Tuesday, 30 June 2020


Over the years I have tried different pieces of cataloguing software for my chess book collection, even going as far as writing my own. Recently I received a suggestion from a member of the Chess Book Collectors group on Facebook, which seems to have solved a lot of my problems.
LibraryThing is an online site that allows you to catalogue your book collections. It also has an app for android phones and iPhones, which enables you to both add books, and look up your current holdings. The phone app is especially useful as it has a barcode scanner, so you can add new books with your phone camera. As a lot of my books predate barcodes, using ISBN numbers is also supported when adding books.
So far I have added around 270 books in the last few days, on top of the 200 I imported from my previous database. At a guess I am not quite halfway through, but whether I top the 1000 title mark is still not clear.

Monday, 29 June 2020

2020 Asian Online Senior

After holding an Online Junior Championship, the Asian Chess Federation is now holding an Online Senior Event. It will be held in 4 sections, Open Over 50 and Over 65, Women's Over 50 and Over 65. For each zone there will be a qualifying event, with the top 3 finishers in each category going through to the finals.
For the Oceania Zone, the qualifiers will be held on the 18th July, on chess.com. However, tournament entries close on July 6th, so you need to organise entries soon. Unlike the Junior event which was restricted to 3 players per Federation, this event is open to all eligible players, and I believe you can enter directly (rather than through the ACF). Further details including a link to the registration form can be found at http://asianchess.com/news/join-asian-seniors-online-chess-championship/

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Australia v Young Russia

A team of very strong Australian Players took on the Russian Under 16 team in an Arena Match on Lichess. After 2 hours of play, the Russian Team won by 98 points to 83. While the Australian team was more consistent, it was the performance of IM Stefan Pogosyan and Murzin Volodar that made the difference. As Arena events rewards wining streaks with double points (after 2 consecutive wins), the 7 game winning streaks both players had in the middle of the event were decisive. In contrast, the best scoring Australian player, GM Temur Kuybokarov, was the only player to earn bonus points (for a 4 game winning streak towards the end of the tournament). Indeed, if the game had been scored as a normal match, the Australian team would have narrowly won 38.5-37.5 (assuming my maths is correct).

Mikhail Kobalia - Junta Ikeda [B51]
Russia - Australian Kangaroos Team Battle, 2020.06.27

Friday, 26 June 2020

Show me your hands

English Arbiter David Sedgwick has a good approach to playing online chess 'in camera'*  He makes sure not just his computer screen is in shot, but also his hands are visible at all times. While it is his move, he keeps his hands away from the keyboard and mouse, and only touches them when he has decided on his move. He considers this action as a kind of touch move, meaning he now has to play the move he intended to play. He uses this method to avoid any suggestion that he is using other devices or programs during the game.
Using cameras to monitor games is at the moment of mixed utility. One idea that I had recently is to simply have both players being able to see each others faces during the game, like in real chess. This of course doesn't show you what your opponent is doing out of shot, but having to look your opponent in the eye while cheating may be a discouragement.

* For legal eagles, I do know that 'in camera' has a different meaning

Thursday, 25 June 2020


The 4NCL Online Teams Event has almost complete it's first season. In the top section Guildford will play White Rose in the final, which might have been an OTB pairing, if the tournament hadn't been forced to go online.
While White Rose goes into the final with some match practice under its belt, Guildford ended up qualifying with a walkover. There opponents withdrew prior to the final, after a couple of their players were pinged for computer use by the Lichess server. Following the lead of a couple of other 4NCL teams, the Anglian Avengers decided not to play, rather than use replacement players.
In the semi-final that was played, GM Gawain Jones had a nice attacking win against the French. This was probably helped by his opponent playing an early h6, which I fell doesn't achieve much, although I have seen a recent book suggesting it is a playable black system.

Jones,Gawain C B (2670) - Harvey,Marcus R (2440) [C03]
4NCL Online Div 1 Playoff LiChess Online (12.11), 23.06.2020

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Whitewashing chess history

Often I get asked on Quora the question "Is chess racist because white moves first?". My answer is "No. White moves first because someone has to". This question now seems to have leaked into the real world, as the ABC (in Australia) is doing a story along similar lines.
However, the fact that it is the ABC, and it is part of a wider discussion concerning 'Black Lives Matter' has triggered a response from some members of the chess community. In one camp are people who thinks it is a silly question, while in another (smaller) camp, this is evidence of a wider culture war being waged by the "left" and the ABC.
I am in neither of those camps. As a customer of the so called "free marketplace of ideas" I think discussions like this are both interesting and healthy. Not all cultural norms are obvious to outsiders, and sharing why chess chooses to do things in a certain way is good.
More importantly, the rule that white always moves first has a) only been firmly established since the 1880's and b) still isn't always followed. For example, "The Immortal Game" started with Black moving first, as noted in this post https://chessexpress.blogspot.com/2018/02/did-black-move-first.html
One thing that has been changed since the rule came in, is that game scores have been 'whitewashed'. Rather than being presented with historical accuracy, modern books (and databases) simply show white always moving first, even if this didn't happen. I am guilty of doing this myself btw, not just in this blog, but also in a reprint of the London 1851 tournament book that I produced for ePlus books. http://www.eplusbooks.com/published-books/116-the-chess-tournament-london-1851
As for point B, there have been a few recent online events where Black has moved first. These tournaments are explicitly linked to the #BLM movement, and while I don't see them catching on in the long term, there is nothing wrong with holding them now.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Good news for junior chess

The latest news from the ACT Government is that schools are allowed to open their venues to external hirers. What this means is that the ACT Junior Chess League will hopefully be starting events soon. As the events in question are junior only tournaments (Under 18 years), the social distancing requirements are more relaxed, which makes running events easier.
Having said that the ACTJCL will be implementing a Covid-19 plan, to address issues like food safety, general hygiene and venue cleaning. This is in the process of being developed, but it looks like there will be something organised during the up coming school holidays, in the shape of both tournament play, and holiday coaching.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Young Max

Looking through one of my coaching books I came across a game between Vassily Smyslov and Max Fuller. It was played at the 1968/69 Hastings International, and unfortunately for Max, he was outplayed. Looking through his other games I also saw a second game against Smyslov (in 1980), one game against Petrosian at an Olympiad, and a game against Tal (although this was in a telex simul).
In a time when overseas travel was much harder for Australian players, this was quite an achievement. Even today, playing multiple World Champions in the course of your chess career would be quite a challenge for an Australian. with the obvious exception of Ian Rogers who has played at least 6 of them.

Smyslov,Vassily - Fuller,Maxwell L [E61]
Hastings 6869 Hastings (5), 1968

Friday, 19 June 2020

Well done, Sun-Herald

I received good news from the Chief Editor of the Sun-Herald. Ian Roger's Sunday chess column will be returning this week, and I assume will run for the foreseeable future. So both well done to the Sun-Herald for this decision, and for everyone who contacted them on this matter.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Just because you're winning a queen ...

One of the big mistakes that we often make is ending our calculations too soon. A common example of this is winning material and then not looking at what happens next move. In the following wild game, both sides fell in to this trap at various points, leading to a Queen for a Rook, Bishop and Pawn middlegame. Watching it live I thought that the winning chances were with White, but it turns out that Black was better for most of the game. In the end a repetition of position occurred, with half a point for both players.
This game was played during the first round of the new ACTCA Online Standard event. The 6 week event is played with a time limit of 45m+15s with one round each Thursday night on chess.com. I normally cover one of the games from each round at twitch.tv/shaunpress and I will be analysing this game tomorrow at 10am.

Graham77 (1626) - mcyang (1407) [C30]
Live Chess Chess.com, 18.06.2020

Something different

Civilization VI players might get the reference

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Clutch play

Due to the low number of draws in blitz chess, a "skins" type format probably doesn't work. Instead, the "clutch" scoring system seems to be in vogue in it's place. This is where certain games are worth double and triple points. For example, in a 12 game match, games 5 & 6 are worth 2 points each (and 1 for a draw), while games 11 & 12 are worth 3 points for a win.
In the just completed Clutch Chess International the format proved very successful, with the Carlsen Caruana final coming down to the last game. With Caruana winning game 11, Carlsen need to win the final game, which he did. This left the final score 9.5-8.5, with only 3 draws across the entire match.

Magnus Carlsen (2881) - Fabiano Caruana (2773) [A22]
Casual Rapid game https://lichess.org/lrvyne5Z, 14.06.2020

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Some reopenings

For those who are interested in what chess is starting in Canberra here are some face to face activities that are now happening

  • School chess coaching (but only for students from a single school as far as I know)
  • Personal chess coaching (one on one coaching)
  • Small chess events (currently less than 20 players and spread out to provide 8msq per game)
The next phase will allow events with more than 20 players, as long as there is at least 4msq per player. In the case of events I organise, players have enough room to move back from the board after moving, to allow 1.5m of distance.
There is also talk of organising small weekend events (ie 50 players or less), but this will depend on what regulations chess will be covered by (ie is it a non-contact sport, or considered something else entirely).

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Nut Bag Openings

As someone who has played the Traxler all my life, you may think there is no line that can be drawn in terms of my opening choices. However, the Nakhmanson Gambit may just be that opening. There seems to be a renewed interest in the opening, due in part to some videos being posted on youtube, although it seems to have been played a number of years ago. The opening starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.Nc3?!?! If Black plays 6. ... dxc3 then 7.Bxf7 is the follow up. White is down two pieces but the idea is that exposed Black king is a target for the White queen.
However, if Black plays the correct move it isn't clear that there is enough compensation for White. Nonetheless, if Black is unprepared White does have a chance at scoring a brilliant win, as this game shows.

Chan,Wei Xuan Timothy (2264) - Sepp,Olav (2448) [C56]
WMSG Blitz Team 1st Beijing (9), 13.10.2008

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Street Chess to restart

Street Chess Canberra is restarting (IRL) this Saturday (13 June 2020). Our regular venue, King O'Malley's has reopened, and is keen to see us back. Due to current social distancing regulations it will be in a modified form, with the number of players restricted to a total of 16. Players must pre-register with me via shaunpress@gmail.com which means no walk-ins will be accepted. In the case of more players trying to register than available slots, preference will be given to players who played the online Street Chess events over the last 9 weeks.
For the first week there will be no entry fee or prizes, while we sort out exactly how it will work in practice. But apart from that, it will be the same Street Chess, with 7 rounds of G/15m chess, starting at 11am on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

A perfect game with an imperfect ending

There are a couple of darkly amusing scenes in the movie Death of Stalin, which start with a father being dragged off by the secret police after his son informs on him. Later on (after the death of Stalin) the father is released, which results in a very surprised looking son when dad comes through the door.
Why I bring this up is that when we all get back to over the board chess (which seems to be sooner than I expected), there may be some awkward conversations between former chess friends. I am aware of a number of situations where a surprise win or loss  result has been followed up by a mumbled accusation of outside assistance, or a passive/aggressive congratulations on the quality of play. In a lot of instances the accusations are coming from quite strong players, usually after they have lost to a lower rated opponent (btw this also occurred when players were meeting face to face).
Now one of the causes of these claims is post-game analysis provided by engines, usually on the playing server itself. Some platforms give you an accuracy score (based on the difference between your moves and the engine moves), and anything over 90% is suddenly treated as 'too good to be true'. The problem with using this as proof is that the system is there to see where you went wrong as a player, not where your opponent went right. I've seen plenty of examples where a move has been flagged as a blunder because the best move was +7 while the move played was only +4, while on the other hand, a player has played a perfect sequence of moves, simply because the alternatives are garbage.
In fact in a game I played this evening I manged to get an accuracy rating of 99.2% (while my opponent score 89.9%). Now the weird thing about this game isn't how it was played, but how it finished. After I played 20. ... Bxh3 my opponent replied 21.Kh2? Before I could complete my next move he resigned, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I was a pawn up and the c pawn was weak, but he still had some play. It was only when I looked at the game a few hours later that I understood his decision. Having playing Kh2 he realised he had left his rook on f1, where my bishop could take it. The only problem with this line of reasoning, was at the moment of resignation I was in the process of retreating the bishop to e6, having missed the capture entirely!

LSmart (1369) - shaunpress (1813) [C47]
Live Chess Chess.com, 10.06.2020

Task 1. Keep your king safe

Probably the most important defensive task in chess is to keep your king safe. The difficulty in doing this is spotting when your king isn't that safe. Even strong players don't always get it right.

Aronian, Levon - Grischuk, Alexander
Clutch Chess Showdown Int 09.06.2020

Monday, 8 June 2020

95000 Bells for what?

Would you pay 95,000 Bells for a chessboard? If you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons then this is what a chessboard costs. However, as an added bonus, you get a position from this classic game.

Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (4), 20.01.1999

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Surely now is not the time

I've just received the surprising news that the Sun Herald is dropping GM Ian Roger's weekly chess column. The Sun Herald is a Sunday paper published in Sydney, Australia and has a circulation of around 150,000. The newspaper has had a chess column since 1935, with Gary Koshnitsky as the editor, and Rogers took it over in 1994 when Koshnitsky retired. This means in it's 85 year history it has had only 2 editors, which is quite remarkable.
Dropping the column at this time also seems quite odd. Chess is currently on a significant upswing, with big money online events springing up everywhere. With face to face sport either not being played, or being held in front of empty stadiums, chess is one way that people are staying connected. This should mean that newspapers (who have been looking for ways to increase their circulation) should be embracing chess, not ignoring it.
This is not the first time this has happened to the column btw. In 1988 Gary Koshnitsky was let go, and it was only after a significant number of complaints/ requests was the column restored. Maybe lightning will strike twice so if you want to see the column retained contacting the Editor Cosima Marriner at cmarriner@smh.com.au is a start. You can also give feedback at https://www.smh.com.au/contact-us on this decision.

High praise indeed

You know you are doing well when an IM wonders if you are an engine ....
(btw If you cut and paste the link in the heading you get to see analysis etc)

harrypress1 (2270) - MassterofMayhem (2496) [C97]
Rated Blitz game https://lichess.org/XoLN99Be, 07.06.2020

Saturday, 6 June 2020

When this is over ...

When this is over,do you think your chess will be better, worse, or just the same? And if so, what about the people you are currently playing online?

Friday, 5 June 2020

Why do it the second time?

I witnessed quite a strange set of games on Wednesday, in two online events I ran. The game below was played in a junior tournament, and watching it I thought Black resigned a little early. It looks as though White is winning material after 12 ... bxc3 13.bxc3 Qxf5 14.Bxc6+ but 14. ... Qd7! forced White to give up the piece he had just won. White is still better after the simpler 14.exf5 Kd7 but isn't ahead by that much.
The weird thing was the same two players then met in another tournament a few hours later, and played exactly the same game! And I have no idea why.

Meuwteuw (1102) - kmthorikawa (928) [C41]
Live Chess Chess.com, 03.06.2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Techniques of Neutralisation

This post is a slight left turn from my usual topics, but I think it is something that is still applicable to chess.
In the field of sociology there is a topic called Neutralisation Theory. It is an attempt to classify how people justify deviating from accepted behaviour. According to Sykes and Matza there are 5 type of neutralisation. They are:

  • Denial of Responsibility (I had no choice in the matter)
  • Denial of Harm (No one was really hurt)
  • Denial of Victim (The other guy deserved what happened)
  • Condemnation of the Condemners (Those judging me are the real criminals)
  • Appeal to higher loyalties (I am serving a higher purpose in breaking the rules)
Why is this important? Because in a number of discussions concerning fairplay in chess, I have seen various forms of these arguments being put forward. Some are just hypothetical (eg People use engines on serves to test the detection system), but others are rooted in reality (eg I have to use an engine because everyone else is).

(NB I am not a sociologist, or even studied the subject. The chess players you might want to talk to if you are interested in this topic are Dr Stephen Mugford, or Dr Mary Wilkie)

Monday, 1 June 2020

Asian Juniors and Girls Online Championship - Oceania Qualifier

The Oceania Qualifier for the Asian Junior and Girls Online Championship was held today. Hughston Parle (the only Australian representative) was the winner of the Open section, scoring 6/6. The key game was his win over FM Daniel Gong (NZ), although he had a lucky escape in the final round when Michael Sole (NZ) missed a sequence in the middlegame that would have won him material. Gong and FM Allan Fan (NZ) took the next 2 places, and also qualified for Thursday's final.
In the Girls event it was a New Zealand clean sweep, with Isabelle Ning, Rikita Joseph and Emily Gan taking the top 3 places.

I was the Chief Arbiter for the event, but as the field was quite small, I did not have a too much to do. The major task was making sure everyone had their zoom connections running, their cameras at the correct angle (showing screen, keyboard and player) and that they remained in shot while playing their games. While this wasn't always done to perfection, there were no major issues or complaints during the tournament. One important point to come out of an event like this, is that if you wish to run events with players using Zoom (or Jitsi etc), you do need a lot of extra staff. There were 5 officials involved in holding the event, as well as supervisors from the countires taking part.

The list of qualifiers for the finals can be found here. The Girls final is on Wednesday and the Open Final is Thursday. Links to the final should be available at http://asianchess.com/

Gong, Daniel - Parle, Hughston [A45]
Live Chess Chess.com, 31.05.2020

A Prisoner's Dilemma

I previously posted about a chess themed episode of The Prisoner (post is here), and I was thinking about it again this week.
In the episode "Checkmate", No. 6 worked out a way of detecting who were guards masquerading as prisoners, and who were genuine prisoners. Anyone who treated him as an authority figure was a genuine prisoner, while anyone who did not was obviously a guard. This worked up until he tried to escape, when he was betrayed by a confederate, who applied to same test to No. 6, and decided that as the person leading the group (of 2), he was obviously a guard as well.
Where this applies to chess is in the field of online engine use. As everyone is disguised by anonymity, how can we be sure we are playing a human or a machine? Taking a leaf out of Patrick McGoohan's book, as we know we aren't an engine, then anyone we beat isn't one either. However, anyone that beats us immediately falls under suspicion. This suspicion is magnified if they are a lower rated player, although out opponents may only have high ratings *because* they are machines.
As they say in the classics "Wake up sheeple!"