Tuesday 31 March 2020

Arianne Caoili 1986-2020

Very sad news has come out of Armenia, with Arianne Caoili passing away at the age of 33. She had been involved in a serious car accident two week ago, and despite the best efforts of hospital staff, she died of her injuries yesterday.
Born in the Philippines, she represented that country up until 2004, before changing Federations to Australia. She was married to GM Lev Aronian in 2015 2017, moving to Armenia a few years previously to manage her business interests in Yerevan.
Apart from being a WIM, she also studied International Relations at the Australian National University, where she was a member of the ANU Chess Club. Outside of the chess community she was probably best known as a contestant on the television show, Dancing with the Stars, where she finished runner up in 2006.
While her professional career took priority over her chess career over the last decade, she still  performed at a high level when she did play. One event she took part in was the Veterans v Snowdrops match, where she scored the following win over legendary GM Wolfgang Uhlmann.

Caoili,Arianne (2242) - Uhlmann,Wolfgang (2412) [C15]
Marianske Lazne Czech Coal m Marianske Lazne (6), 25.11.2010

It isn't always easier playing online

The rush is now on to get as many online events up and running as possible. As with a lot of things in Australian chess, the ACT led the way ("with remarkable speed" according to GM Ian Rogers), but a number of other organisers are starting regular online events. Some are paid events, some have prize money on offer, while the rest are just being organised to keep the chess community connected.
I must confess I am not a great online player, and tonight proved this in spades. I decided to join in the Monday Blitz Arena, but it did not get off to great start. My first game started with a mouse slip, while my third game was a pre-move disaster where I left my queen en-pris in the opening. I even managed to forget some opening theory I should know, and went from winning to losing in the space of one move. I eventually scored a couple of very lucky wins and stumbled to +1 over 14 games. Once finished I once again had to face the question, "Do I suck because I don't play enough, or do I not play enough because I suck?"

Sunday 29 March 2020

The Match of the Century

Fifty years ago today, the USSR team played a Rest of the World team in what became known as "The Match of the Century". The match was played over 10 boards, with 4 games on each board. The USSR team scored a narrow 20.5-19.5, in part aided by the result on the lower boards. Paul Keres on board 10 contributed with a 3-1 win over Ivkov, making up for some poor scoring on the top 4 boards. The USSR team was more solid on the lower boards, scoring 2.5-1.5 wins from boards 5-8, and 2-2 draw on board 9.
Bobby Fischer surprised everyone by playing on board 2 (below Larsen), but proved to be a good team player, crushing Petrosian 3-1, including the following hammering in the first game.

Fischer,Robert James - Petrosian,Tigran V [B13]
URS-World Belgrade (1.2), 29.03.1970

Street Chess Streaming

More through necessity than desire, I've decided to join the world of chess broadcasting. With all ACT Chess Association and Street Chess events being held online for know, I'm producing video summaries of the tournaments the day after they are held. So far I have made 3 such video's, all of which can be found at https://www.twitch.tv/shaunpress/videos
My intention is to produce a summary of each event that the ACT Chess Association holds, including analysing one game from each of the events. The analysis isn't particularly deep, but is pitched towards the 1400 rated player, which is the median strength of Canberra club and tournament players.
They are streamed live (usually in the morning around 10am), but can be replayed after broadcast. According to Twitch, recordings are kept for 2 weeks, before being removed.

Friday 27 March 2020

Getting castling wrong

The last game of the now postponed 2020 Candidates tournament featured a nice win by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave over Ian Nepomniachtchi. Early on in the game Nepo played his rook to g8, and soon played his king to f8.  If I seen a position in one of my coaching classes I  might have been tempted to stop and explain the rules of castling to both players.
On further inspection it wasn't moving the king to f8 that was the problem. Black was doing OK until he chose another move that is often risky for French players, and that was c4. Removing the pressure on d4 often leads to an advantage for White and so it turned out in this game. Not having to worry about the centre allowed White to find good files and squares for his pieces, and then exploit his better pawn structure to win the ending.

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime - Nepomniachtchi,Ian [C18]
Tournament (7.2), 25.03.2020

Thursday 26 March 2020

And the Candidates has been stopped

The 2020 Candidates tournament has been halted after 7 of the 14 rounds. The reason given is that the Russian Government is stopping all flights in and out of the country, and the players and officials would have no way of getting home. FIDE have said that the second half of the event will be held at a later date, although obviously they do not know when that will be.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

2020 Olympiad postponed

The 2020 Chess Olympiad joins a long list of international sporting events that been cancelled or postponed. The Olympiad, which was to be held in Moscow in August, has now been deferred for a year. The FIDE announcement states that the Oympiad will now be held at the same time (and venue) in 20201.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Never ending knights

Of all the single piece chess endings, knight endings can often be the most torturous. They, along with Queen endings, are usually the longest endings to play, as the side with an advantage often needs to keep manoeuvring before creating a winning position.
The opportunity to keep 'pushing' in knight endings is also helpful, as defending when tired is often harder than converting when tired. And this was demonstrated at the 2020 Candidates last night when Giri squeezed a win out of a drawn knight ending against Alekseenko. A Queen and Knight ending was reached on move 27, but the game went for another 70 moves. The fatal mistake came on move 89, after it looks as though Alekseenko had found a clever way to draw.
The win by Giri is the first in this (or even the last) event, and brings him back to 50%. However Ian Nepomniachtchi has now jumped out to a full point lead, after a win over the fading Liren Ding.

Alekseenko,Kirill (2698) - Giri,Anish (2763) [C54]
FIDE Candidates Tournament chess24.com (6.2), 23.03.2020

Monday 23 March 2020

Creating Weakness

The last 2 rounds of the 2020 Candidates Tournament has seen 7 of the 8 games drawn. The one exception was last nights game between Nepo and  Hao Wang. While Wang had been considered an outsider to win this event, he was my 'dark horse' tip, at least until now.
The choice of the Petroff may have indicated some peaceful intent on Wang's part, but Nepo chose 13.h4 to liven up the game ('A mouse slip' was one online comment). While this did not lead to any immediate advantage, it did payoff a number of moves later when the pawn reached h6. Wang did not wish to weaken his own pawn structure by taking the pawn, but a few moves later Nepo was able to move his queen along the 8th rank, leaving Wang facing threats of Qxh7 and Qg7. This turned out to be enough to win the game, as Wang was forced to give up a piece, and he resigned shortly after.

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2774) - Wang,Hao (2762) [C42]
FIDE Candidates Tournament chess24.com (5.4), 22.03.2020

Sunday 22 March 2020

Out through the In door

The transition to running club events as online tournaments is going quite smoothly. Today I ran the first online Street Chess event, with 16 players taking part. To keep some connection with the 'real' Street Chess, I did run it from the usual venue, King O'Malley's. With a fully charged laptop I was able sit sit in the outdoor area, joined by one other tournament participant, and a couple of other spectators, who had turned up expecting a face to face event.
I ran it as a full 7 round event, with the standard time limit of G/15m. As well as a lot of the regular players, the tournament also attracted a couple of former Canberra players now resident in other Australian cities.
There was a tie for first between Wenlin Yin and Leron Kwong, with Lachlan Smart finishing third. Sulia Van Sebille took advantage of modern technology to finish Best of the Bottom Half, while playing her games from Melbourne.
The only technical issue was a couple of players disconnected, and were then booted from the event. It seems that there is a 60s timeout limit, after which you are removed from future pairings. This is a little harsh, but I think this a server rule, which cannot be overridden.

If you want to organise such events yourself, chess.com has a set of instructions at https://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-run-chess-events-online

Friday 20 March 2020

Ding bounces back

After starting the 2020 Candidates Tournament with 2 straight losses, Liren Ding has bounced back with a 3rd round win over Fabiano Caruana. The opening was quite complicated, and even with the help of an engine, I still have no real idea about what was going on. All that mattered was that Caruana sacrificed two pawns, didn't get enough compensation for it, and Ding then carefully converted the ending. With the other 3 games drawn, the field has now closed up, with the players all withing a point of each other.

Ding,Liren (2805) - Caruana,Fabiano (2842) [D17]
FIDE Candidates Tournament chess24.com (3.1), 19.03.2020

Thursday 19 March 2020

More online events

The ACT Chess Association held another online event this evening, this time on chess.com. To make this happen, the ACTCA has set up an online club, the 'ACTCA Chess Club'. Players with a connection to ACT chess are welcome to join.
The tournament was a 5 round swiss, with a time limit of 10m+2s. 18 players took part, with Fred Litchfield winning on countback ahead of Jordan Brown, after they both finished on 4.5/5.
Going forward, the ACT Chess Association is looking to organise a few of these tournaments each week. While some players prefer slower events (G/15m) others are keen on the G/5m Arena format. Hopefully there will be the opportunity to organise events with different formats, so as to give everyone a tournament they prefer.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

2020 Candidates - Round 1

The 2020 Candidates Tournament got off to a surprisingly aggressive start with 2 wins in the 4 games played. Liren Ding lost to Hao Wang, while Nepomniachtchi beat Giri in a long (but technically winning) Queen v Rook ending. The other 2 games were drawn, although Grischuk was better in his game before time trouble issues kicked in.
The Ding v Wang game contained an instructive point about the power of pawns against rooks in the ending. The key moment occurred at move  41, when Wang offered the exchange in return for a set of passed pawns. Although Ding declined the offer immediately he took it next move, and then resigned a few moves later.

Ding,Liren (2805) - Wang,Hao (2762) [A22]
FIDE Candidates Tournament chess24.com (1.2), 17.03.2020

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Chess in the time of cholera

The ACTCA Chess Association, along with the ACT Chess Clubs, have decided to suspend all chess events for the foreseeable future. This also includes Street Chess, which will not be running this Saturday (and future Saturdays for the time being).
However, the ACTCA is looking for a replacement to keep everyone connected, in the shape of online events. 
The first test event was run this evening, in the form of an invitation event on lichess.org. While the tournament ran well enough, the 'Arena' format that lichess uses is probably not suitable for what we are looking for (set number of rounds, normal swiss pairings). The next test event will probably be on chess.com on Thursday, and if that works, then we are looking to hold evening events through the week.
Here is one of the games from the tournament, played between the top 2 finishers.

Yin, Wenlin - Press, Harry [C77]
Hodges Arena, 2020.03.17

Monday 16 March 2020

It's the last disco in town

Despite almost every chess event in the world being cancelled, the 2020 Candidates Tournament is still going ahead. As it only consists of 8 players, there is very little health risk attached to it, but FIDE are still taking plenty of precautions.
Today there is the opening ceremony (no doubt a somewhat subdued affair), while tomorrow sees the first round.  Each round is at 4pm Yekaterinburg time, which is 10pm Canberra time. There is live coverage from the official site, and I assume that most of the major chess sites will be carrying their own coverage or streaming commentary.

Sunday 15 March 2020

2020 O2C Doeberl Cup and 2020 SIO Cancelled

Due to new travel and health restrictions put in place by the Australian Government, the ACT Chess Association has decided to cancel this years O2C Doeberl Cup. This decision was not taken lightly, as the ACTCA understands the inconvenience in cancelling any event at short notice. The 2020 Sydney International Open, which was due to take place after the Doeberl Cup has also been cancelled. 
The official statement is as follows

"It is with great regret that the ACT Chess Association is cancelling the O2C Doeberl Cup for 2020. With the Australian Government announcing restrictions on overseas travellers to Australia, and the request to avoid large non-essential gatherings, we have decided that the Doeberl Cup cannot proceed under these conditions. We sincerely apologise to anyone who has already committed to taking part in this tournament, and ask anyone who has suffered financial inconvenience as a result of our decision to contact us immediately (info@doeberlcup.com.au). For players who have entered online we are arranging refunds through Trybooking, and hope to process this as quickly as possible."

Saturday 14 March 2020

Some vintage (online) chess magazines

While diving into the Internet Archive I came across a collection of old Chess Review magazines. The earliest issues are from the 1930's and provide an insight into the American chess scene of the 30's, 40's and 50's. Of particular interest are the first reports on Bobby Fischer in the 1955 issues.
You can find the magazines at https://archive.org/details/magazine_rack?and%5B%5D=chess&sin=
If you are interested in vintage software and early computer chess developments, the link will also bring up a number of computer magazines with computer chess software articles.

Thursday 12 March 2020

Refuted or not refuted?

I've seen a small revival in the Greco and Moller Attacks recently. A couple of Canberra juniors are using them as their main systems as White, even if current theory regards them a not so good anymore.
To be fair, the refutation is quite deep into the opening, and even then, engine assessments give the position as equal or only slightly better for Black. At the level they are being used, I would regard these lines as basically sound, especially as Black needs to know all the moves, otherwise White's attack is quite strong.
Having said that, it is still possible for White to play for a win, even at the top level. The following game was played back in 2007, when there was a small revival in the main line. After 16 ... f6 the position was considered good for Black, but White did have an idea of trying to invade down the h file. However Black went wrong almost straight away with 17 ... g6, and after that, White was able to make enough threats to keep Black on the defensive for the rest of the game.

Kurenkov,Nikolai (2438) - Turov,Maxim (2562) [C54]
Moscow op 03rd Moscow (8), 03.02.2007

Lots of smaller tournaments

The 2020 World Seniors Teams Championship is currently being held in Prague, with over 100 teams (400+ players) taking part. However, halfway through the event the Czech Government suddenly introduced regulations forbidding gatherings of more than 100 people in any one place. Clearly this would effect the tournament, at least until the organisers came up with a solution.
The tournament is still going ahead, but the playing areas have been divided up into smaller sections, thereby avoiding the 100 person limit. I suspect the organisers might be fans of Futurama, where we learned that being technically correct is "The best kind of correct"

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Ignorance is risk

Here is another example when closing your eyes and hoping for the best can often be a successful strategy.
Having started to lose the thread of the position around about move 14, I completely missed 16... Qe5 by Black. At first I thought that g3 was forced (giving up the h pawn), but then I thought "how dangerous can the check on h2 be?". The idea was 17.Ne2 Qh2+ 18.Kh1 Qh1+ 19.Ng1 with the threat of g4. My opponent must have thought along similar lines, as he played 17. ... Nd5 and after Ng3 I was fine. In time trouble my opponent then played a couple of dodgy moves and I eventually won the bishop ending.
The only problem was that after 17.Ne2 Qh2 18.Kh1 Be4!! gives Black an overwhelming attack. Fortunately for me, neither of us saw this, as otherwise I would have either surrendered the h pawn, or my opponent would have finished off my king!

Press,Shaun - Beare,Nick [B01]
Rama Memorial (6), 10.03.2020

Monday 9 March 2020

2020 ACT Chess Champion - IM Junta Ikeda

IM Junta Ikeda is the 2020 ACT Chess Champion, finishing the 4 day tournament with 6.5/7. Going into the final day Ikeda was on 5/5, and was paired against Harry Press who was a point behind. In a 100 move game, Press defended a R+B v R+N ending, before finding a clever mate threat that forced the exchange of rooks, leaving a drawn position. The game could have ended earlier if Press had spotted a repetition, but with both players having seconds on their clock, the miss was excusable.
Going into the final round, Ikeda led by half a point over FM Michael Kethro, with Press, CM Hui Li, and Wenlin Yin a further half point back. Ikeda made sure of first place with a hard fought win over Li, while Kethro beat Yin to finish outright second. Press scored a nice win over Dillon Hathiramani to finish 3rd on 5.5.
Tim Pearce beat Glenn Ingham in the last game of the tournament to finish, leaving Pearce as the winner of the Under 1900 section. Ruofan Xu won the Under 1600 section, picking up 100 rating points as well. Nathalie Tisserand was the best Fide Unrated player, while Eshaan Extross was rewarded for an outstanding tournament with the biggest rating improvement prize.
Full results as well as games from the top boards can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/actchampionship2020/

Li, Hui - Ikeda, Junta
2020 ACT Chess Championship, 2020.03.09

Sunday 8 March 2020

2020 ACT Chess Championship - Day 3

IM Junta Ikeda holds a 1 point lead going into the final day of the 2020 ACT Chess Championship. Ikeda defeated Ruofan Xu in round 4, before beating FM Michael Kethro in the afternoon round. The loss by Kethro dropped him back into equal second on 4 points, alongside Harry Press and Dillon Hathiramani.
Today's games saw some odd pairings, and some odd positions. Round 4 saw a father and son pairing, as well as twin brothers being paired against each other. Both games ended up drawn. Round 5 saw 3 games (out of 18) with at least one player with 2 queens on the board, including 1 where both players had 2 queens!
Round 6 starts at 10am tomorrow, with Ikeda up against Harry Press on the top board. A win for Ikeda guarantees him at least a share of the title, while a win for Press would make a 3 way tie for first a distinct possibility.

Kethro, Michael - Ikeda, Junta
2020 ACT Chess Championship, 2020.03.08

Saturday 7 March 2020

2020 ACT Championship - Day 2

The 2020 ACT Championship sees three players tied on 3 points after 3 rounds. IM Junta Ikeda and FM Michael Kethro have been joined by tournament surprise packet Ruofan Xu at the top of the leader board.
Ikeda dispatched both  Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Dillon Hathiramani with some nice tactics, while Kethro was made to work harder in his round 3 win over Harry Press. Xu defeated 10th seed Victor Braguine in a strange Kings Indian, where Braguine (as White) launched a kingside attack, and then defeated 5th seed Wenlin Yin in the afternoon round.
Tomorrow mornings round has Ikeda up against Xu while Kethro is playing Glenn Ingham. CM Hui Li plays Claudio Mariani and with both players on 2.5/3, a result in this game should move the winner onto the top boards.

Braguine,Victor (1899) - Xu,Ruofan (1467) [E73]
2020 ACT Chess Championship, 07.03.2020

Friday 6 March 2020

2020 ACT Chess Championship - Day 1

The 2020 ACT Chess Championship has started, with a good field of 36 players. While there is a big gap between top seed IM Junta Ikeda and second seed FM Michael Kethro (a little over 300 points), the gap between the 2nd and 10th seeds is a lot closer.
The first round saw most of the top seeds get through unscathed, although Victor Braguine was forced to work very hard against Nomon Vos before finding the winning tactical trick. The only game that did not end in a win for the higher rated player was between Paul Dunn and Luka Choi which finished in a draw.
The ACT Championship runs for the next 3 days, with 2 rounds per day. There is live coverage of the top boards as well as pairings and results at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/actchampionship2020/ Rounds are at 10am and 2:30pm Canberra time.

Thursday 5 March 2020

Police Blotter

I don't know much about Taunton, Massachusetts, but on the 27th February 2020 this happened

Neighbor dispute on Centre Street: At 8 p.m. police responded to a call about a man who attacked his neighbor after the pair played a game of chess. Police rendered assistance.

I am assuming the assistance was of a law enforcement nature, and not illegal interference in a game still in progress (pssst Bxh7+ works here)

Wednesday 4 March 2020

When do you know you are winning?

One of the difficulties I face when playing Correspondence Chess is knowing if I am really winning or not. I may think I have a better position, but I don't always know if it is a won position.
This also occurs when I am facing players rated a lot higher than may. Time and again I have chosen a line that wins me a pawn, or gives me a strong looking attack, only to find I have failed to assess the position correctly. Why this is sometimes an issue is that your decisions can be different depending on whether you are pushing for a win, or saving an inferior position.
In the following game from the 4NCL , Australian player Chris Skulte scored a big upset over Guillaume Lamard. Outrated by 300 points, Skulte chose an aggressive line against the Sicilian, and went into the middle game with a playable position. His sensible play paid off on move 29 when it looks as though his opponent miscalculated a tactic and dropped a pawn. (29 ... Nxf4 30.Qf3 avoids losing the exchange) After that White was clearly better, but in such situations (against a stronger opponent), it is often a choice between trying to win, and being happy with a draw. Fortunately for Chris, there were enough obvious good moves on the board to play (46.g4!) that his opponent went from losing to lost, allowing Chris to pick up the full point.

Skulte,Christopher (2177) - Lamard,Guillaume (2472) [B50]
4NCL Division 1a Daventry, ENG (1.16), 29.02.2020

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Don't panic

Apparently the end of the world involves running out of toilet paper, if the empty shelves in supermarkets can be believed. I am of course referring to the steps people are taking to prepare for the potential Covid-19 outbreak in Australian (and elsewhere).
While there is still a great degree of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, it is already having an effect on some chess activities. The Chinese players in the upcoming Candidates tournament in Russia have been allowed into the country, but are required to spend 14 days in quarantine. More significantly, the 2020 Dubai Open has been cancelled. This tournament was very popular, and last year attracted 31 GM's in the 160 player field.
There is also talk of health precautions at tournaments that are going ahead. The most obvious one is to relax the 'hand shake rule', and instead allow a nod or even a bow before the game begins. And while this seems sensible, the health outcomes may be undone by the first capture of the game, when you come in contact with one of your opponents pieces.
As for local Australian events (including the Doeberl Cup and SIO), there doesn't seem to be any issues with them going ahead. Travel by overseas players may be affected, but at this stage, there is no thought of cancelling any such events.

Straight up the chimney

The phenomenon of beginners moving their rook pawns in the opening is pretty well known. The Ian Rout theory of left handers moving the pawn on that side of the board has been observed on a number of occasions, by me, but h4 is often followed up with a4 as well.
The following game is both an example, and a warning. In all honesty it isn't the type of game I normally put on my blog, but it did have one other point of interest. After I had won a couople of pieces, I wasn't really surprised when my opponent played Ke2. Of course Bd2 is the right move, but when you are first taught chess, "you have to get out of check" is often heard as "you have to move your king out of check". And once the king went to e2, it had to go to e3, then e4 before getting mated on e5.

Junior - Press,Shaun [A00]
Casual, 02.03.2020

Sunday 1 March 2020

March is bad blitz month

I fear March is going to be the month of bad blitz for me. It did not get off to an auspicious start, when I blundered a number of games at the monthly Beer and Blitz, held in Canberra. I suspect the cause was not finding the right balance between the beer and the blitz, although slowing reflexes may also be to blame.
The real wake up call came in my first game, where I was playing a much younger opponent. The usual strategy in these cases is to play a simple opening, get an advantage in the middlegame, and then swap into a better ending. However I ignored the cardinal rule of blitz endings, which is "Always have a knight". In trying to defend against various tricks, I walked into a knight fork and dropped a piece.
After that it was always a struggle, and eventually I finished mid field, scoring around 50%