for chess journalists, but is believed to be a world record for any type of journalist. To commemorate his retirement, I have found a game between Barden, and another legendary figure in English chess journalism, B.H. Wood.

Barden,Leonhard William - Wood,Baruch Harold [E85]
BCF-ch York (5), 1959

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

A good start at Gungahlin

The new Gungahlin Chess Club got off to a successful start in 2020, with 24 players turning up for the Ramakrishna Memorial. Named after Gogulapati Ramakrishna, the tournament saw a good mix of strong established players, and up and coming juniors. While the top seeds won most of the first round matches, a number of them were forced to work hard before collecting the point.
The new venue (Eastlake Club, Gungahlin) was well received by the chess club members, with food and drink facilities an added bonus. I took advantage of "Taco Tuesday" to eat my fill before the round, and this may become a regular activity for me.
New players are welcome for subsequent rounds of this tournament. Full details can be found here.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Beer and Blitz

Despite the very high temperatures in Canberra, a group of 12 brave players took part in the first Beer and Blitz tournament yesterday. The event was held at (and sponsored by) The District in Crace, and organised by IA Alana Chibnall.
While a few of us went with the Beer part of the tournament, the rest concentrated on the Blitz, as the results probably showed. After losing her first game, organiser Alana Chibnall ran off 10 straight wins to finish in first place. In second place was Willis Lo on 9, followed by Harry Press on 8.
As is my usual practice in blitz events, I played as many gambit openings as I could. There were at least 3 King's Gambits, one Marshall (which was met by an anti-Marshall), and one Blackmar Diemar. Results did vary, as I only scored 6.5. I did win one game that I started with 1.a3!, and in another game, was gifted a point by an opponent dropped a queen to a knight fork (always capture towards the centre Matt!)
It was a fun tournament, and there are now plans to make it a regular (monthly) event.  Most likely it will be the first Sunday of the month, although that depends on what else is happening on those weekends.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

The Casual Opponent

While the major purpose of a chess club is to organise competitions, they also serve as a place for casual games to take place. During my travels I've occasionally dropped into a chess club, and found myself playing a few "friendlies"  against the locals. Often my opponent (and their strength) is completely unknown to me, which makes the game even more of a challenge.
Of course I sometimes become the "local player" especially at Street Chess. This most recently occurred at the Canberra Chess Club, where I was serving as the "House Player". As there was no need for me to play last Wednesday evening, I instead played a quite interesting (and untimed) casual game instead.

Press,Shaun - Maz [B22]
Casual, 30.01.2020

Saturday, 1 February 2020

The forking London System

Is there a more reviled opening than the London System? It seems to have replaced the Colle as the "goto" opening of players who are looking for an all in one system, and who don't mind a draw against higher rated opponents. As a result 2.Bf4 (or 2.Nf3 3.Bf4) is almost always met with a groan, or dirty look when it hits the board.
Of course one of the problems for players with the Black pieces is that don't bother to prepare against it. Like the English it is one of these openings you know you're going to face at some time, and yet, you don't treat it with the same seriousness as more mainline openings.
Of course Anti-London Systems have been around for years, if you know where to look. Flicking through the pages of "Masters of the Chessboard" by Richard Reti, I cam across the following game from 1908. Of course if you are looking for a magic bullet, this game probably isn't it, but it does demonstrate that with sensible development,  and having more pawns in the centre, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Marshall,Frank J - Rubinstein,Akiba [D02]
Lodz (39), 1908