Tuesday 29 September 2020

Would you resign here?

 The 'trigger' for resigning can sometimes be quite complicated. I have had opponents resign to me when I have played a seemingly strong move, only to find it was a blunder that should have thrown the win away. I've also had opponents decide to play on in hopeless positions, hoping that there is still one last blunder left in me.

While the general rule seems to be 'play until you have no winning tricks left', it isn't always clear what this means. For example, should White have resigned in this game, or was there a chance to turn the tables if they played on?

Amateur - Beis [C31]
Germany Germany, 1940

ACT Chess Association Annual General Meeting - 1 October 2020

 Just a reminder to all members of the ACT CHess Association. The 2020 Annual General Meeting will be held at 6pm Thursday 1st October 2020 at the Hellenic Club, Moore Street, Canberra City.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Was the fix in?

 A number of my older chess books contain amusing anecdotes dated many years before. As these books do not often include sources for these stories, it could be assumed that some tales have been either invented, or are exaggerations of real events.

One story is about an early form of match fixing between Ruy Lopez and Giovanni Leonardo. In a match to decide the best player in the world (in 1575), Leonardo threw his first two games, only to come back and win the match 3-2. In looking for more background on this story I did discover discrepancies about the venue (Madrid or Rome), but more importantly, if Leonardo was trying to throw some games, he could have been a bit more subtle about it.

Lopez de Segura,Ruy - Leonardo,Giovanni da Cutri [C30]
Ruy Lopez Rome, 1560

Friday 25 September 2020

The plural of chess?

 Whether there was a plural form of the word 'chess' was something I have not really though about until today. But according to Wiktionary, the plural of chess is chesses. Now I'm pretty sure that 'chesses' isn't even a word, and I am struggling to think of a sentence that could contain it. 

But I do like the other identifier attached to the word "chess" in the article. The fact that it is uncountable (ie you can't have 'several chess') does make sense to me. There is just chess!

Thursday 24 September 2020

Even GM's sometimes forget

 Anyone who has been coached by me recently will know I am a big fan of castling and king safety. Of course anyone who has played me recently will also know that I often get this wrong in my own games. It turns out I am not the only one, as even GM's sometimes forget to get their king out of the firing line. In the following 3 minute game, a well known GM and trainer never gets around to castling, and quickly pays the price.

Jeff_Memes (2526) - GurevichMikhail (2539) [B06]
Live Chess Chess.com, 20.09.2020

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Mind your e's and c's

 When I first started playing chess, I wondered if 1.e4 c5 2.c4 was an acceptable way of playing against the Sicilian. At the time I knew no opening theory, but it turns out that it is, as it transposes into a line of the English (normally starting with 1.c4).

Soon after that I faced 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c4!? as Black, and although I did win that game, White seemed better out of the opening.

So the next question is, after 1.e4 e5 can 2.c4 be played? The following game (played by correspondence) sees White give it a go (by transposition). However, the main objection to these systems (losing control of d4) is demonstrated both early in the game, and as the games final move!


White,Christopher (1806) - Thew,Brian W. (2060) [C20]
2020/AUS/SNR-B (AUS) ICCF, 20.04.2020

Monday 21 September 2020

If 2020 was a chess opening

 While some people regard "The London System" as the '2020' chess opening, I think of it as more of a '2016' opening. For 2020 I more inclined to go for the sheer absurdity of  'The Bongcloud', which Hikaru Nakamura used to beat Jeffery Xiong at the St Louis Blitz.


Nakamura,Hikaru (2829) - Xiong,Jeffery (2709) [C42]
St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (27.5), 19.09.2020

Saturday 19 September 2020

Fingers crossed

 Although these things are never 100% certain, it is looking highly likely that the 2020 Vikings Weekender will be taking place on the 21st and 22nd November, at the Lanyon Vikings Club (Conder ACT). The practical details of how the event will  be run (social distances, maximum time at the board, total allowed entries) is still being sorted, but you can at least try and keep that weekend free if you wish to play. 

Of course any changes to ACT Covid regulations may effect the holding of the tournament, and it is likely that players from current Covid hotspots will not be able to enter. Otherwise the ACT Chess Association and the Tuggeranong Chess Club is looking forward to holding at least 1 weekend event in Canberra for 2020!

Friday 18 September 2020

The 15 hour game

 Before the invention of chess clocks, players could generally take as long as they wanted over any (or all) move. In casual chess this could be avoided by simply refusing to play a particular opponent, but in tournament chess this option wasn't available. At best you might have a rule that limited the thinking time over anyone move (eg no more than 30 minutes), but this rule wasn't always enforced.

For example, the final of the 1st American Chess Congress , played between Paul Morphy and Louis Paulsen, saw games as long as 15 hours. But based on the times listed in the tournament book, almost all the thinking time was taken up by Paulsen. In the game below, 27 of Paulsens move's took more than 10 minutes to play, while Morphy's longest think was (on move 51) was only 10 minutes. On move 52 Paulsen took 75 minutes to play Qh3. However the extra thinking time did not help Paulsen too much, as this game was agreed drawn, albeit in a position were Paulsen was still winning. 

Paulsen,Louis - Morphy,Paul [C67]
USA-01 Congress Grand Tournament New York,NY (4.2), 30.10.1857

Thursday 17 September 2020

Damn the torpedoes

 A new paper on chess variants is creating a bit of buzz in the chess world. It is a joint research paper between the Alpha Zero team and Vladimir Kramnik, and investigates what effects changing the rules of chess have on the game.

To do this they let Alpha Zero learn how to play 11 different variants and then looked at things like win/draw/loss rates and whether the rule changes actually changed how the game was played (ie how often a 'special' move was utilised)

After a quick scan of the paper, a couple of things stood out. Firstly, when chess engines of equal strength play each other, lots of draws occur. Secondly, almost all the rule changes increased White's winning advantage, especially 'Torpedo Chess', where pawns could 'double move' at any time. This rule change resulted in the most number of decisive games, even beating out 'stalemate = win'.

The paper is available here and apart from the technical findings, contains a number of annotated games for each variant.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Answering my own question

 About 6 years ago I put up a post concerning Ringo Starr learning chess during the recording of Sgt Peppers (Link here). I finished the post with a question about who taught Ringo to play. I am now in a position to answer my own question, courtesy of the book "Revolution In The Head" by Ian MacDonald. While the rest of the band were busy songwriting and mixing, Ringo and Neil Aspinall (Beatles PA) taught themselves to play chess "to while away the time".


Monday 14 September 2020

Cholera and 19th Century Chess

 Yesterday I had quite a bad run at the monthly 'Beer and Blitz' tournament, scoring 3/10. Looking for an excuse I suggested that I was handicapped by the 'Beer' part of the tournament, although my insistence on playing gambit openings and unsound sacrifices was the more obvious reason. Trying to shore up my excuse, I suggested that the 19th Century 'Hack and Sac' style of chess was a result of players drinking beer and spirits during the game, rather than risk drinking plain water, which was the unhealthy alternative.

It turns out that even this excuse was bogus, as the 'beer instead of water' claim is pretty much a myth. While it is true that city water (especially from communal pumps) was responsible for a number of cholera outbreaks in places like London, most people had access to fresh water as needed. Of course there were a few players who liked a drink during play (eg Blackburne) but in their case, this seemed to improve their play rather than affect it.

Saturday 12 September 2020

Is resigning becoming passe?

 With the current boom in online chess, I'm noticing a decline in the number of games ending by resignation. I suspect this is because online games are usually played with fast time limits, which means that the chances of flagging your opponent in a lost position is much more common. However it is also carrying over to OTB chess, with games I would have assumed would have been resigned instead being played to checkmate.

Of course I could just be suffering from confirmation bias, and am just noticing it more because I'm assuming the premise is true.

Friday 11 September 2020

Good news for Canberra Juniors

 The ACT junior Chess League is pleased to announce the restart of junior chess events in the ACT. This coming school holidays will see the return of Boot Camp, as well as the holding of the 2020 ACT Junior Chess Championships.  Full details can be found at the ACT Junior Chess League web site.

Thursday 10 September 2020

The City and the City

 I've just finished watching an interesting Sci-Fi/Police procedural series "The City and the City". Without giving too much away, it involves two cities which seem to occupy the same physical space, but exist as distinct entities. As both cities have different languages, cultures and architectures, the director/producers utilised different colours/shooting techniques and cultural touchstones to differentiate the two. One of these touchstones was of course chess. While it was not part of the plot, it showed up quite often in the background of scenes set in Beszel, which appeared to be the 'older' of the two cities.

If you do want to watch the series, probably the best place is on IView (ABC), although I'm not sure how long it will be available. I do recommend it, although having finished watching it, I know have to think about what really went on (or buy the book it is based on)

Wednesday 9 September 2020

The one move loss

 A number of years ago I once won a game by playing a single move (It was from a set position and my opponents first move allowed a mate in 1). To that collection I can now add a one move loss.

Usually I do not play in events I organise (including online events), but to make sure that there would be 5 rounds in the ACT Chess Association Wednesday Night Rapid, I entered at the last second. After 3 rounds I had even managed to get to 3/3, and was paired in round 4 with Harry Press, who was on 2/3 (having missed the first round). I started the game with 1.e4 and then to see what his intentions were, made a very quick draw offer. Or so I thought. In my haste to offer the draw I accidentally clicked the 'Resigns' button, and as a result we were now on 3/4. (NB I have now set 'Confirm resignation' to 'On' in my settings)

Whether it was the extra break between games, or just a need to fix my mistake, I did manage to win my final round game (see below), leaving father and son as joint winners of the event.

DoctorWho64 (1600) - shaunpress (1837) [A26]
Live Chess Chess.com, 09.09.2020

Two events - one online one possibly not

 There have been two announcements regarding important chess events in the last couple of days. The first is the 2020 FIDE Congress will be an online event, to be held from the 1st to the 6th of December.

The second is that the 2020 Candidates Tournament will recommence on the 1st of November in Yekaterinburg.  The announcement was initially made by the Mayor of Yekaterinburg, but has now been confirmed by FIDE as well. However, there is still some uncertainty about the Candidates, as it still depends on the players being able to resume the event, and that there is no further outbreaks of Covid-19 in the host city.

Monday 7 September 2020

Online chess isn't all bad

 While a lot of players are suspicious of the real identity of their online opponents,at least one GM can see the upside to unsupervised opponents in online events. "Where else can you regularly find 2800+ strength players entering local club events?"

Is this a win?

Black to play
The position shown occurred during a CC game that I was an arbiter for. At some point earlier White thought the position was drawn, although I am not sure a draw was ever offered. When this position was reached Black did something that only happens in CC. Instead of playing a move, he claimed a win, which was checked by referencing a 7 piece tablebase. I'm not sure how long this process took (probably seconds!), but the claim was upheld. 
I was a little surprised that this in fact is a win, but after checking it against a 7 piece tablebase I was less surprised by the result, but very surprised about the actual winning method. In fact there are 2 different winning plans (based on how White defends) but both of them are quite ingenious. The first involves getting the Black king to f4 and the rook to e3, and works if the king is on the 2nd or 1st rank. With the king in a 'box', Black forces the king across to a1, and the threat of mate forces White to unprotect the e pawn. Black will capture the pawn and then have an easy win. 
The second (and more amazing) win is if the White king gets up to the 3rd and 4th ranks. The Black puts the rook on e5 and plays Kf4-g6-h6!-g7!-f8!-e7!-d6! before using the same 'box' strategy to force the White king to the edge of the board.
An incredibly clever idea, and one I think would be very difficult to conceive at CC chess, let alone OTB

Friday 4 September 2020

What a run!

 The new Australian Chess Federation Ratings for September 2020 came out this week, although understandably, there were very few games actually rated on the Standard List. So much so that the most active player seemed to have played 18 games, while the vast majority of players played 0 games. 

One of those players was IM Stephen Solomon, who wondered if this was the first rating period that he had played 0 games since 1971! This means he has gone 49 years playing at least one rated game during each rating period. Of course this claim might be hard to verify, which is probably why Stephen raised the question himself. The earliest published games of Solomon I have in Chessbase occur in 1979, in the World Under 16 Championships. In that event he played (and lost to) Nigel Short, but did score the following win over future GM Josef Klinger.

Klinger,Josef - Solomon,Stephen J [C02]
World ol U16 qual Gr4 01st Viborg (1), 14.10.1979

Thursday 3 September 2020

Too young and too quick

 I decided to have a go at an online event that is being organised weekly by GM Hrant Melkumyan on Lichess. It was a 2m+1s arena even, that ran for 90 minutes. Normally such events are better suited for players a lot younger and quicker than me, and this was certainly was. After winning the first game it was all downhill for me, as I failed to win another game. I was close in a couple but either my reflexes weren't fast enough, or my brain just failed me at the critical moment. I did at least  get to play the tournament organiser early on, and as he eventually won the event I feel I at least contributed to that.

But instead of showing one of my games, here is an upset win by an untitled player over a GM. After the game the GM commented that his opponent was the "strongest 2400 he has ever played"

VersaceEros (2400) - iamstraw (2722) [B30]
GM Melkumyans Weekly Arena https://lichess.org/HR7xTCaP, 03.09.2020

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Karpov the crusher

 One of the great tournament performances of all time was when Karpov won the 1994 Linares tournament with 11/13 (+9=4). I suspect I was following the results via the internet, and was amazed at how well Karpov was playing.

One of the most remarkable games from the tournament was his win over Topalov. Normally it would have been Topalov on the attack, but in this game Karpov just demolished him with a series of well calculated sacrifices. 

Karpov,Anatoly (2740) - Topalov,Veselin (2640) [A33]
Linares 12th Linares (4), 1994