Friday 31 December 2021

Things to look forward to in 2022

 Predicting what will happen in world chess in 2022 is a risky proposition. Just as it looks like things are on the up, a new covid strain, or outbreak comes along to throw everything into conclusion. This means exactly which events will, or will not happen, is quite difficult.

At this stage local events like the 2022 O2C Doeberl Cup will be running. The ACT Government has been pretty flexible with restrictions, and given the low infection rate and high vaccination rate, I would be surprised if there is a shutdown in the ACT. Slightly trickier is guessing whether there will be travel restrictions between states, although the constant redefinition of infection periods (or what a close contact is), indicates that the federal government is doing its best to pretend the whole covid thing is behind us.

As for the international scene, the 2022 Olympiad is apparently going ahead in Moscow. However I see 2 clouds on the horizon. The first is that GM Hikaru Nakamura had to withdraw from the 2021 World Blitz after testing positive to covid, which indicates there is still issues with large international events. The second is that the Russian Government may well restrict who can enter the country, meaning some countries may not be able to play. There are restrictions currently in place for some countries, and these may not be lifted in time for the event.

On the other hand, there were a few large international opens in Europe towards the end of the year, and I suspect the number will increase throughout the year. And if you are able to travel to the US, they seem to just keep holding events, as a number of there huge tournaments seem to still be on the calendar.

Thursday 30 December 2021

There are no perfect tie-breaks

 The topic of suitable tie-breaks has popped up again, after a 4 way tie in the 2021 World Rapid Championship. The regulations (published beforehand, and used in previous events) specified a playoff in the case of a tie for 1st. The controversy was that only the top 2 players (on tie break) were involved, which in this case were Abdusattorov and Nepomniachtchi, whith Carlsen and Caruana missing out. 

Despite the players being aware of the tie-break system, Carlsen immediately criticised the rules, and was backed up by other players. Pushing back were a number of arbiters/officials who pointed out that the previous tie-break were changed at the request of the players, and had been used in the previous event.

Having done quite a large amount of work in tie-breaks there are a few things worth pointing out

  1. There is no perfect tie-break system, even for similar types of event
  2. No one cares about the tie-break method until they are disadvantaged by it
  3. Everyone thinks that the solution to tie-break issues is to simply use a different tie-break
  4. Not even FIDE can sort this issue, as at least 3 different FIDE Commissions believe they are the responsible body for defining tie-breaks (and I have been a member of 2 of them!)
Due to the issues with tie-breaks, the ACT Chess Association made a decision a very long time ago to avoid them wherever possible. For the ACT Chess Championship (and the Belconnen/Gungahlin Chess Club) the title of champion was simply shared. If there was a necessity to separate the players (eg to see who qualifies for the Australian Championship) then a playoff match (at the same time controls as the championship) was organised.

On the other hand, the ACT Junior Chess League has always used a similar playoff system as the World Rapid, with on exception. The first tie-break is direct encounter, but if that doesn't work (either due to players drawing in the tournament, or a multi-way tie), then a playoff match between the top two finishers (on tie-break) takes place. If it is good enough to decide the ACT Junior Chess Championship, then it is good enough for the World Championship as well!

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Things that went poorly

 The 2021 FIDE General Assembly was held last night (starting at midnight my time), and the Papua New Guinea Chess Federation had 2 important motions on the agenda. That was until I logged into the voting system to discover that our 2 motions had been listed as a single motion for voting purposes. This was of course done without the knowledge of the PNGCF and attempts to get it fixed were unsuccessful. 

The main issue with this (apart from arbitrarily changing properly submitted motions) was that both motions had different chances of success. While we expected one motion to be defeated, we had high hopes that the second would be passed. And I was planning to make this point when called upon to speak.

Then the second problem arose. Despite using my headphone/microphone setup all through the FIDE Commission meetings, it chose this moment to break. So instead of me putting forward the PNGCF reasoning behind both motions, the congress was reduced to watching me play a round of charades ('First word - Microphone', I nod my head, 'Second word begins with F', I nod more vigorously). However, at the same time, the online voting system used for the Congress also broke. So I am trying to fix my mic, and number of people are telling the congress what a stupid motion it is, and no one can vote on it (or a number of other motions). 

So the meeting moved on, and about an hour later, the voting system was fixed (I assume it was an issue with access to the service provider). When the vote was then called, the FIDE exec made it quite clear they did not support the PNG proposal, while former FIDE VP Georgios Makropoulos went as far as to say that such motions should not even be allowed on the agenda, unless the FIDE Exec support them (The FIDE President did tell him he was wrong on this btw). Despite suggestions from the floor that the vote on this shouldn't even be counted, there was a surprisingly high number of votes (41) in favour of our motion, with around 69 against (There was a very low turnout for the congress). 

Unfortunately, the decision by FIDE to have this under a single vote meant that the second proposal did not even get voted on, which based on the numbers, might well have got up.


Sunday 26 December 2021

World Rapid and Blitz

The last major event of 2021, the FIDE World Rapid and Blitz begins shortly. Originally planned for Kazakhstan, a covid outbreak in the country meant that it was relocated to Poland at short notice. 
The Rapid portion starts this evening, with Magnus Carlsen the top seed in the 181 player field. The bottom half of the field starts at 2538 (Rapid), and while there were concern about a lag between Rapid ratings and standard ratings, there doesn't seem to be a huge difference, except for IM Aditya Mittal, who has a rapid rating of 1488

There are plenty of places to follow this event (including plenty of youtube and twitch streams), but for now I am planning to watch it on 

Friday 24 December 2021

We all make mistakes

An older video than I realised, but still fun to watch 

Bad Xmas Presents

 If you are looking for a chess themed Xmas present there are some good ones, and some less than good. 

In the category of less than good, is an 'Backyard Chess Set' offered by own of Australia's well known retailers, Kmart. Kmart is at the cheaper end of the retails spectrum, although I do often by items from this store. However the Backyard Chess Set, isn't one of them.

This isn't because of the quality mind you, but for the size. Appearing to use the same designers as Spinal Tap, the size of the board is a massive 1 metre x 1 metre. The pieces are descried as 10cm tall, which while suitable for this particular board, isn't much larger than the size of pieces in a standard chess set. My big fear would be that leaving the pieces outside would result in them being stolen by passing birds.

If however you do decide to purchase this gift, I hope you have as much fun as reading the manual as I did.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Late nights at the FIDE saloon

 Just like 2020, 2021 has seen the FIDE Congress become an online affair. The good thing about this is that more people can attend, the bad thing is that not everyone is in the 'right' time zone. For people in Oceania, the meetings start at 11pm (at the earliest) and finish after 3am (and later in some cases). If attendees are based in the America's early starts are the problem, with meetings starting at 6 or 7 am.

So far I have attended the Qualification Commission (quite well run), Arbiters (lots of slides), Swiss Pairings and Programs (very technical) and Rules Commission (still recovering). For some it was about making changes to documents included in the FIDE Handbook, but for others, it was mainly to inform people what is going on. The final big meeting will be the General Assembly, which is held after Christmas, and if last year is a guide, this may be the longest of the lot!

Monday 20 December 2021

Not quite Kriegspiel

 The latest Wes Anderson film "The French Dispatch" is, like most Wes Anderson films, quite entertaining, if you like Wes Anderson films. As I do, I quite enjoyed it.

It is split into 3 distinct stories, and the middle story has a lot of chess running through it. Loosely based on the 1968 student protests in France, there is a scene where negotiations between students and authorities are carried out by relaying chess moves. Interestingly, the board at each end only contains pieces of a single colour, the opposing pieces having already been removed.

While I am sure there was a symbolic reason for this, it actually reminded me of the chess variant Kriegspiel. The only difference in the movie was that the move played was announced, while in real Kriegspiel, only the umpire receives the move, and announces whether it is legal or illegal. 

Kriegspiel is a fiendishly difficult game to play btw, and also suffers from the fact it is more entertaining being a spectator than a player. Nonetheless it is one chess variant which would be great to have on a chess server, but apart from one server who I choose not to name, I am not aware if it has been implemented anywhere ealse.

Sunday 19 December 2021

2021 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship

 The 2021 ACTCA Rapidplay Championship finished in a tie for 1st place between FM Michael Kethro and Harry Press (6/7). Kethro defeated Press in their individual game, but drew with CM Hui Li and Miles Patterson (in the final round). Press caught up to Kethro by beating Li in the last round. Li finished in outright third on 5.5/7

The tournament attracted a big field of 42 players, including 6 players rated above 2000. In a blast from the past, former ACT Junior Champion Robert Ferenczi (1980,81 and 82), picked up the Under 1850 prize, with 4.5/7. There was a big tie for the Under 1450 prize, with some of the ACT more senior players (Joe Marks and Sunny Yoon) going home with a small prize.

This event is the last ACT Chess Association event for the year. The local clubs are taking a break over Christmas as well (although Tuggeranong and Gungahlin are holding end-of-year blitz events this week). Street Chess will not be next Saturday, although there may be a Boxing Day Blitz instead. It will resume on the 1st January 2022 (if players are in a condition to turn up at 11am!)

Friday 17 December 2021

2021 Lifeline Bookfair

 Sometimes it is a feast, but today was more of a famine. The 2021 Lifeline Bookfair is currently running over this weekend, in the somewhat cramped confines of the Canberra Racecourse. I made a quick visit this morning, but sadly, there were very few chess books (at least ones I did not already own). I purchased one book (on chess), but I did pick up a chess computer to add to my collection. On the other hand, if you are a Contract Bridge player, there were around 10 times as many bridge books as chess books, so you may be rewarded if you visit. 

I may return on Sunday, although I am not expecting my luck to change at this stage.

King safety v king safety

Of my many bad habits at chess, ignoring my king safety is one of the major ones. It possibly stems from my early study in chess, where I could understand why a material advantage was important (just count on your fingers), but more abstract topics such as long term weaknesses did not stand out as much.

Why method of dealing it with then, was to try and get my attack in first. It turns out that I haven't moved on from this approach as much as I would like, as the following game shows.


Braguine,Victor - Press,Shaun [A26]
Xmas Rapid (5), 14.12.2021

Thursday 16 December 2021

Oops! I Resigned Again

 GM Ian Rogers new book "Oops! I Resigned Again!" is out, just in time for Xmas. Looking at games where players didn't need to resign, but did, the book mixes a puzzle format with entertaining stories behind each position. 

Each chapter (of 5 positions each) is based around a theme, including "Oops! I thought pawn endings were easy!" or "Oops! You played like a World Champion!". In position shows an incorrect resignation, either in the diagram, or after a few moves, and then the reader is asked to identify the correct continuation. While I found the first few answer quite quickly, I did notice they got harder the further I went through the book.

What makes this book truly good value is the stories behind each game. Rogers usually gives a short description of the hapless 'victim' before describing the circumstances behind the game. Some games involve the battle for first place in an event (truly heartbreaking!) or the decisive game in a team tournament (hurting or delighting more than one player!). For Australian readers, Ian has drawn on a number of local games, both very well known (eg Stzern - Lundquist), and very obscure (the Melbourne interschool competition gets a run). There are also plenty of examples from the very top of the tree (Carlsen and Capablanca feature twice), including a number of games that Ian either witnessed or played!

The book is available from Australian Chess Enterprises for $29.95 (for Australian buyers), and is available online (for overseas purchasers) 

(*I was sent a review copy of this book *)

Monday 13 December 2021

Engine accurate?

One of the hot takes from the 2021 World Championship Match is that Carlsen's natural ability overcame engine prep from Nepo. Given the relatively low error rate from both players early in the match, I'm not convinced that this is true, although it is fair to say that Carlsen obviously did better when it wasn't just prep v prep.

Looking back at a number of older (pre engine) games is that their are often errors in analysis. The main reason for this seems to be that a lot of strong moves are overlooked at the top of the tree, either because it isn't part of an existing plan, or the assumption that the opponent is restricted to one or two choices. However, there are a number of examples where human analysis holds up against engine analysis, including the following game which I found in The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.

Ravinsky,Grigory Ionovich - Ilivitzki,Georgi A [B93]
URS ch sf Riga (6), 1952

Sunday 12 December 2021

And now its all over

 After all the agonising about whether the 2021 World Championship match was going to see any decisive games, Carlsen wrapped it up with 4 wins over the last 6 games. Game 11 was Nepo's last chance to turn it around (or at least get something from the experience) but another tactical oversight left Carlsen with a winning position. He duly converted to reach the 7.5 points needed to retain his title. 

The second half collapse wasn't so much due to Nepo losing game 6, but his failure to bounce back in games 7 or 8. If he had been able to hold game 8 (instead of losing it) he might have still had a chance. Instead the blunder in game 8 (dropping a cold pawn) was somewhat reminiscent of Spassky's  blunders against Fischer in 1972, as was the final result (a 4 point winning margin). 

By the time he next defends the title Carlsen will have been World Champion for 10 years, which makes him 6 on the list of longest reigns (or 4th or 5th if you only count undisputed World Championships).

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2782) - Carlsen,Magnus (2856) [C54]
FIDE World Chess Championship 2021 (11), 10.12.2021

Friday 10 December 2021

Do or die for Nepo

 Tonight could very well see the final game of the 2021 World Championship Match. A win for Carlsen would see him reach 7.5 points, the score he needs to retain his title. Even a draw would  see Carlsen reach 7, so the worse that could happen was a round of tie-breaks.

Going into this game I can't see Nepo pulling back a full point. He might draw the game, postponing the inevitable, or over press, resulting in a win for Carlsen (in a similar ending to the 2013 World Championship Match). If I was a betting man, I would give Carlsen a 33% change of winning, and a 66% chance of it being a draw.

Thursday 9 December 2021

2021 ACT Rapidplay Championship

 The 2021 ACT Rapidplay Championship is being held on the 18th December 2021 at 11am at King O'Malley's, City Walk, Canberra.

Details are:

  • Venue - King O'Malley's, City Walk, Canberra ACT (inside City Walk Arcade if it is raining)
  • Date - 18 December 2021 11:00am (Entries from 10:30am to 10:55 am)
  • Entry Fee - $10 adults, $5 juniors (under 18)
  • Prizes - $150 1st + other prizes ($420 in prizes were awarded in 2020)
  • Rounds - 7
  • Time control - G/15m
  • ACF and FIDE Rated (TBC) 
  • ACTCA/ACTJCL Membership reqd - 2022 membership can be paid here
(* I am a paid official for this event *)

Changes to rating and titles

 The FIDE Qualification Commission is making some changes to how ratings are being calculated and how titles can be earned. These changes do not affect most players in a significant way, but it is still important to know what they are.

In the area of ratings the major change is that the 400 point rating limit is being restricted to one game per tournament. Previously any game where the difference in rating between 2 players was treated as though they were 400 points apart. This was to benefit higher rated players who did not enjoy risking rating points against lower rated opponents, and would therefore avoid a number of events. Now this happens at most once in a tournament (against the opponent with the greatest rating difference) but otherwise the actual rating difference counts. The other important change is that the limits for faster time controls (eg 60m+30s) has been raised by 200 points (so games with a player above 2400 will not be rated at 60m+30s).

For Rapid and Blitz, the rules have now been brought into line with the Standard rating system (eg the 400 point rule applies here as well). The method of generating new ratings from Round Robin events has been removed, as players only need 5 rated opponents (and a PR above 1000) to get on the rating list anyway.

For organisers and national ratings officers, the most onerous change is that events greater than 30 days have to report interim results. While this makes sense for team events (eg 4NCL) which run over a period of months, it will also require weekly club events (that are FIDE rated), to follow suit. 

On the topic of title norms, there have also been a few changes. The most interesting one is that any title application from 2022 must include on norm achieved in a swiss event that has at least 40 players and an average rating above 2000 (in all rounds). As was mentioned, this is a reversal of the previous assumption that swiss norms were somehow 'weaker' than round robin norms. Instead it is now round robin norms that are considered less worthy! 

Speaking of round robin events, it is also a new rule that a player has to complete all the rounds of such a tournament, and that the norm is based on all the rounds. This means that a player can no longer ignore results after a norm has been achieved, or withdraw from an event to 'protect' the norm. This in part was introduced as a number of events saw players being given a 'random' seeding number that gave them the easiest path to a norm (ie making sure they played the required number of  foreign players by round 9). 

The rule about 20 overseas players (10 with titles) has been clarified, in that it needs to be the same 20 players for each round, to prevent 'tag teaming' of players (2 OS players play have the tournament each). The main purpose of these changes is of course to prevent tournaments being 'title factories', and instead any titles earned are based on performance in a genuine competition.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Bishop takes out both rooks

 Picking up a rook with one bishop isn't that uncomment, but I'm not sure I have ever collected both rooks with the same bishop. My opponent missed a tactic along the h1-a8 diagonal allowing me to win the rook on a8, and a few moves later I managed to trap the other rook on g8, with my knight and bishop.

Press,Shaun - Lee,Tiam Woo [D02]
Xmas Rapid (4), 07.12.2021

Monday 6 December 2021

Another win for Carlsen

 After the marathon effort from both players in game 6, it was hardly surprising that game 7 of the 2021 World Championship was a more peaceful affirm. But game 8 saw Carlsen pick up another point as Nepomniachtchi blundered a pawn in the middlegame. The second decisive game of the match sees Carlsen leading 5-3 with 6 games remaining. It will be a tough ask for Nepo to recover from this bad loss, although he does have a rest day today to think about his strategy for the remainder of the match.

Carlsen,Magnus (2856) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2782) [C43]
FIDE World Chess Championship 2021 (8), 05.12.2021

Saturday 4 December 2021

Happy to get that prediction wrong

 Late last night (my time), I predicted that Game 6 of the World Championship would end in a draw. I'm glad to say that I got that prediction wrong! In the longest World Championship game ever, Carlsen keep grinding away until he finally found a win in a tricky Q v stuff ending (where Carlsen had the stuff). I'm not going to post the game as there are plenty of other places to see it, but now that one player has taken the lead, the next few games should see both players pushing for a little more out of the opening.

Friday 3 December 2021

The fickle finger of fashion

 The 6th game of the 2021 World Chess Championship has just started, and Carlsen has chosen to play the Catalan. This was also the choice for game 2, which ended in draw, but for various reasons, the choice of this opening generated a degree of excitement among the online spectators. This is probably a reaction to the various 1.e4 e5 games that ended in a draw, but I do remember a time when the Catalan was criticised as a 'drawing' opening. 

As I write this the game is still in the opening, but at least Nepo seemed a little surprised by the choice of opening. However, he seems to have recovered his equilibrium, and I fear that the game may end in another draw (based more on the symmetrical pawn structure they seemed to be playing for, than anything else)

Thursday 2 December 2021

And another brain teaser

 If you thought one of my previous puzzles was annoying, then the following one is downright infuriating

It was (allegedly) from a 5th grade exam in China

If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship's captain?

It did generate a lot of controversy when it was shared on the internet, but the answer isn't as difficult as you might think

Monday 29 November 2021

2021 World Championship - 3 games, all draws

 The 2021 World Chess Championship is on a rest day today, with the first 3 games all being drawn. This extends the draw streak in classical World Championship games to 17, with the last decisive games being Carlsen's game 10 win over Karjakin in 2016. 

Although the first 3 games were interesting, it was something else that struck me. In the age of streaming, what matters isn't how exciting the games are, but instead, how exciting the commentators can make them look. I did a quick surf across a number of streaming sites and noticed that in almost all of them, exciting novelties, possible breakthroughs, and amazing variations were being discussed, while the players themselves looked far less excited (and exciting). This, I may add, isn't a bad thing, as chess being an online spectator sport is one of the more surprising things to happen in the last few years. For this online commentators and streamers should be thanked, especially as the increasing accuracy at the top level is making the result more predictable. 

Sunday 28 November 2021

2021 Vikings Weekender - Tie for 1st

 The 2021 Vikings Weekender has ended in a tie for 1st place between CM Paul Russell, and Harry Press. The finished on the unusually low score of 4.5/6, although this was only one of many things that was slightly unusual about this event. 

Both scored last round wins to take 1st place, with Russell beating WFM Alana Chibnall and Press beating CM Anthony Fikh. Tied for 3rd place were Fikh and Fred Litchfield on 4 points, while Ryan Can and Matt Radisich one the rating prize on 3.5.

Due to the small size of the field, almost all games had an effect on the final standings. Curiously the 2 winners did not play each other, not did the top 2 seeds (Press and Litchfield). Press started the tournament with a draw and after 3 rounds was only on 50%, while Russell lost his first round, before winning his next 3 games. 

In the Minor Somon Vos was the outright winner on 5/6. Larry Cheng finished second on 4.5, while Nomon Vos, Joe Marks and Thomas Gatzen-O'Keefe tie for 3rd on 4.

Overall the small numbers made the tournament easier to run, although it was impacted by a number of withdrawals. The reasons were many and varied, but strongly indicated the existence of some sort of curse on the event. Sporting injuries, sudden family health emergencies, and flooded roads were some of the causes, while one player leaving the venue after a late night loss on Saturday found that their car would not start, and had to taxi home and back the next day. 


Press,Harry - Fikh,Anthony [B10]
2021 Vikings Weekender Canberra, Australia (6.1), 28.11.2021

2021 Vikings - Days 1&2

 The 2021 Vikings Weekender began with a much smaller field than last years 60. The main cause was the short notice, with the event only confirmed 2 weeks before it started. There were also a couple of last minutes withdrawals, leaving the tournament missing a few titled players.

The upside is that both events are very competitive, with any number of players in contention for the $1000 1st prize. Top seeds Harry Press and Fred Litchfield dropped points over the first 4 rounds, with CM Anthony Fikh leading on 3.5/4, followed by WFM Alana Chibnall and CM Paul Russell in 2nd place on 3. For top seed Press it could have been worse, as in a R+B+P v R+5P, he managed to win all the pawns to reach R+B v R, but failed to make any progress towards checkmate once the 50 move count began. Then on move 104 of the game his opponent lost on time (30 second increment is being used), despite no checkmate being in sight.

In the Minor, Somon and Nomon Vos lead with 3.5/4. Both took half point byes in the first round, and won all 3 games on Day 2. They play in round 5, but as almost all tournament games between the twin brothers have ended in quick draws, there should be a traffic jam at the top going into the final round.

To see the tournament standings and links to live games, click on this link


Friday 26 November 2021

2021 Vikings Coverage

 If you wish to follow the games and results from the 2021 Vikings Weekender, you can do so at 

The first round is tonight at 7:00pm Canberra time, with subsequent rounds at Saturday 11:15 am, 3pm, 7pm and Sunday 11:15am and 3pm. I hope to have 4 DGT boards running over all rounds

Thursday 25 November 2021

I accept your offer of a resignation

 One of my pet peeves as an arbiter is when players offer a draw by putting out their hand. This happens a lot in junior events and is often done by players in a losing position to try and save half a point (when the opponent isn't sure what happens and shakes the hand thinking it is a resignation). Such incidents almost always end in tears, which is another peeve of mine (there is no crying in chess).

The most recent occurrence of this problem happened the other night at my local club. The game between an older and very experimented player and a young junior player ended in a draw, at least according to the junior player. But the result on the computer showed a win for the opponent, so in my role as "fill in" arbiter, I called both players across to see what had happened. The older player said his opponent had resigned, while the younger player said that a draw had been agreed to. It turns out that the younger player could not find a move to play so simply said "draw" and put out his hand. The older player did not here any draw offer, and assumed his opponent was offering his hand in resignation.

Having gathered the facts (and had the players to reconstruct the position to check whether the draw offer had any merit), I explained (at some length) to the younger player that his opponent was quite entitled to the win at this point. However the older player sportingly offered to continue the game from the last position, an offer that the younger player was quick to accept. The older player then proceeded to demonstrate that the resignation would have been justified by winning in a few more moves. 

Good sportsmanship from the older player, and hopefully an important lesson learned for the younger one.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

2021 World Chess Championship - My fearless prediction

 The first game of the 2021 World Chess Championship Match is on Friday 26th November, at 11:30pm Canberra time. For this match there will be a maximum of 14 games, followed by tie-breaks if necessary. It runs until the 16th of December, with rest days every 2 or 3 rounds.

As with most World Championship Matches I usually give a prediction before the start. Looking back at some old posts I did predict Anand beating Kramnik in 2008 (and winning the World Championship tournament in 2007). Since Carlsen became a challenger and then World Champion, I have usually played it safe and predicted a Carlsen win by 2 points. This means I have got the winner right, even if I have got the margin wrong. 

So my bold prediction for the this match is: Carlsen. And the margin of victory: 2 points! 

Why mess with a winning(?) formula ...

Sunday 21 November 2021

2021 ACT Interschool Finals

 After a lot of interruption (and a lot of effort), the 2021 ACT Junior Chess League Interschool Finals were held this weekend. Due to ongoing Covid restrictions they were held online for the first time, and despite some small hiccups, the whole thing went well. 

Each final was restricted to a maximum of 6 teams of 4 or 5 players, although we ended up with less than that in each section. Where qualifiers had been held in person, the winning school (or schools) was invited, while for other Canberra zones we just had to choose based on rating. The tournaments were held on Lichess using a swiss format (although players did not play team mates), and supervision was via zoom. Most players played from home, although one school played from a single venue, as they had teams in both the Primary and Open sections.

The winners were:

Grammar (Open Secondary)

Lyneham High (Girls Secondary)

Turner School (Open Primary)

Kaleen (Girls Primary)

At this stage we are hoping that the teams will be able to take part in the Australian Schools teams Championship in a fortnight. The only issue we face is getting a suitable venue in Canberra, as the ASTC organisers insist that the teams all play from one venue, a condition we may not be able to meet at short notice.

Saturday 20 November 2021


 After quite a long wait from the first announcements until now, I finally purchased a copy of 'Humankind', which is Civilization type game that lets you develop societies from hunter gatherers to rocket scientists.

I had a first play last night (which is why this post is late!) and found it enjoyable (even on my creaky old PC). Didn't do fantastically well on my first run, but I assume that is because I missed a lot of nuances in play (too many cities too quickly get penalised, for example). But like CIV VI (and Chess), the early days are usually quite difficult before the right ides and strategies become apparent. 

Thursday 18 November 2021

Calling all grumpy old men

One of the more common excuses for not playing tournament chess is "too many annoying children". While I think this isn't really a good excuse ('beat them early and often' is my motto), there is no denying that have a bunch of small kids running around playing 'tips' during your game can be off putting.

So while the 2021 Vikings Weekender isn't designed to be a 'no juniors' event, the vaccination requirement for the event, and the timing of the roll out of vaccinations for Under 12's in Australia, means that Under 12's won't be playing (and we won't be getting a visit from Prime Minister Trump either). As junior players do make up a significant number of entries in chess events these days, the ACTCA is expecting that overall entries may be affected. However, this also provides an opportunity for all the grumpy old chess players out there to turn up, knowing they will be safe from juniors who are out to either give them colds (or worse) or to take their hard earned rating points off them. So if this sounds appealing visit the tournament website and get your entry in today!

Wednesday 17 November 2021

2021 Asian Online Amateur

 Another week, another Asian Chess Federation online event. This week it is the Asian Amateur Championship, which is being held as a 9 round rapid event over 3 days (and yes I am an arbiter). 

While Australia hasn't really embraced these online events*, other countries have. There is a sizeable New Zealand contingent, while even Macau has a representative, although in this case it is CM Hui Li, currently resident in Canberra. At the end of the first day he is tied for first place on 3/3, along with 15 other players. With 150 players in the tournament, it will of course take more rounds (at least 7), before a likely winner is known.

(* Australia doesn't really embrace offline events in Asia either)


Li,Hui (1970) - Jain,Sachi (1395) [C99]
Asian Amateur Chess Championship - Open Oman (3.9), 16.11.2021

Monday 15 November 2021

Do not attempt

 While not in the business of giving out free advertising to big corporations, I was intrigued by the new Sony Playstation advertisement, which has a very chess heavy theme. While I am linking to the full 2+ minute clip, the shorter TV edit has an interesting cut, where the chess game is followed by the caption "Do not attempt" for the next scene. Of course it concerns parkour rather than chess, but still, an interesting sentiment.


Saturday 13 November 2021

2021 ETC

 Signs that OTB chess may return to normality within 12 months continue to appear. The 2021 European Teams Championship has kicked of in Slovenia, and the 9 round events has attracted a very strong field. There were 39 teams in the Open, and 31 in the Women's Section. Azerbaijan were the only team to win 4-0 in the Open in round 1, and their Women's team repeated the score in their event. 

The event is a 9 round tournament, and will be covered on all the major chess sites. I had a quick look through the games from the first round, and the following quick win for Black caught my eye.

Koykka,Pekka (2353) - Parligras,Mircea-Emilian (2576) [C47]
23rd European Team Chess Championship 20 Catez, Slovenia (1.2), 12.11.2021

Friday 12 November 2021

Vikings 2021

The ACTCA is happy to announce that the 2021 Vikings Weekender is taking place from Friday 26th November until Sunday 28th November. Details are

Dates - 26th, 27th and 28th November 2021
6 round FIDE Rated Swiss*
Lanyon Vikings, Heidelberg St, Condor, ACT
Time control: 60m + 30s

Open and Under 1600 sections (Both FIDE Rated)
Round 1: Friday 7:00pm Round 2: Sat 11:15am Round 3: Sat 3:15pm Round 4: Sat 7:15pm Round 5: Sun 11:15am Round 6:Sun 3:15pm

1st Prize Open $1000, 1st Prize Minor $500 (All other prizes dependant upon entries)

** Entry conditions: All players must be fully vaccinated (two shots) and present proof to the organisers. Masks must be worn during play **


Lanyon Vikings Club
Heidelberg St, Condor ACT 2906

Entry fee: $65 ($45 Junior/Concession) GM, IM, WGM, WIM free

Maximum of 60 players

Wednesday 10 November 2021

The thing about ratings

 I am in the process of building a web based rating management system, partly for my own interest, and partly as a proof of concept for a couple of chess organisations. In doing so I thought I would refamiliarise myself with the FIDE Rapid and Blitz  Rating Regulations, a found some differences from standard system that I had either forgotten, or failed to notice.

For example:

  • The maximum number of rapid games in a day is 15, and for blitz, 30
  • You have to score at least 1 point in your first event for it to count towards your rating. (It is only 0.5 for the standard list)
  • Every either has a k factor of 20, or 700/total number of games played, if you play more than 35 games in a period.
  • The maximum difference between two players rating is 735, rather than 400 in the standard list
A lot of these differences do make sense, in that there is the potential to play a lot more games of rapid/blitz in a month, although it does lead to slower rating changes for players that don't.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Once a knight, always a knight. Five time a night ....

Damod,Sajjad (1358) - Morshedloo,Amin [C45]
Asian Club Hybrid Chess Championship Tornelo (5.3), 07.11.2021

Sunday 7 November 2021

Grand Swiss 2021

 With 1 round to play in the FIDE Grand Prix French GM Alireza Firouja leads on 7.5, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and Grigoriy Oparin. The sole Australian entrant, Timur Kuybokarov is mid field, having scored a solid 50% against a field entirely rated over 2600. He has 2 wins, 2 losses and 6 draws, and a win in the final round will see him finish well above his seeding. Along the way he scored the following nice victory


Kovalev,Vladislav (2634) - Kuybokarov,Temur (2549) [C78]
2021 FIDE Grand Swiss Riga (7.41), 03.11.2021

Saturday 6 November 2021

Hybrid Teams

 Hybrid Chess is one of the new innovations that has gained in popularity during the various covid lockdown periods. I have been involved as an arbiter for these events, an still have mixed opinions on how well they work (NB I was involved in the drafting of the FIDE Hybrid Regulations).

Of the events I have worked on, the format that seems to suit Hybrid Chess the best is for team events. Individual events can be a little messy to organise, especially small events like round robins. But team events have a more suitable arbiter(s) to player ratio. In the ongoing Asian Club Cup there are usually 2 officials per team or 2 teams, which is 1 to 3 or 1 to 6. However this also works best if there is a dedicated chess club to host the teams, which isn't a luxury that all countries have (almost all teams in this competition belong to full time clubs or organisations). It also reduces the average bandwidth requirements, as each player only needs a front facing camera, while the organisers provide the panoramic one.

Based on other experience, I'm not a fan of individual events in the hybrid format, as the arbiter to player ratio is 1 to 1, or even 2 to 1. Again having a single venue helps, but in geographically large countries (like Australia), this still causes problems for players not located in such a city.

So if I were to suggest which events could be held as a hybrid event in Australia (or Oceania) I think a 6 player team event might work, with the usual requirements for male and female players (plus juniors). Whether such an event does get organised is of course another question.

Thursday 4 November 2021

2022 O2C Doeberl Cup - entries open

 The details for the 2022 O2C Doeberl Cup have been posted at It will be held over the Easter weekend, which is 14-18 April 2022.

The most significant change from this years event, is that the rating limits for each of the tournament have been simplified. For the Premier, anyone with a FIDE or ACF rating above 1800 is eligible (plus title holders), while to get into the Major (under 2000), you need an ACF or FIDE rating above 1400 (and be blow ACF 2000 as well). In part this is to simplify the eligibility rules, but it is also to balance the numbers in each tournament. Entry fees are unchanged from this year, and the prize pool is still over $20,000

You can now enter at the tournament website, and 11 players have already made sure of their places for next year.

(** I am the Chief Organiser for this event **)

Tuesday 2 November 2021

This one fooled me

 Face to face chess is back in Canberra, and tonight was the first week back for the Gungahlin Chess Club. There was a healthy turnout of 20 players, and I assume that this number will grow during the rest of the year.

The last game to finish was a tricky king and pawn ending that had me fooled as a spectator. At first glance it seemed that White was clearly winning (due to an outside passed pawn), and when Black managed to draw the position, my first thought was that White went wrong somewhere. But when I fed it into Fritz, it turned out that the position was drawn all along. I thought White could gain a tempo somewhere, but not matter what he did, Black was able to trap the White king on the h file, leading to a book draw.

Teymant,Roy - Cunningham,Cam
Korda Memorial, 02.11.2021

Monday 1 November 2021

Sydney in the 60's

 The Australian National Sound and Film Archives has retrieved a number of short documentaries about Australian cities, and have made then available on youtube. I posted one about Canberra a few years back, and today I cam across one about Sydney. It was made around 1964, and shows Sydney just as the high rise developments were getting started.

Also included (at around the 8:30 mark), is a scene of outdoor chess, being played on council tables. I'm not sure where it was filmed (maybe Hyde Park),  but it may contain faces familiar to older players. There are also a number of other interesting scenes, including some very non-ohs work practices on high rise construction sites.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Crunching the numbers has an interesting article that looks at performances in some of the greatest tournaments in history. 12 events were chosen, starting with London 1851, and players estimated elo rating were calculated using the CAPS system. 

Of course the earlier events had reasonably low performances (due to a lack of accurate play), but once into the 20th century there were some players getting quite high estimates (eg Capablanca 2726 at St Petersburg 1914). One interesting feature was that tournament winner often did not have the highest estimated rating, with some like Averbakh having the top TPR of 2759 at the 1953 Candidates, despite finishing 10th, and Euwe having the 2nd highest, despite coming 2nd last!

It is worth noting that the margins between the players became a lot smaller in the 21st century, which isn't a surprise as modern players train against the very tool that is now judging their play. By 2013, the CAPS scores had risen by so much, that 7 of the 8 players at the London Candidates played above the 2700 level.

 The article itself is here, if you wish to have a look at it, with the disclaimer that models like these do reward accuracy over creativity (which is noted in the article itself) 

Friday 29 October 2021

This one was pretty nuts

 A number of Australian players are taking part in the Asian Youth Online Championships, including a few from Canberra. Most of them warmed up a few weeks back in the East Asian Online Youth, and this is reflected on the improved scores on Day 1. Getting tournament experience is a great way to improve, even if, as this game shows, it helps you bounce back from a seriously lost (-16 at one stage) position.

Liang,Joshua (1247) - Mkahal,Raghid Ahmad [B23]
Asian Youth Online Chess Championships - New Delhi, Delhi, India (3.44), 29.10.2021

Wednesday 27 October 2021

The Grand Swiss

 In a sign that things *might* be getting back to normal, the FIDE Grand Swiss has just started in Riga. Normally held on the Isle of Man, it was moved to Riga for this year, as initially it was thought that it would be easier to travel to Latvia, rather than the UK. Then a spike in Covid cases put Latvia in lockdown, but the Latvian government gave the event a special dispensation, so it is now going ahead (although a couple of players decided to pull out).

There is one Australian player in the 108 player field, GM Temur Kuybokarov. He is seeded 101's in the tournament, but in a such closely packed field (the 54th seed is rated less than 100 points more than him), I suspect form is going to count for more than reputation.

The tournament (and the Women's Grand Swiss) are being covered on (and I suspect other websites). As no big event is being run without live commentary these days, you can also find plenty of that if you look around.  

Monday 25 October 2021

Blink and you'll miss it

 Things happen quickly in blitz games, and sometimes even quicker than that. Black went for the jugular with 8 ... Ng4, although White could have defended with 9.Qe2. Instead 9.Rf1 was a plausible try that was hit with 9. ... Nxh2. But event then White was only a bit worse after 11.Kd2. 11. ... Ke2 was the start of the very rapid end. (To be fair to White, I fell for a similar idea as Black in a Traxler, which is an opening I have played for 35 years!)

Connor5566 (1828) - Mattrad (2065) [C30]
ACTCA Monday Blitz - 25 Oct, 25.10.2021

Sunday 24 October 2021

Take the shot

 With OTB chess resuming in NSW, Victoria and ACT in the next few weeks, the vaccination status of players is likely to become an important topic. The Box Hill Chess Club in Victoria is requiring all tournament participants (and I assume spectators) to be fully vaccinated, although this now means that players under the age of 12 are excluded from playing at the club (as currently there is no vaccine for them).

I also believe that a similar requirement is also in place for Contract bridge events, although the effect on under 12's is significantly less. 

I'm not sure if the Australian Chess federation is taking a position on this (although it may have been discussed at their council meeting last week), but this does not preclude State Associations and local clubs on setting their own rules. As of today, I am advising players in events I organise to bring proof of vaccination with them, as I do not wish them to be caught out by venue rules. 

Friday 22 October 2021

Before the internet

 I have just received a number of wondaful, and historical, publications from Roly Eime (IA). Included in this collection was the "The Book of The First International Radio Chess Match Australia versus Great Britain" which was played in 1947. The match itself was played by cable (Telegraph) and not directly by radio, and took 18 hours over 2 and a bit days to complete. 

As Australia had already beaten France and Canada is recent matches, the books compiler, M.E, Goldstein, said that the match was to decide the chess supremacy of the Empire. In the end the 'Mother Country' won 7-3, although Lajos Steiner scored a win for Australia on the top board.

Another thing to note about the publication was that is was produced by The Australian Chess Federation, with the proceeds to assist in supporting other international matches for Australia. 

Alexander,Conel Hughes - Steiner,Lajos [C10]
GBR-AUS radio m London/Sydney (1), 04.10.1947

Wednesday 20 October 2021

ACT Chess for the rest of 2021

Good news, everyone! It looks like most of the face to face chess in Canberra in the next couple of weeks. At least one local chess club has been asked to resume in early November (by the venue management), and I suspect this means that venues are happy to host chess events once again. While the actual details are still being worked out (size limits, mask and vaccine requirements) I won't name the club, but will do so when reopening conditions are finalised.

The other event that has been up in the air is the 2021 Vikings Weekender, which may be back on the calendar again. It was planned to held in mid November, and if the venue is available at that time, the ACT Chess Association is keen to hold it, even at very short notice.

With Street Chess also resuming on the 30th October, most of the ACT clubs and events look to be back on. The only chess activity still affected by health orders will be the junior chess activities, which are restricted due to the junior venues normally being at schools, which still have some extra protections in place.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Some good advice - which I should follow

 I saw a nice QOTD over at Lichess from Peter Svidler

The biggest tool for chess improvement would be playing against stronger opposition

It certainly works for me, although I'm not great at doing this a lot. I think it also shows how serious you are at getting better. Study and training are all very good, but it is when the pieces hit that board that really counts.

Rules shouldn't always be rules

 As someone who helps write the Laws of Chess, I am always surprised when people ignore common sense interpretations. Two recent cases attracted my notice, both involving draws.

In the first, a player who had K+Q resigned against a player with a lone King. Ignoring the possible reasons for this, the question was what should the score of the game be. Under the strict reading of the Laws of Chess, the point should go to the player with the King. Under the 'analogous situations involving a loss on time' approach, it should be a draw, although the arbiter may wish to adjust the score (downwards) for the player with K+Q.

In the second case, an online event had a 'no draw offer' before move 40, complicated by the fact that the server still allowed players to agree to draws before move 40. As a result, breaking that rule resulted in a loss, as opposed to just being told to keep playing in OTB chess. In one game a player tried to claim a draw by repetition, contacting the arbiter, but the arbiter was slow in responding, and the game continued. When the arbiter noticed the message, he then forfeited the player, on the grounds that a repetition claim still counted as a draw offer!

Saturday 16 October 2021

The return of Street Chess

 Fingers crossed, but Street Chess is planning to return to face to face chess on Saturday 30th October (in 2 weeks). The first set of Covid restrictions have been lifted in Canberra, with a further easing on the 29th. King O'Malley's, who hosts Street Chess is opening then, and the plan is for us to return on the Saturday. At this stage, masks will still be compulsory (an check ins), but the requirement to be vaccinated is still to be determined (btw 99% of Canberrans have already received at least 1 vaccine shot).

When I find out more information I will post it here, but for now, it is looking good for a restart of OTB chess in Canberra.

Friday 15 October 2021

Bxf7+ punished again

 Here is a recent Traxler where Bxf7+ (the chicken line) is still punished by Black. (Thanks to FM Rupert Jones for sending me this game)

Hattersley,Sam - Shapland,David [C57]
Leeds Uni CC 12.10.2021

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Enpas mate

 GM Nicholas Pert has won the 2021 British Championship, ahead of a much smaller field than usual (due to Covid in part). He scored 6.5/9 to finish half a point ahead of 5 other players. Along the we he scored an interesting win against promising Scottish junior Freddy Gordon. For most of the game a draw looked to be the likely result, until a mistake towards the end allowed Pert to finish with an unusual checkmate.

Pert,Nicholas - Gordon,Freddy [D37]
2021 British Championship, 10.2021

Monday 11 October 2021

The Hack Attack

 Even though it was from an online blitz game, this is still an impressive 'hack' by white to win in under 20 moves. It also shows the benefit of doing some extra opening preparation, as white analysed some of these lines in the days before this event.


Connor5566 (1823) - csrobins (1733) [C30]
ACTCA Monday Blitz - 11 Oct, 11.10.2021

Sunday 10 October 2021

The cat sat on my keyboard

 Under the rules of online chess, the player is held responsible for anything that happens at their end of the game, unless it can be demonstrated that the hosting server is at fault. This can include power outages, network failures, and in one case, the cat sitting on the keyboard. To preserve the dignity of the player involved, I won't use real names, but the cat-astrophe occurs at move 17 (if it isn't obvious already)

White - Black (cat) [D00]
Street Chess - 9 October 2021, 09.10.2021

Friday 8 October 2021

What a difference 35 years makes

 Around 35 years ago I had to defend a R v R+B ending. It was during an ACT Chess Championship and I failed to do so, being mated on about the 50th move (since the last capture). In those days FIDE had extended the number of moves required to claim a draw to 75, so I did not have a chance to claim, evein if I held out for a few more moves.

For the second time in my career, I had to hold this ending once again. It was played in an online event, although there was a 15 second increment, which certainly helped. This time I was much more successful, hanging on for the full 50 moves (121 moves in total). I did make one mistake during the ending (around move 91), but my opponent missed the correct reply, and I was able to defend after that. 

Probably the main difference between this game and the previous one was that I was more aware of the defensive tricks, including the 2nd rank defence, which I used. Apart from the checks from the side and behind, there was also a couple of stalemate tricks, which I suspect my opponent did not see until they landed on the board.

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Fixing the result

 A recent decision by the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Commission has brought up the topic of pre-arranged draws, again. In handing down a ruling concerning two players 'arranging' a beneficial result, the EDC made comment on whether agreed draws were a form of match fixing.

I'm a little surprised they strayed into this territory, and I'm not sure that their conclusions have cleared up any prior confusion. If I read the decision correctly it seems that

  • Agreed draws (without conditions) are OK (as they are defined in the Laws of Chess)
  • Agreed draws (with conditions) are bad (as they are forbidden by the Laws of Chess)
  • Pre-arranged draws are OK, but may be considered a breach of sportsmanship 
  • Pre-arranged wins/losses are bad, as this is match fixing
Points 1,2 and 4 seem pretty straightforward, but I am pretty sure that point 3 is open to question. Certainly a player may decide that a drawn game is to their benefit (either to guarantee a certain place in an event, to have a rest, or some other tactical reason), but such a decision does not need the prior involvement of an opponent. 

Tuesday 5 October 2021


 Another 'easy to state, hard to solve' maths/chess problem has been solved recently. The N-Queen problem now has an approximate answer to the question "How many arrangements can you have of n queens on and n by n chessboard, so that no queen attacks another?" For a standard board (8x8) it has been long known that there are 92 distinct arrangements, but this problem is the general nxn case, where n can be an extremely large number. 

The solution (0.143n)^n is of course an approximation (rather than an exact number), but it is close enough to the correct number for all n. If you want to see how this number was arrived at then a link to the paper is here. There is also a good article explaining what works was done to arrive at this number, while if you want to test some of the smaller solutions, there there is some python code here

Monday 4 October 2021

East Asian Junior Open

 This week it was the turn of the 'boys' to play in the East Asian Junior event (NB the event is titled 'boys' rather than 'open'). There were 7 players from the ACT taking part, and for all of them, this was their first international event.

The best performed players were Dev Raichura and Jerry Cheng, in the Under 8's section. Both scored 6/9 to finish towards the top of the standings. In the Under 12 section, Larry Cheng  scored 4.5/9, and would have been joined by Minchen Yang and Charles Huang, if final round results had gone their way.

The next event is the Asian Online Junior and is expected that some of the players who played this event will back up for that one.

Cheng,Jerry (1114) - Limpodom,Bhakorn [D02]
Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championships - Bangkok, Thailand (3.45), 01.10.2021

Sunday 3 October 2021

What was the question?

 I've often described chess as an examination where the players take turns at setting the questions. Sometimes your move is only an answer to the previous question, while other times it is both an answer and the next question rolled into one. But what happens if you forget to answer the question being asked? This.

Aronian,Levon (2782) - Duda,Jan-Krzysztof (2756) [C18]
Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals (6.1), 01.10.2021

Thursday 30 September 2021

Correct chess?

 During the current school holidays, the ACT Junior Chess League is running a number of online events, for the benefit of our local players. One of the (small) outcomes is that some of our less experienced players are starting to play what could be termed 'correct' chess moves. By this I mean moves that look sensible to other chess players, as opposed to hanging pawns, moving h pawns before castling, developing rooks via h3 etc

Then I came across this ...

Carlsen, Magnus - Duda, Jan-Krysztof
Meltwater Champions Final 2021

Wednesday 29 September 2021

The big old passer

 There is a saying about passed pawns, in that they look scarier on the 2nd rank than they do on the 7th. However you do still need to keep an eye on them, as they can still get out of control.

mhummel (2095) - Connor5566 (1836) [C42]
ACTCA Tuesday Rapid - 28 Sep, 28.09.2021

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Some new chess authors(?)

 Over the last couple of days I decided to have a look at what chess books were being sold on eBay. Turns out that (a) there are heaps and heaps and (b) there are a number of authors I have kind of heard of/not heard of. By this I mean the following

  • Magnus Anand
  • Magnus Fisher
  • Robert Morphy
  • John Carlsen
I suspect if I looked deeper I might even find books by Bobby Botvinnik, Boris Kramnik and even Viswanathan Tal!

Sunday 26 September 2021

Some International Chess

 One area of the world that has fully embraced online ches if the Asian Chess Federation. They are now organising a large number of online events, for both junior and open players. The most recent one was the East Asian Girls Championship, which was organised by the Thailand Chess Federation.

As travel is no longer an impediment to taking part, a number of local players took the opportunity to take part. Shriya and Shakthi Karthik played in the Under 14 and Under 12 sections, while Shivani Sundar played in the Under 8's. For each of the players it turned out to be tough going, as there were plenty of platers from other countries with greater experince.

The best score was achieved by Shriya Karthick who scored 4/9, including a quick win in the 2nd round

Karthik,Shriya (1379) - Prem Kumar,Hanushreeya (1024) [A27]
Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championships - Bangkok, Thailand (2.17), 24.09.2021

Saturday 25 September 2021

Slowly, slowly

 Harry Press mentioned the following game to me, as an example of converting space into a winning advantage. It was played at the Sharjah Masters, which is currently being held in person. What is interesting about this game is that White builds up his advantage move by move, until Black runs out of decent choices. Maybe Black was a little passive in his choices, but it still like White won without too much effort.

Salem,A.R. Saleh (2679) - Niemann,Hans Moke (2609) [E04]
4th Sharjah Masters (3.6), 19.09.2021

Thursday 23 September 2021

Sigeman Chess Tournament

 If you want to watch some serious (non online) GM level chess, the Sigeman Chess Tournament has just begun. It is being held in Malmo, Sweden and is an 8 player round robin. In the field are a mixture of young talents (Sarin and Keymar) and some more experienced GM's (Gawain Jones and Nigel Short). The first round began around an hour ago, and is being covered live by Each round begins at 10pm (Canberra time), and with the civilized time limit of 40/100m,20/50m,15m+30s inc from move 1, there should be hours of entertainment.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Neville Ledger 1930 - 2021

 Neville Ledger has passed away at the age of 81  91.  For many years he was the backbone of the Tasmanian chess scene, as a player, organiser, administrator and chess retailer. He ran a mail order bookshop from his home for may years, being particularly adept at providing rarer and hard to get titles. A strong supporter of Correspondence Chess, he was a regular advertiser in the Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.

As a player he was a Tasmanian State Champion (in 1965) and the Burnie Club Champion on numerous occasions. He held a number of positions with the Tasmanian Chess Association over the years, including being TCA President in 1977-78. Apart from being a bookseller, he also produced the Tasmanian Chess Magazine until 1991, and produced a multi volume history of chess in Tasmania. 

Feeling rusty

 After a few months concentrating on running online events, I recently made the effort to play a bit more. I've never been that great at (fast) online chess, and my most recent efforts have confirmed this. One issue (apart from lousy openings), is that it does take me a while to warm up, meaning I drop a few games early in events. After that it does get better, but we'd all be champions if you could ignore our losses! 

So for the moment I am cruising along at around 50%, but hopefully more practice will lead to more wins.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Attention to detail

 One of the things I thought was great about "The Queens Gambit" was the attention to detail. The equipment looked legitimate, the games and moves looked real, and even some of the casting of extras was spot on. In fact one of the casting choices was the very brief scene where Nona Gaprindashvili was featured (for no more than a couple of seconds). 

However the creators are now being sued over this scene, for the line that "she has never faced men". Gaprindashvili is asking for $5M, although I would be surprised if she will get this (NB I am not a lawyer). When I saw the scene, I (and any serious chess player) knew this was not correct, as she had  played in plenty of events against male players. Indeed the line was so inaccurate, I had assumed that they were implying that she had neve faced men "at this level". And while that is also incorrect, the producers may make this argument, if it ever gets to court.

What I suspect will happen is that a correction is made to the scene (or it just gets removed from future prints), an apology given (noting that the book and series are a work of fiction), and everyone moves on. 

Thursday 16 September 2021

Russia win 2021 Online Olympiad

 After nearly a months play, Russia has emerged victorious in the 2021 Online Olympiad. After finishing as joint champions in 2020 (with India) they went one better this year, beating the USA in the final, winning both legs 3.5-2.5. Despite losing the final, the USA can also be proud of their finish, scoring come from behind wins over both Kazakhstan and India  in the knockout stage. 

The Online Olympiad attracted 155 teams, which is on par with (or better than) most Olympiads. For the lower ranked countries it was an opportunity to play some international chess, while for the stronger teams, it was a chance to make a mark on the world stage. 

While nothing definite has been announced at this stage, there is an expectation that this event will continue, in the non (OTB) Olympiad years.

Kosteniuk,Alexandra (2517) - Krush,Irina (2392) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (2.3), 15.09.2021

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Speaking of mouseslips

 Just to follow up from yesterdays post, here is one game from the Olympiad that did see a mouseslip. Two important points to note (1) White was losing in this position anyway and (2) One reason why the Olympiad finals used match points rather than game points was to reduce the effect such slips had on the overall results. 

Dubov,Daniil (2770) - Erdos,Viktor (2614) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (1.1), 13.09.2021

Tuesday 14 September 2021

The limits to sportsmanship

 As is the case with Online Chess, some games are decided by external factors. In the current Online Olympiad players have lost by disconnection, or blundered material through a misclick or mouseslip. On more than one occasion a 'sporting' result has been agreed, which normally leaves everyone involved with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

That is, until it gets serious. During the knock out stage of the Olympiad there have been a few games where the players have misclicked. Despite suggestions from spectators, there have been no draw offers or repetitions, and the games have ended with a decisive result. As, in my opinion, they should have. Players should not feel pressured to bail out an opponent's mistake, especially if the game was running in their favour any (as the games I saw were). While it is unfortunate that games might end prematurely, this is preferable to adding another level of gamesmanship to tournaments, where the easiest way to secure a draw in a worse position if to actually blunder badly (not that I am saying this was the case here). Operating the playing equipment correctly is as important in online events as it is in OTB tournament.

Sunday 12 September 2021

School Chess in Lockdown

 The local ABC television station did a quick report in what students were doing to keep busy and engaged during the current Covid lockdown. Chess was one of the activities featured.

Some v Most v All

 A few years ago Stewart Reuben suggested that if more than one person does not understand what a regulations means then it should be rewritten. Personally I think that that requirement is too strict, but the "Rule of Some, Most, All" should apply.

Basically if only some people understand a rule or instruction, then it is the underlying system that needs fixing. An example is having to line up for something, and being faced with confusing signage.  In only some people understand it it, the system of queuing is probably broken. If on the other most people get it right, then the signs need to be made clearer. But if everyone understands it (where the value of everyone is say 1 in 50), then the fault shifts to the customer. 

Why I mention this is that I keep running into this situation when running chess tournaments (IRL and online). Most people get it, but the line between most and all can sometimes be blurred. And how I deal with that, usually then depends on my mood at the time!

Thursday 9 September 2021

A very fine line

Another game where the difference between winning and drawing was decided by a single move. In this case it was 29.Qc2 (which loses) versus 29.Qd8 which would have lead to a draw.

Jumabayev,Rinat (2562) - Ding,Liren (2836) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (4.1), 09.09.2021

Tuesday 7 September 2021

An instructive King and Pawn ending

 Rapid chess isn't known for deep endgame analysis, but it can still throw up some interesting positions. In tonight's ACT Online Rapid there was a very interesting K+P ending, which both players found some very good moves, and some not so great ones. Given the time control (10m+2s) it is unfair to criticise the missed wins (and draws), but I have highlighted them anyway, to show the turning points in the game.

Of particular interest is the last variation, which shows how K+Q v K+Q isn't always an automatic draw.

RapanasCorner - chesslh [D53]

Sunday 5 September 2021

Street Chess - back online

 Street Chess has been out of action for a month, but with the ACT extending the covid lockdown for a few more weeks, I've decided to revive the online version.  It will be run at the same time, and with the same format as regular Street Chess, although it will be hosted at this year. Like the other ACT based events, it is open to members of the ACTCA Fast Chess Club on lichess. If you are a Canberra player and want to play, apply to join the team, making sure you include your real name in your application.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Australia fall short

 Going into the final day of the 2021 Online Olympiad, Australia had high hopes of qualifying for the top section, but a couple of unfortunate results put paid to this. Having won in round 7, the slipped up against Kyrgyzstan in round 8, losing 3.5-2.5. This meant they needed to be Shenzen (a second China team, representing the event sponsors), but lost 5-1, to finish in 4th pace for the 2nd year in a row.  Top board Temur Kuybokarov had the best score with 5.5/8, but the rest of the team hovered around the 50% mark for most of the tournament. 

FM Albert Winkelman scored exactly 50% (3.5/7) including winning a nice game in Round 8 against his opponent from Kyrgyzstan

Winkelman,Albert (2257) - Degenbaev,Aziz (1795) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (8.3), 04.09.2021

Thursday 2 September 2021

The king is not an attacking piece

 Despite Steinitz's arguments to the contrary, the king doesn't usually fare well out in the open. A good example is the following game from the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad

Weng,Yu-Hsin (1000) - Cheng,Chao Xin (1440) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (3.1), 02.09.2021

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Extended lockdowns

 I'm pretty sure that everyone in Canberra is aware that the current lockdown has been extended for another 2 weeks (17th September at the moment). So OTB chess looks unlikely for the near future (noting that I did get a phone call on Saturday asking me where all the Street Chess players were!)

So it is now a steady diet of online events, both to play, and to watch. One event to watch is the 2nd Division of the 2021 Online Olympiad. The Australian team has been seeded into this division, and is in Pool A. This is the first of the pools to start playing tomorrow (2nd September), with their games starting at 6pm. There will be 3 rounds per day, with the top 3 teams going through to the top division.

Last year Australia narrowly missed out, but this year they look at having a better chance of qualifying. There closest rivals will be Indonesia and China 2( Shenzen), while Bangladesh and The Philippines are fielding strong teams as well. Australia will play Bangladesh in the 1st round tomorrow, and of interest to Canberra viewers will be the performance of local lad, FM Albert Winkelman, playing in the Under 20 slot.

Chess sets of the well connected

 The ABC (in Australia) has just finished running a 2 part special on "Fox and the Big Lie", about how Fox News in the USA echoed the false claims that Trump's 2020 election loss was due to fraud. And while I found the whole thing interesting there was one political thing that struck me. In a lot of the interview scenes there seemed to be a lot of chess sets in the background, I assume belonging to the people being interviewed. So I wander, are they sets for use, or just for show?

Sunday 29 August 2021

2021 Online Olympiad - Div 3

 Division 3 of the 2021 FIDE Online Olympiad is well underway, with the final Pool matches being played today. As mentioned in my earlier preview, a number of teams are string to field GM's, although in the Scotland v Zambia match, it was an IM that triumphed.

Jere,Daniel (2397) - Aagaard,Jacob (2502) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (3.4), 27.08.2021

Saturday 28 August 2021

ACT Under 16's

 With the ACT currently under Covid restrictions, the ACT Junior Chess League is organising the Under 16 Championship as an online, Zoom supervised event. Borrowing heavily from the Online Olympiad (and similar international tournaments), 32 players are taking part in the tournament. It is a 7 round swiss with a time limit of 30m+30s. 

As one of the arbiters, I can say it has gone pretty well. The two main issues are essentially the same as in any normal junior event, with the players taking too little time over their moves, and parents not understanding the tournament process. 

The quality of play is a little mixed (mainly do to the rushed moves), but when they slow down, the games can be quite hard fought. Here is one such game from the 2nd round, with the winner being the youngest player in the event (at 6 years old).

StonkfishPro (1748) - devraichura (1255) [B73]
ACT U14-U16 Championships, 28.08.2021

Thursday 26 August 2021

2021 Online Olympiad Div 3

 The 2021 Online Olympiad Division 3 begins tomorrow, with a couple of surprise qualifiers. Fiji, who finished 4th in Div 4 Pool A, was one such surprise, with Hong Kong being unable to continue in the competition after losing one of their players (and not having any replacements). At least one other 4th paced team from another pool went through (late) after one of the Div 3 teams had to pull out. 

Each new division sees the addition of stronger players, with the first GM's making an appearance. Both Scotland (Pool C) and Uruguay (Pool D) have 2 GM's turning out, while a couple of other teams have one.

Pool A begins at 6pm (Canberra time), Friday 27 August, with the other pools starting at 2 hour intervals. Top 3 teams from each pool qualify for the next Division (Div 2), where the competition begins to get really serious.


Monday 23 August 2021

2021 Online Chess Olympiad - Day 3

 The third an final day of 2021 Chess Olympiad Division 4 saw an exciting finish to some of the pools. With the top 3 in each pool qualifying for the next stage, it sometimes came down to the last few games, especially when competing teams were playing each other.

In Pool C (which I was working on), Jersey suffered at the hands of the pairing gods, playing their 3 closest challengers in the last 3 rounds. A narrow loss to Cyprus, and heavy losses to Ethiopia and Angola, saw them slip to 4th place behind these 3.

In Pool A, Fiji hoped to do the opposite, finishing with some easier pairings, but a round 9 loss to Lebanon left them 1 win short of qualifying, despite finishing with 3 victories. Hong Kong and Nepal qualify alongside Lebanon (NB All results are provisional until Fair Play checks are finished)

Pool B saw Kenya, Namibia and Palestine all get promoted, along with 4th placed Malawi, who took the extra spot set aside for the best 4th place finisher. Pool D had Suriname, Aruba and Ghana well ahead of the rest of the field, while Pool E promoted Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti.

Division 3 starts on Friday 6pm (Canberra time). Each pool in this division contains 10 teams, with the top 3 teams moving up to Division 2. Of interest to reginal readers is the debut of New Zealand, who will most likely be in Pool A (based on their time zone)

Sunday 22 August 2021

2021 Online Chess Olympiad - Day 2

 The second day of the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad saw 4 games in each pool, and went a long way to determining who will get promoted to Division 3 next weekend. In Pool A Hong Kong and Nepal are out in front, on 13 and 12 points respectively. Lebanon and Maldives are in contention for the 3rd place, although Fiji has an outside chance if qualifying, having a fairly easy run home.

Pool B is a lot closer, with Kenya, Malawi, Palestine and Namibia all still in the running. Pool C has Angola, Cyprus and Jersey well in front, but they all have to play each other on the final day, which may allow other teams to sneak through.

Pool D is still to close to call, with teams in places 3 to 6 all within 1 point of each other. Pool E is another that is almost settled, with Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti a match and half clear of 4th place.

The final 4 games for each pool are being played this evening (Canberra time) starting at 6pm. There is live commentary on youtube, and no doubt, other sites. The top 3 teams from each pool get promoted to Division 3, along with the best scoring 4th paced team, replacing the now withdrawn Afghanistan team.