Sunday 31 May 2020

Now this is a hack

There is something deeply unsatisfying about falling victim to a basic hack. So much so that I am pretty sure I've already written a blog post about this. So rather than repeat myself, I will just give you another Super GM example to chew on. (BTW Black's last move is very nice)

Ding,Liren (2836) - Dubov,Daniil (2770) [A11]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Final 8 Online (6.4), 29.05.2020

Friday 29 May 2020

This is silly

For players who thinks 60 seconds is too much time for an entire game of chess. Each player started with 30 seconds.

smithvillavo (1577) - harrypress1 (2316) [B01]
Hourly HyperBullet Arena, 29.05.2020

Wednesday 27 May 2020

The Ultimate Misclick

I do not know if this is a common occurrence, but I have now seen it happen at least twice in the last two weeks. In a drawn position in online games, I have seen players resign for no obvious reason. I can only assume that they meant to offer a draw, but clicked the resign flag instead.
While the obvious response is "they should have been more careful" I wonder if a UI redesign is called for. As Stewart Rueben once said to me "If more than 1 person doesn't understand what a phrase means, then it is worth looking at fixing it up"

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Another strong open source chess engine

If you are looking to understand the inner workings of chess engines (especially the Alpha/Beta kind) then the Ethereal Chess Engine looks like a good resource. Of course you do need to be able to read code (in this case C), but it is well laid out and well commented. It contains some interesting technical information in the comments, including how many elo points a specific search feature is worth (eg Null move proving is worth around 93 rating points in strength when turned on).
You can find the source code at and while I have yet to compile and install it myself, based on the CCRL list is is very very strong.

Monday 25 May 2020

Faster then slower

A number of years ago GM Yasser Seirawan suggested that best way to make chess a spectator sport was to broadcast blitz events. The idea was to attract viewers who only wanted to watch quick, high intensity games, rather than longer more drawn out contests. However, once this happened, he suggested that spectators might gravitate to watching (and playing) slower games, where the ideas and strategies aren't lost in the flurry of hand movements and clock bashing.
It turns out we are pretty much at the first stage of this now. Almost all of the big online events taking place at the moment are being played with fast time controls. And while this is good for the platforms chess is currently be played on, I hope it isn't going to be the case when face to face chess resumes.
One reason why is the game I am showing below. It is a crushing win by Magnus Carlsen over Wesley So, and involves Carlsen winning a pieces v queen middlegame. But ultimately it was decided by one bad move by So, a move he would not have played with more thinking time available.

Carlsen,Magnus (2881) - So,Wesley (2741) [E21]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Final 8 (1.4), 24.05.2020

Saturday 23 May 2020

One of my favourite poker scenes

This scene from The Sting is one of my favourite poker scenes in any movie. Unfortunately it doesn't include the next scene where Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) says "What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?"

Friday 22 May 2020

Schools chess is starting again

Some good news for chess coaches who may have been missing out on work over the last 2 months. It looks as though schools are restarting their chess coaching programs again. At least in the ACT anyway.
I've been contacted by a couple of schools that the ACT Junior Chess League running coaching programs at, and have been given some start dates for this term. Coaches still have to conform to the social distancing regulations (minimum distances, washing of hands, equipment and contact points), but at least the classes will be up an running again.

Thursday 21 May 2020

A bad time to get better

Now is possibly the worst time to be improving your chess results. On more than website I have seen posters express "mock surprise" at how well lower rated players have been performing. It clearly is a dangerous time to score upset wins, especially over players rated above 2000! 

Who doesn't enjoy a good hack?

I am still riding the "online chess is fast and loose" horse, and the latest online Super GM event is providing more evidence. In the just started Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, Lev Aronian goes wrong in a Petroff middlegame and after 22 moves has little choice but to resign. Apparently the culprit was 13... c5, which was played after 15 seconds of thought, although it really goes wrong after 15... c4

Carlsen,Magnus (2881) - Aronian,Levon (2778) [C42]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Online (2.6), 19.05.2020

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Knight Tours

I was challenged to find a Knight's Tour of a 5x5 board by my daughter the other day. This didn't have anything to do with her interest in Chess, but was required to make progress in a puzzle game she was playing. I was pleased when I found the solution on my second attempt.
It then got a bit harder, when a few puzzles later, the same task was required on a 6x6 board. I must confess that I gave up after 2 unsuccessful attempts (after trying Warndorff's Rule). However my daughter did solve it shortly after, so there was no harm done. When she reached the 8x8 task (7x7 was skipped), I did the very sensible thing, and told her to look up the answer.
We did think at first that the reason they skipped 7x7 was that there were no possible solutions, but it turns out there are in fact 165,575,218,320 different solutions! What there is no solution for on a 7x7 board, is a closed tour, where the final square is a knights move away from the start square (making the path a closed circuit). 

Monday 18 May 2020

A bad pawn doing good things

Normally in Bishop endings, you try and put your pawns on the opposite colour squares to your bishop. Of course, with every rule, you should look at the reasons why the rule is followed, and reasons for breaking it.
In the game below, I was already better, in the ending, as I won a pawn by threatening to trap a bishop. But the move I really liked was 34. ... f4. Even though it put my f pawn on the same colour square as my (and my opponents bishop), it completely crippled his 3v2 kingside pawn majority, allowing me to quickly win on the queenside.

Michelino47 (1614) - shaunpress (2392) [C63]
PNG Tournament March 2020, 07.04.2020

Saturday 16 May 2020

Do not do this at home

One of the features offered by some of the online chess sites is an analysis of games that you have recently played. For a long time I didn't pay much attention to this feature, but I do now use it to look for interesting games (both for this blog and for my chess streams) . It normally compares the move chosen with what the best move chosen by an engine, and then rates the move based on difference in evaluation. (As an aside, I at least learned the source of annoying questions I used to get asked on Quora about "average centi-pawn loss").
Unfortunately, based on my recent observations, is that it often does not correlate with playing strength. In some games one big mistake can wreck your score (as shown below), while in other cases, it has less of an effect. This is often the case when the game has a forcing nature, where the winning plan is quite obvious, and so both players walk a single path.
In the example game White was given a accuracy score of 10.8%, which I think is a little unfair. Sure he blundered into a mate in 2, but the moves before that weren't that terrible.

mattrad (1604) - beare840 (1517) [D00]
Live Chess, 16.05.2020

Things I can and cannot do

I definitely cannot play bullet chess. I think my current losing streak is 16 games in a row, including losing all my games in the first ACTCA Smash and Bash bullet event held on Lichess.
On the other hand, I did win a 2 day per move game on, and am tied for first in the tournament I am playing with. To put it into perspective, my rating at this form of chess is about 950 points higher than my billet rating!

Thursday 14 May 2020

Someone keeps sending me jazz tracks

As the title says, someone keeps sending me links to Jazz recordings on youtube, when applying to join the online ACTCA chess clubs. The problem is I cannot approve the application unless I know who it is. Smolborta, who are you?

Wednesday 13 May 2020

How much wood on the fire?

Normally when assessing the soundness of a sacrifice, you are either looking for mate, or eventually winning back material. Sometimes there are occasions when you need to work out how much you are giving up for a more immediate return.
This was the decision I made when playing an online event this evening. While looking at 10.Ne5 I was aware of the sacrifice on f7, but when I reached move 12, it took me a while before deciding to take. What eventually convinced my was the capture on c7 at the end of the sequence, as I felt R+B+N was enough for Q+3P and an exposed king. Nonetheless, it wasn't until there was more tactics a few moves on, that the idea turned out to be a good one.
Slightly annoyingly, one minute into my second game my router decided to restart itself, and I both lost the game through disconnection, and was then booted from the tournament.

shaunpress (1898) - beare840 (1432) [B01]
Live Chess, 13.05.2020

Tuesday 12 May 2020


I'm pleased to see that Lichess is now supporting swiss events that can be run for team members (NB has clubs, Lichess has teams). Although the bulk of the ACTCA online chess activity is happening on, I am also setting up a team on Lichess to test out tournaments there. If you are a Canberra player (present or former) sign up to the ACTCA Fast Chess Club and wait future announcements.

Monday 11 May 2020


China has won the FIDE Online Nations Cup, not by beating the USA, but by winning one important game. The 4 board final between the two teams finished 2-2, but China went into the match with draw odds, having finished in first place during the preliminary rounds.
With two games drawn, the best performing Chinese player, Yangyi Yu launched a devastating sacrificial attack against Hikaru Nakamura. He sacrificed his knight on move 26, and by move 34 it was all over. As a result the Chinese team reached the 2 points required, and although Fabiano Caruana won the final game to finish for the US, first prize went to the Chinese.

Yu,Yangyi (2738) - So,Wesley (2741) [D38]
FIDE Online Nations Cup (11.3), 10.05.2020

Sunday 10 May 2020

No touch chess

It looks as though restrictions on small gatherings (up to 10 people) are going to be lifted. While this may sound good for chessplayers, there is still a limit on how close you can be together, and for how long. Sitting across from your opponent is probably still not allowed, but based on suggestions I have seen online, there may be a workable solution.
Each player has there own chess set, and sits at their own table. The tables are within sight of each other (eg 2 meteres apart) and the same game is played at each board. Moves are announced, and each player keeps their own time on their own clock.
The two main issues are noise, and keeping track of the time (as the clocks are likely to be out of sync). For the latter, the official time would be the the players own time on their clock, and as for the noise, it is a small price to pay for in person chess.

Friday 8 May 2020

Online can be a challenge

I'm going to say that if this game was played on an actual chess board, it wouldn't have gone like this.

Anand, Viswanathan - Nepomniachtchi,Ian
FIDE Online Cup 07.05.2020

Thursday 7 May 2020

A different kind of quarantine

Yesterday I read an interesting suggestion concerning online cheating, from GM Ruslan Ponomariov. Instead of trying to ban players who are using 'outside assistance', instead don't tell them they have been caught, and instead pair them against other players who have previously been flagged.
This way it becomes an engine v engine match, and rating points only circulate within that group.
While it is an inventive idea, it possibly falls down when players try and enter tournaments. If the tournament is large enough it may be possible to isolate such players, but a more practical solution is to generate some 'system error' that prevents them from entering.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

The tyranny of time zones

The plus side of internet chess is that I am saving a heap of money on overseas travel. The downside is that most of the events I am interested in usually start between midnight and 6am local time. Based on my past experiences at playing online poker at 4am, my usual low skill level at online chess would sink even lower if I tried to start such events.
It is also making watching events difficult, especially the ones that start in the evening (in the UK and Europe). I had planned to watch some of the 4NCL Online last night, but buy the time I had walked the dog and grabbed a 7am coffee, it was pretty much finished. However I did get a tip off about one interesting game, which I attach below.

Rogers,Jonathan W (2333) - Adair,James R (2450) [A28]
4NCL Online Division 1 (5.23), 05.05.2020

Two Bishops v Knight

While I'm not sure that this is a question that keeps people awake at night but, "can 2 Bishops win against a Knight", does get asked from time to time. In the first round of the FIDE Online Nations Cup, Fabiano Caruana shows that they can.

Caruana,Fabiano - Vidit,Santosh [C65]
Online Nations Cup, 05.05.2020

Tuesday 5 May 2020

There is (some) truth in numbers

Just as last month everyone was some sort of epidemiologist, this month, everyone (in the chess world) has become an expert at online cheating. At the moment I am seeing a tasty mix of  "why don't they ban obvious cheaters"/"why did they unfairly ban my friend" posts, which I am sure will continue for the next few months.
While I have my own strong opinions the topic, I'd rather share an amusing observation from one of the online tournaments I help organise.
One of the obvious metrics for suspicion (apart from the always popular "he was rated 400 points below me"), is how close a players move match the top engine choice. This is closely followed by "average centi-pawn loss" per move. And if a lowly rated player scores too high, then "there is something afoot at the Circle K". In a first round game (where top seeds meet lower rated players), both players scored on 90% on computer first moves. The winner (or was actually the higher rated opponent) made no errors at all, while the loser only made 1 mistake, and a single blunder. So while you may think that it would be difficult for both players to play an almost perfect 32 move game of chess, it is less surprising when you know that the one really bad move was to drop the queen on move 14! 
In fact one of the things I try and do after each tournament is look through game (including upsets), to see if I can find something for my tournament stream. And so far, while I have found a number of well played games, I have found no evidence that an engine was involved in any of them.

Monday 4 May 2020

Updating my traps

Inspired by the FIDE Trainers course I sat in on last week, I've been updating some of my opening files. One such file is my collection of opening traps, which up until now has been based on my collection of Reinfeld and Pandolfini books dating back a number of years. While it is slow going I have found a few interesting games, including the following in what is usually an equalising line in the Danish Gambit.

Vospernik,Andrej (2150) - Ladanyi,Gyula (2037) [C21]
Budapest FS05 FM Budapest (2), 2002

Saturday 2 May 2020

Bored games

Firstly, I apologise for opening with an atrocious pun. Having got that out of the way, I've noticed that it isn't just chess that is moving their activities online. I listened to an interview this morning about online Scrabble, and during the week had a long conversations with Dr Greg Ash, who organises Backgammon in the ACT about online events.
While chess probably leads the way in this regard, most boardgames can be played online, an in some cases are probably easier to do so (eg have you ever succeeded in finding exactly 7 players for Diplomacy?). The issues of fairplay and online behaviour also seem pretty similar, although there are still some games where AI hasn't taken over yet. Curiously, one feature of online backgammon, is met with suspicion by some players. Having the dice rolled by the server (as opposed to the players) seems like a no-brainer, but ever since I've played online Backgammon (over 20 years ago), every bad beat, missed hit, or poor roll is due to a dodgy RNG, rather than due to law of 'stuff happens'.
But this is the environment we are now playing in, and so if you still want to play the games you enjoy, you probably just have to accept that there will be things that don't always go your way.