Sunday 28 February 2021

Kid friendly openings

 Today I had a quick chat about 'kid friendly' opening books. Now I had never thought about this before, and that got m wondering. What are the 'kid friendly' openings out there?

I am going to start with the Four Knights, and the Italian Game, if only as they are the first openings most children learn. Added to the list is the Colle, which is probably the 'friendliest' 1.d4 opening.  After that it already gets tricky, at least as far as I can see.

Working from the other direction, I would regard the Kings Indian and the Sicilian as the least kid friendly. Lots of tricky lines and hand to hand combat here, so not to be recommended. I've also seen a lot of kids steamrolled playing the Pirc/Modern so that is the equivalent of 'playing on the road'. 

That leaves a lot in the middle, especially in response to 1.e4 or 1.d4. Possibly the Petroff as black is still G Rated, but I'm still thinking about a defense to 1.d4. Suggestions welcome.

Here, have this one

 One of the decisions we sometimes face during a chess games is 'What is an acceptable loss?'. By this I mean, do we decide to cut our losses (ie give up a pawn), or dig in, only to suffer a bigger loss later. This was certainly the decision my opponent had to make in a club game I played during the week, when surrendering the e pawn was probably the safer decision. Of course there is no guarantee this concession still does not lose in the long term, but it does at least keep the game going for a lot longer that this one did.


Press,Shaun - Cunningham,Cam [D11]
Rama Memorial, 23.02.2021

Friday 26 February 2021

Aronian to US

 Lev Aronian has just announced he is changing federations, from Armenia to the USA. This shock move is in part due to difficulties Aronian has had with the new Armenian government. While the announcement has just been made, the transfer itself may be backdated, allowing Aronian to represent the USA at the 2022 Olympiad. 

This adds another top GM to the already strong US team. A likely line up for 2022 could be Caruana, Aronian, So, Dominguez and Nakamura. This would result in players like Ray Robson being squeezed out, and may actually see a knock on effect of US players looking at other federations (Robson could even turn out for Guam!).

Such a team would make the US clear favourites to defend their title, but as Armenia themselves proved in winning 3 Olympiads, it isn't always a team of champions that comes out in front.

Thursday 25 February 2021

I'm not sure how this happened

 The usual explanation for quick online losses usually revolve around mouse slips or pre-moves gone wrong. It is rare that a sudden blunder is attributed to a good old fashioned oversight, which may have been the case in this game. I say 'may' as I have no info on why this occurred (at G45m+15s btw), so at best I am only guessing.

Young,Alan - Bevan,Peter [C65]
4NCL Online (3), 23.02.2021

Tuesday 23 February 2021

A quick draw or a slow draw


White to play and draw

I came across this study in Edmar Mednis' book 'Practical Endgame Tips'. It is White to play and draw. But when setting it up in Chessbase, I discovered that there is a quick draw and a slow draw. Now this isn't because the study is 'cooked', but simply because Black has a choice about what kind of draw he wants. Hopefully when you find the solution to the quick draw, you'll also find the move leading to the slow draw.

Monday 22 February 2021

2021 Corporate Wold Championship - Grenke wins

 Grenke is the inner of the 1st FIDE Corporate World Chess Championships, defeating SBER in the final 4.5-3.5. Grenke (a German Bank and financial services company) is well known as the sponsor of the Grenke Chess Classic, and was able to turn out a very strong team from their employees. Interestingly, it was the only team that fielded 3 female players in the whole 288 team event.

SBER (a Russian based financial services company) had Ian Nepomniachtchi as their invited player, but still has titled players on the lower boards. The final was over 2 matches, with the first ending 2-2, and Grenke winning 2.5-1.5 in the second.

The tournament itself was a big success (based on both the numbers and feedback received) and a number of companies have stated that they are already preparing for next years event.

(* I was a paid official for this tournament *)


Kashlinskaya,Alina (2494) - Kadatsky,Alexander (2368) [A00]
2021 World Corporate Championship Online (2.2), 21.02.2021

Sunday 21 February 2021

2021 ACTJCL Summer Swiss

 Fred Litchfield has won the 2021 ACTJCL Summer Swiss, with a score of 6/7. He had 5 wins, 1 draw, and one half point bye (while filming an upcoming appearance on Mastermind!). His draw was with Harry Press, who finished 2nd on 5.5 (4 wins, 2 days draws and a half point bye). In equal third on 4.5 were Malik Amer, Nick Beare and Lachlan Ho (who was the best junior player).

The event was organised by Kate Woodley on behalf of the ACT Junior Chess League, and was intended as both a serious event for adult players, and the opportunity for junior plays to play opponents they might not normally face. There were a number of good performances by the junior contingent, with both Shriya Karthik and Hunter Sanchez winning their rating groups.

Full results can be found here, and the page also includes a link to the tournament bulletins, which are free to download.

I hope Black enjoyed this

 The 2021 Corporate World Championship is up an running, and despite the larger than expected entries, it seemed to run OK. The East Zone, which had the majority of teams, was a little slow to start (and finish), but the West Zone (with only 2 pools), was pretty easy to run.

One of the highlights of the competition was Magnus Carlsen turning out for the Kindred team. In the first round he was up against a 1400 player, but hopefully Black enjoyed the challenge, even if Carlsen won in a fairly straightforward manner.

Carlsen,Magnus (2862) - Hassan Sampath,Santosh [A00]
2021 World Corporate Championship Online (1.12), 19.02.2021

Saturday 20 February 2021

The joy (and pain) of Open Source Software

 Over the last 6 months I have been filling a kind of tech support/software development role for some online chess competitions (FIDE Online Olympiad, 4NCL Online, FIDE Corporate World Championships). One of the pieces of software I wrote was a tool to take a pgn generated by Swiss Manager and download the game scores from and This saved a lot of time for organisers, as it meant that there was no need to manually cut and paste games from server to pgn file.

I've happily shared it with organisers, and in some cases they have made their own modifications to suit the specific needs of the event (eg the 4NCL Online Junior involves 2 games between players, as White and Black). Through this process a number of issues have been identified and solutions found. To me, this is how Open Source software should work.

However, sometimes there is a downside to this. If you use software developed by others, then suitable attribution should be given. On occasion this has not happened, with 'authors' claiming credit for the work of others. One extreme case I was aware of involved passing off a piece of open source software as a new 'proprietary' product and selling it for $50,000 a copy. 

Recently claims have been made about 'Fat Fritz' and 'Fat Fritz 2' which have been released by Chessbase. Both products were based on previous open source projects (Leela Zero and Stockfish), with minimal changes to the code, but with different neural net data. While saying that a a new version is better than an old one is not forbidden, or even selling open source software for a profit (as long as the details of its origin are made freely available), erasing the names of earlier authors is. If you want to find out more, then here is the source article.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

No more Lasker's

 When coaching new players, one of the biggest challenges is to get them to recognise that their opponent gets to move next. This usually manifests itself by leaving a piece en-pris, while pursuing their own objectives. While doing this enough times is thought to cure this problem, I tried to think up a better way of stopping it from happening.

To this end I co-opted the game of "No more Jockeys". It is a game where you are required to supply a name belonging to a certain category (eg celebrities, capital cities, food) but having done so, use that answer to exclude smaller categories of answer. For example, if the topic was Capital Cities, the the game might start with 'Canberra. No more capitals ending in A'. 'Colombo. No more island capitals'. 'Washington. No more capitals named after real people'. 'London' Bzzzzz. Wrong answer

So how does this apply to chess. In the same way that a move answers a question "How do I improve my position?", it can also exclude certain answers eg "1.e4 No Gruenfeld" "1... e6 No four move checkmate" "2.d4 No Bc5" "2... d5 No Bc4 then!" and so on. 

While this is no way designed to help players find good moves, I do hope that it will teach new players to recognise the ideas behind their opponents moves, helping them to at least avoid the more obvious blunders. 

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Will any square do?

 Due to a couple of factors I found myself having difficulty in concentrating on my club game this evening. After using a lot of my time failing to come up with anything concrete, I instead simply starting putting my pieces on nice looking squares. Surprisingly, it turned out (in post game analysis) that most of these squares were the right squares for my pieces. Except for one. On move 18 I hallucinated a combination that I thought was winning for me, but it turned out only to lead to a draw. What I missed in my eagerness to play it was an in between move where the combi works basically the same, but my opponents pieces are on slightly different squares, leading to a win for me!

Mayen,Gabriel - Press,Shaun [A48]
Rama Memorial, 16.02.2021

Monday 15 February 2021

I'm a heartless monster

 While coaching some very young children today, I noticed a reticence to exchange pieces. "Why don't you capture that pawn?" I asked, "Because then my pawn will get killed" came the reply. "But it is an equal trade" I continued. "But I don't want my pawn to be killed" said the 5 year old.

Funnily enough I have this attitude when playing other games, but not chess. Especially in character building games where you skill up characters you control, losing a particular favourite can be devastating, even if you can simply repeat this process with another one. But chess, chess is different. They are just pawns (and pieces) at my command, and if I have to sacrifice most of them to achieve my ultimate goal, I will not hesitate to do so! 

The transitive properties of chess

 One of the things that makes chess interesting is the uncertainty of the result in any one game. Normally 'stronger' players beat 'weaker' players, but not all 'stronger' players beat all 'weaker' players. And more interestingly, just because player A beats Player B, and Player B beats Player C, sometimes Player A won't beat Player C.

A practical example of this is in the current ACT Junior Chess League Summer Swiss. This event is designed to provide some serious (long time control) play for promising Canberra juniors, and has succeeded in doing so. With 1 round to player Fred Litchfield leads on 5/6, half a point ahead of Harry Press on 4.5. The key game from round 6 (given below) was between Press and Malik Amer. After a tough struggle the game ended in a draw, which saw Press drop back from equal first. It was also a relief for Amer, who had suffered a loss to young Minchen Yang during the week at the Gungahlin Chess Club. But Yang (playing in this event as well) wasn't able to repeat that result, instead suffering a loss himself to bottom seed Hunter Sanchez!


Press,Harry (2076) - Amer,Abdulmalk (1847) [C84]
ACTJCL Sunday Summer Tournament Canberra AUS (6), 12.02.2021

Saturday 13 February 2021

2021 Corporate World Championship - Update

 The 2021 Corporate World Championship has really taken off in popularity. Originally around 100 teams were expected, but now it is over 280 teams. As a result the event is being run in 8 pools (6 from Asia/Europe/Africa, 2 from America's/Pacific), with an 8 team finals series. There are a couple of high profile names turning out (based on the 1 guest player rule) including Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri. 

Australia has 3 teams entered, including a pretty decent squad from Allens law firm in Sydney. Based in preliminary rankings they are ranked 9th in the Western Zone, which means they should be seeded 4th or 5th in their pool. The preliminaries will be a 6 round team swiss played on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of February (starting lunchtime Australian time), with the finals the next day.

Team lists have already gone up and can be seen at

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday 11 February 2021

A very narrow escape

 I was incredibly lucky to escape from almost certain doom in a game I played during a coaching class earlier this week. I was Black against one of the students, and clearly the summer holidays had done his chess a world of good. As you can see from the diagram I was down a queen (having given it up to avoid mate), and my only hope lay with the b pawn. Even then, if my opponent played the correct move it was time for me to resign. But having just doubled my rooks on the d file, my opponent, worried about getting mated on the back rank, played 1.Rc8. Obviously it means I cannot capture twice on d1, but 1 ... Rxd1 2.Qxd1 Rxc8 was enough for me to score a very lucky win. 

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Smothered and smothered

 Another game from the 2021 ACTJCL Summer Swiss. At some point White gets tangled up and manages to surround his own king. Then, just to make matters worse, he also misses and upcoming knight fork, and ends up with a choice between smothered mate or losing his queen to a fork. In the end he simply chose neither.

Beare, Nick (1621) - Litchfield, Frederick (2081) [D00]
ACTJCL Sunday Summer Tournament 2021.01.10

Monday 8 February 2021

One Dimensional Chess

 An interesting chess variant is 1D Chess, although 'variant' may be too generous a description. It is played on a single file (hence the 1D name), and each player starts with a King (on squares 1 and 8), a Knight (on squares 2 and 7) and a Rook (on squares 3 and 6). The King and rook mover normally (along the file), while the knight moves 2 squares, and can jump (eg White can play N4 on move 1, jumping the rook). 

There is a YouTube clip which I have embedded below which explains the game (and the forced win for White) in greater detail. If you don't have time to watch all of it, I recommended you start at around the 1:40 mark as this is the best part.

Sunday 7 February 2021

No castle white

 Recently there have been attempts at making (computer) chess more interesting, by tinkering with the rules. 'no castle' chess is one such attempt, where player cannot castle. The upside is the the king stays in the centre for longer, the downside is that rooks take longer to develop,

The game may work better in a handicap format, where only one player cannot castle. But based on this game from last night Opera Euro Masters, this may be much of a handicap either. (Note: I assume that Grischuk's 4th move was a mouse slip, and not a serious attempt at giving Giri a head start)

Grischuk,Alexander (2777) - Giri,Anish (2764) [C65]
Opera Euro Rapid Prelim INT (1.8), 06.02.2021

Scaling up

The current boom in online and OTB chess is starting to cause some issues for organisers. Street Chess has seen close to a 100% increase in entries over the last month, and as a result the event is now starting to run overtime. Moving to an online pre-registration system has been suggested, as has a bulk pre-payment offer, so the time taken to handle cash is cut down.

Another event that is looking to be over-subscribed is the first FIDE Online Corporate World Chess Championship. This team of 4 event already has around 300 teams entered, and organising the arbiting team is going to be a big task. The tournament is only 2 weeks away, so it may be all hands to the pumps to get this one going. 

(** Disclaimer: I will be a paid official for this event)

Friday 5 February 2021

Testing by crashing

 Over the past few months I have been working on some python apps that automatically download game scores from online chess servers, based on the outputs from pairing programs. They have mainly been used by FIDE (for the Online Olympiad) and the ECF (for some of their events). 

For normal events the scripts seem to work fine, but there are also special cases, when they don't work so well. I am currently in the process of trying to make the "players play two games, with alternate colours, one after the other" feature work, while dealing with the tendency of players to rematch  after their official games and play 15 games of hyper bullet before the round is completed. To do this, I am resorting to the time honoured coding method of "seeing where the program crashes".

But when it didn't crash I was able to grab the following game from one of the events it will be used on, the 4NCL Online Open. A nice win by black, whose identity will no doubt be familiar to most chess players.


Li,Ethan Bingxuan (1787) - Crowther,Mark D (2078) [A00]
1st 4NCL Spring Online Congress Online - (1.12), 02.02.2021

Thursday 4 February 2021

Why is the Caro-Kann getting so much love on TV?

 Over the last couple of months I have seen the Caro-Kann become the 'goto' opening in TV shows featuring chess. In "The Queen's Gambit"  it is described by Benny Watts as "All pawns and no hope", and clearly he is not a fan. 

On the flipside it gets a mention in Snowpiercer (TV series) as a metaphor for luring your opponent into a trap. The idea is to give your opponent (White) the big centre and then fight back.

Of course both characterisations are not completely accurate, but the bigger question for me, is why choose the Caro to hang your hat on?

Tuesday 2 February 2021

2021 ACT Lightning Championship

 The 2021 ACT Lightning Championship had an exciting finish, with FM Michael Kethro and Fred Litchfield tied for 1st on 8/9. Both Litchfield and Kethro trailed Harry Press for most of the event, until Litchfield defeated Press in their individual game to leave him half a point behind the leading pair. All 3 won their last round games to leave the final rankings unchanged.

Lachlan Ho won the Under 1900 prize on 6/9, Larry Cheng and Mathew Maltman tied for the Under 1500 prize on 5, and Joshua Liang was the best Under 1000 on 4.5.

The tournament was played in good spirits, with no disputes or major problems. The most interesting ruling I had to make (I was the arbiter), was when one player promoted, but placed the wrong coloured queen on the board. This initially went unnoticed, and the opponent played their next move. It was only when the first player went to move 'his' queen, that he realised what he had done. Technically the second player could insist on keeping the queen as is, but the laws of chess do allow the players to agree to have the illegality corrected (A.4.2 FIDE LOC). They were happy to do this, especially as  the player with the (corrected) queen only had 1 second on the clock. Amazingly, he then managed to play two moves after the restart, capturing the last of his opponents material, and drawing the game.

Monday 1 February 2021

The boss bishop

 I do  not usually play g3 based opening systems, preferring more direct openings. But I realise this is a gap in my chess opening knowledge, so I thought I would give it a try in a tournament I am currently playing in. Although the opening was a little inexact, the 'Catalan' bishop turned out to be the star of the show, emerging from g2 to help finish of Black, after an attempt to chase my queen backfired badly for Black.

Press,Shaun - Forace,Lee [A32]
ACTJCL Summer Swiss (4), 31.01.2021