Saturday 30 January 2021

2021 ACT Lightning Championship

 The 2021 ACT Lightning Championship is being this Tuesday, 2nd February at the Eastlake Club, Hinder St, Gungahlin ACT.  It will be a 9 round event with a time limit of G/5m. Entry fee is $10 ($ junior players), plus a requirement to be a member of the ACTCA (NB 2020 ACTCA Members have had their membership extended to the end of 2021). The tournament begins at 7:15pm, with registration from 6:45pm. Prizes are dependant upon entries, but a field of 30+ players is expected.

Friday 29 January 2021

2021 O2C Doeberl Cup Update

 The 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup is only 2 months away, and entries have been coming in at a nice rate. There are 72 entries so far, with the majority in the Minor (Under 1600). The Open is a little light on at the moment, with IM Ari Dale the current top seed (and therefore favourite for the $5000 first prize). As mentioned in an earlier post, international travel restrictions mean the the tournament will be missing the usual influx of overseas players, but this does mean that local players (and locally resident OS players) now have a greater chance of taking home the prizes.

More details are available at You can find out about the new accommodation deals on offer, as well as entering your particular event (and guaranteeing a spot even if your rating changes).

(*** I am the Chief Organiser this year ***)

Thursday 28 January 2021

The new Giri

 Anish Giri has always copped a bit of stick about his drawish tendencies. And yet here he is, currently out in front of the Tata Steel Masters. He is currently on 7/10, and leads by half a point over Esipenko, Caruana and Firouzja. The big obstacle in his way is Magnus Carlsen, who he plays in the next round. Carlsen is one and a half points behind, and so this is what football commentators call a 6 point game (eg the gap closes or blows out, depending upon the result).

Last night Giri had a bit of luck at the end, when his opponent blundered into a mate, from what was possibly a drawn position.

Giri,Anish (2764) - Wojtaszek,Radoslaw (2705) [D02]
Tata Steel Masters (10.5), 27.01.2021

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Triple pawns against two bishops

"Chess is 99% tactics" is a quote attributed to Richard Teichmann. Of course as with any such proclamation, your mileage may vary, depending on the road you travel. But I can't help showing the following game where a player with isolated tripled pawns beats a player with the bishop pair (and in this case, consisting of 2 extra bishops!).

Wojtaszek,Radoslaw (2705) - Caruana,Fabiano (2823) [E94]
Tata Steel Masters (9.4), 26.01.2021

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Beat them while they're young

 Magnus Carlsen suffered a spectacular loss to Andrey Esipenko in Round 8 of the Tata Steel Masters. Carlsen played a risky line of the Sicilian, and then missed a tactical trick which won Esipenko a pawn. Despite Carlsen's attempts to complicate the position, the 18 year old GM had enough of an advantage to covert on move 39. This was the first time they had played, which makes the win even more meritorious. 

In the aftermath of the game, a picture began circulating of an 11 year old Esipenko with Carlsen, at a tournament in Russia. Seeing the picture I can't help wondering if Carlsen missed a trick of his own. He should have suggested they play a few blitz games together, and then crushed Esipenko enough times, so that in any future meetings, Carlsen would already have the advantage!

Esipenko,Andrey (2677) - Carlsen,Magnus (2862) [B84]
83rd Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee NED (8.1), 24.01.2021

Sunday 24 January 2021

Smash and grab (and smash)

 One of the highlights from round 3 of the ACTJCL Summer Swiss was the quick crush by Lachlan Ho against Tim Pearce. When I asked Tim after the game what happened, he simply said "I though I could win a piece. I did, but I shouldn't have"

Pearce,Tim (1752) - Ho,Lachlan (1590) [D45]
ACTJCL Sunday Summer Tournament Canberra AUS (3), 24.01.2021

Saturday 23 January 2021

Englund's other gambit

 The Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) is one of those openings you want to work, even when you know it won't. Lots of tricks for the unwary, some nice tactics to show your friends, and most importantly some very quick checkmates. Unfortunately, the refutation isn't that hard to spot, and after that you have nothing to show for the pawn.

Instead you would be better off playing like Englund did in this game.

Larsson - Englund [C36]
Stackholm Stackholm, 1942

Friday 22 January 2021

Criminalising good moves

There is a proposal from the FIDE Fair Play Commission (FPL) that would automatically find a player guilty of breaching fair play regulations if their Z-score (based on computer move matching and centi-pawn loss) is above 4.25.

The full wording is

4. Assumed cheating

i) A player may be assumed to have been cheating if the z-score of his play amounts to 4.25 or higher, unless the player can prove on the balance of probabilities that he/she was playing fairly;

This kind of idea has been around since FIDE started looking at Anti-Cheating methods, and so far has been rejected every time it has been brought up. Most notably, it was explicitly rejected in the first version of the regulations (in 2014), on the grounds that it was a very bad idea (I was one of the members of the committee who wrote those rules). 

Fortunately FIDE have asked for comment on this proposal, and at least two bodies that I am a member of (one a commission, the other a national federation) have spoke out against this proposal. Whether those concerns will see this regulation rejected remains to be seen.

Thursday 21 January 2021

The tournament bulletin

 With the rise of the chess database, the tournament bulletin has fallen by the wayside. I spent a lot of time in the 1980's, 90's and 00's producing them for tournaments I organised (ie Doeberl Cup, ACT Championships, Australian Juniors) but haven't really made them in the last decade. As a throw back to earlier times, I decided to put some together for the ACTJCL Summer Swiss that is currently running. They look a bit different from when I previously wrote them (in part due to advances in technology), and they are in electronic rather than paper form, but otherwise there isn't a lot of difference. If you want to check them out, click on the above link and then download them at your leisure.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

More castling with check

 The latest instalment in this long running series comes from a just completed CC game.

Maylott,Peter S. (2136) - Roberts,Greg (1809) [A70]
2020/AUS/5249 (AUS) ICCF, 31.08.2020

Monday 18 January 2021

ACTJCL Summer Swiss Rd 2

 The second round of the 2021 ACTJCL Summer Swiss saw wins for the top seeds, and Fred Litchfield, Harry Press and Miles Patterson share the lead on 2/2. Further down there were a few upsets (and semi upsets), the most notable being a win by Erin Milne over Paul Dunn. 

One of the more interesting games was between Miles Patterson and Lee Forace. On move 19 Forace (as Black) played g6, and Patterson immediately played Bg7. While this is normal if the pawn on g6 and the bishop are of the same colour, but I'm not sure I have ever seen a player fianchetto his bishop on the opponents side of the board!

Patterson,Miles (1944) - Forace,Lee (1648) [A13]
ACTJCL Sunday Summer Tournament Canberra AUS (2), 17.01.2021

Saturday 16 January 2021

Tata Steel 2021

 The first big event of 2021 is about the get underway. Tata Steel 2021 is starting in a few minutes (Canberra time) with a field of 14 players. The field was somewhat restricted due to Covid restrictions, and was further affected with Dubov having to withdraw at the last minute. Nonetheless it is a strong field (Carlsen, Caruana, MVL), and marks a welcome return to OTB chess for the worlds elite.

There are a number of sites doing live coverage, including Chess24. The link to their coverage is here.

Friday 15 January 2021

ACT Chess 2021

 The 2021 Chess Season in Canberra is kicking off, and here are the details of the clubs where you can get your fix for 2021

  • Tuggeranong Chess Club - Monday 7:00pm, Vikings Club Erindale (Starts 18 January)
  • Eastlake Gungahlin Chess Club - Tuesday 7:00pm, Eastlake Club Gungahlin (Starts 2 February)
  • Canberra Chess Club - Wednesday 7:00pm, Canberra Academy of Chess, Dundas Court, Phillip (Starts 20 January)
  • Street Chess - Saturday 11am, King O'Malley's, City Walk, Canberra City (Runs every Saturday)
The most significant change is the Canberra Chess Club is relocating to Phillip, after there city venue became unavailable. Also worth noting is that the 1st ACTCA event of the year will be the 2021 ACT Lightning Championship, which will be held at the Eastlake Gungahlin Chess Club on the 2nd of February (opening night)


Thursday 14 January 2021


 The ACT Junior Chess League is holding its first Bootcamp of 2021, starting on Monday 18th January. The camp runs over 4 days, although juniors can take their pick of which days and events they want to play. Day 1 sees a morning coaching session followed by an afternoon blitz. Day 2 is a full day of Rapid chess, while days 3&4 are a 6 round long time control event. 

It is open to all junior players in the ACT and nearby areas, nd full details can be found at the ACT Junior Chess League website.

A player ahead of his time

 One of my early opponents at the junior level was Gary Wilson. He had some interesting opening choices, including one that at the time (around 1983), I simply thought was bad. He often played (as white) 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nb5 with the idea of Nxc7. Of course this is now a very fashionable opening, the Jobava London. Sadly, the games in which he played this opening are now lost to the ages, and all I can find was a game in which the opening wasn't played. It is also a loss (against me), but here it is anyway.

Press,Shaun - Wilson,Gary [C60]
ACT Junior Championship, 27.11.1983

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Dude, I can see the tricks.

 While there are some gambits that look fun to play, they often aren't actually that fun to play. This is because (a) they are unsound and (b) the threats are just too obvious. As an example here is a game from the lower boards of the 1992 Chess Olympiad, showcasing the Stafford Gambit (3 ... Nc6). Black surrenders a pawn, not so much for actual compensation, but simply in the hope that White goes wrong somewhere. Not only does White see most of the tricks, he actually kept all 8 pawns on the board until he exchanged one in return for a forced mate!

Righi,Ezio (2205) - Warlick,John W (2205) [C42]
Manila ol (Men) 30th Manila (13.2), 22.06.1992

Monday 11 January 2021

ACTJCL Summer Swiss

 The ACT Junior Chess League has just started a new event, designed to provide more serious competition for up and coming juniors (and adults). The ACTJCL Summer Swiss is a 7 week invitational event, which is being held at Campbell High. The 28 player field consists of 14 junior players and 14 adult players. Although the adult players are generally seeded towards the top of the event, the field is actually quite 'graduated', with 2 or 3 players in each 100 point rating band.

Today saw the first round played, and although most of the top seeds eventually won, there were a lot of hard fought games. Probably the most interesting game was the biggest upset of the round, with bottom seed Hunter Sanchez beating the current ACT Junior Champion, Dexuan Kong. 

Sanchez,Hunter (609) - Kong,Dexuan (1455) [C29]
ACTJCL Sunday Summer Tournament Canberra AUS (1), 10.01.2021

Sunday 10 January 2021

Is this drawn?

 I had a curious situation at Street Chess today. After a very up and down game between two relatively new players, one player resigned the game. However, the player who resigned had a K+P on the board, while the other player only had a K. Of course I was only half paying attention, and initially assumed it was the other way round, and commented that the player who resigned could have drawn the ending. It was then pointed out that the player who resigned could not possibly have lost the position, as they were the one with the pawn.

Why did the player resign? Simply because he thought his opponent had played well enough to earnt he full point. But after further discussion (and and an explanation of the rules), the game was recorded as a draw. Now while this was the correct decision from a practical point of view, was it the correct decision from a legal point of view?

Friday 8 January 2021

Hastings Online

 The Hastings International Chess Congress for 2020/21 isn't being held (for obvious reasons), but instead has been replaced by a somewhat stronger event. The Caplin Hastings All-Play-All has is a 12 player round robin, and has attracted most of England's top GM's. Played online with a time limit of G15m+10s, the event is being held this Saturday and Sunday, and has a prize pool of 7,000 GBP. As with most UK events the timing isn't great for Australian spectators, but you may be able to catch the last few rounds of the day if you wake up early enough. Click on the above link for further details, including live commentary of the games.

Thursday 7 January 2021

What is this trickery?

 Fred Litchfield has just passed on to me a curious tale of chess brilliance combined with chess ignorance. Playing an online game, he was being outplayed by a lower rated opponent (who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons) and was soon down a piece. His king was then caught in a mating net and after 42.g4+ it looked like he had been checkmated. But that pesky en passant rule game to the rescue and Fred avoided instant death with 42. ... fxg3 ep 

It was at this point his opponent (who had completely outplayed a 2300) asked "what trickery had just been conjured up" (NB The server even added a button to the move to explain the en passant rule). No doubt shocked by such magic, the immediate recapture of the pawn by White allowed Fred to sacrifice both rooks to leave himself stalemated!

Anonymous (2204) - Litchfield, Fred (2307) [B30]
Online, 06.01.2021

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Shaun with a W

 When I began playing competition chess back in 1982, one excellent resource was the Canberra Times chess column, which in those days was written by Dr George Stern. While George was an average club player, he was both a highly regarded writer, and quite adept at convincing the newspaper to give him as much space as he needed. As a result a typical chess column (which appeared twice week), carried at least one game, international news, and a round up of all the happenings at the local clubs.

My first appearance in the column occurred towards the end of 1982, when I played the ACT Junior Championships, and then the Australian Junior in early 1983. Looking back at the columns (which can be found at I realised that at least for the early part of my career, he spelled my first name as Shawn! Fortunately as I progressed, George worked out the correct spelling, including in the game given in this column

Press,Shaun - Hartstein,Alan [B00]
Inter-Schools, 04.07.1983

Monday 4 January 2021

Online chess regulations

 After six months of work* FIDE have published the official Online Chess Regulations. They cover online supervised events (where players play from home, and are supervised online), and hybrid chess events (where players play online but are supervised in person). For now the intention is to provide a set of standard rules that tournament organisers can use for their online events, but there is a push to allow certain FIDE events to be run as 'hybrid' events.

The FIDE announcement and rules can be found here

* I was part of the team that produced these regulations.

Sunday 3 January 2021

2021 New Zealand Championship

While most National Championships were upended by 2020, the New Zealand Championship has managed to keep going. Last years event happened before Covid-19 restrictions began to take place, while the 2021 is happening in a post-covid NZ. The major change is the championship, which normally attracts a lot of players from overseas, is a NZ resident event this year. Nonetheless it looks to be pretty competitive, with 24 players in the top section.

Two rounds have been played so far, and the results to the championships and other events can be found at There is also a link to a live broadcast of the top 4 games.

Friday 1 January 2021

50/50 Tactics

 Having passed the age of 50 I am certainly aware that my chess 'reflexes' are starting to go. So for the last week I'm back solving tactics, in part to prepare for a couple of upcoming events. 

To manage my time and energy I've decided on the following training regime. I either solve enough positions to increase my tactical rating by 50 points (on or stop when I have tried 50 puzzles. This way I have a definite goal, but also a definite stopping point if it as all going wrong. 

So far I have been able to cut my sessions short on all but one occasion. As the puzzles get harder, it usually takes around 25 positions to gain 50 points but on the one day it went wrong, I dropped 13 points from 50 positions!