Friday 30 April 2021

More games than you know how to play

 While following up a link for the 2021 ICGA Computer Olympiad, I cam across the boardgame playing platform Ludii. It allows you to test intelligent agents for a wide variety of boardgames, and is being used for the 2021 Olympiad. The good news is that even if you aren't a developer you can download the Ludii software (at no charge) and simply play an amazingly large variety of boardgames yourself.

(*Thanks to Milan Ninchich for putting me on to this)

Thursday 29 April 2021

A very old windmill


White to play and win

While the "Windmill" is a rare but useful tactical idea, it may be a lot older than most players assume. The most famous example comes from the 1920's (Torre v Lasker), but there is at least one example that dates back to the 1590's. Given as a puzzle by Polero, White wins by a succession of checks and discovered checks. However the original position had the Black queen on e8, resulting in a far shorter (and non thematic) win. Tim Krabbe  in his book "Chess Curiosities" suggested the correction shown here.

I will leave the answer as an exercise for the reader, but hopefully it isn't too difficult.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Ian v Magnus

 The 2020/21 Candidates has ended in a win for Ian Nepomniachtchi after a very intense last 3 rounds. Of the 12 games played in round 12,13 and 14, 10 of them were decisive, which is almost unheard of at this level in modern times. Nepo even lost his final round game, but still finished outright first after Anish Giri also lost. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ended up in 2nd place after his final round win, while Ding Liren recovered from a horrible first half by winning his last 3 games.

As a result Nepomniachtchi will play Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match later this year. Going early in my predictions, I think Carlsen will once again retain his title, but that there will certainly be more decisive games (in regulation) than there were in the Carslen Caruana match. 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Getting better by simply playing

 Starting out in serious chess is often a tough gig. On the one hand most people know enough to understand how to play decent chess, but putting it in to practice is a lot harder. Even playing online, which is something that didn't happen 30 years ago, doesn't always prepare you for competitive chess.

However for some players, improvement is simply about playing. I'm not sure why this is (and why it isn't the case for every player), but every now and then I just sense that a new player knows what good moves are, but hasn't yet learned how to find them. In such cases, I feel that playing is far more important than coaching, as self discovery is more helpful than extra instruction. Not always of course, but more often than you would think.

Monday 26 April 2021

He chose poorly

 In what is a hopeful sign for the rest of us, it seems that it is possible for top GM's to screw up there opening theory and lose in short order. Case in point, GM Wesley So getting it very wrong against GM Gawain Jones and going down in flames in a Two Knights.

Jones,Gawain C B (2615) - So,Wesley (2741) [C56]
New In Chess Classic | Prelims (4.1), 24.04.2021

Sunday 25 April 2021

2021 ACT Chess Championship

 For local ACT players, the ACT Chess Championship is happening at the end of May (over the Reconciliation Day long weekend). 

Full details are

ACT Championships 2021

28-31 May 2021 (Friday evening through Monday Reconciliation Day)

7-rounds FIDE/ACF Rated Swiss Format

Venue: Campbell High School

Treloar Crescent, Campbell (near War Memorial)

Schedule: Friday 28 May (First Round in the evening)

Saturday 29 May – Monday 31 May (Rounds 2 to 7)

Time Controls:

90 minutes per game with 30 second per move increment from move one (Fischer)

Director of Play:

FIDE International Arbiter Shaun Press

You can enter the event online via the ACT Chess Association home page. Just scroll down a bit and then click on the Register Here button (which will take you to the Trybooking website for the event.

Saturday 24 April 2021

This is funny on a number of levels

Recently chess,com held an 'Immortal Game' competition. It was won by GM Supi for a nice win over World Chmapion Magnus Carlsen, but the runner up was GM David Smerdon for his win over CM Balaji in 2017. 

While the Supi win was more interesting on a technical level, it lacked the comedic gold of Smerdon's victory. His opponent won a pawn through a temporary queen sacrifice, but failed to notice what Smerdon was up to after  15.Rb1 If he had spotted what was coming he would have tried to free his position by playing c5 or Ba6 or Re6 or anything that didn't allow his pieces to be imprisoned on the queenside. After Smerdon swapped rooks on e8 Black was essentially down a rook and a bishop. This is where the fun then started. I'm not sure whether this was deliberate (or a mouse slip), but Smerdon simply donated one of his rooks to his opponent with Re8+ (instead of Re7). If you plug this position into an engine, it will claim the Black is now easily winning, and sticks to this assessment until the point where the White king advances far enough up the board. At this point the entire concept of Smerdon's play becomes clear, and after a few more pawn pushes, he mates his opponent with his last piece!


smurfo (2515) - ukchessbomber (2214) [C43]
Live Chess, 29.07.2017

Friday 23 April 2021

The Method

 In the quest to play better chess, and number of methods for deciding the best move or plan have been proposed. These include the Purdy Method, the Kotov Method, the Moisenko System, etc etc. Of course, if there was such a foolproof system chess would be a lot less interesting, as it would simply be a battle about who could implement the best method correctly. 

Nonetheless one system I don't mind is that proposed by Karpov in his book "Find the Right Plan". He boils it down to a single concept "Restricting the mobility of your opponent's pieces is the most important law of chess". The book contains a number of examples of this in practice, and a large number of studies where the goal is to trap a piece or pieces. And although I don't always follow this "Law" it can come in handy when trying to find a way of improving your own position.

Brown,Jordan - Press,Shaun [C59]
Murphy Memorial (4), 20.04.2021

Wednesday 21 April 2021

The big escape

 Having been caught by some very deep Fabiano Caruana preparation yesterday, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave looked to be on track for a second loss in two days, this time against Ding Liren. Ding had a big advantage in the middlegame, and if he had played 36.Rxb6 it wasn't clear how MVL could have saved the game. Instead Ding chose a plan the involved pushing his passed d pawn, which turned out not to work. Despite attempts to exploit MVL's exposed king, Ding wasn't able to find anything more than a draw. This missed opportunity leaves Ding at the tail of the field, while MVL stays in touch with the leaders.

Ding,Liren (2791) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2758) [E60]
FIDE Candidates Tournament (9.4), 20.04.2021

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Candidates resumes

 The 2020(1) Candidates tournament has resumed after a Covid induced break, and the 8th round has already seen some interesting games. As it is starting at the relatively kind time of 9pm (Canberra time), I  have decided to watch it on the big screen (TV) vi the youtube stream from chess24. 

The most interesting game (to me and the commentators) was the Caruana v  Vachier-Lagrave game, where Caruana produced some very deep preparation to cause MVL all sorts of problems in the opening and middlegame. As I write this the game is still in progress with Caruana holding an advantage, but MVL fighting to hold the draw.

However the highlight was the commentary, with Magnus Carlsen being drawn into a discussion of the Bongcloud opening, while looking like he was not quite fully awake for the morning start.

Sunday 18 April 2021

Torre v Adams

 While the Adams v Torre (New Orleans 1920) game is well known throughout the chess world, there was also Torre v Adams played around the same time. It too involved some spectacular play (a double rook sacrifice by White), but this time Torre was victorious.

Torre Repetto,Carlos - Adams,Edwin Ziegler [C13]
New Orleans New Orleans,LA, 1920

Friday 16 April 2021

When dinosaurs roamed the Earth

 Kids often express amazement when I mention that a particular game I am demonstrating was played 150 years ago. It is as though nothing every really happened before about 1980 or so, and probably even later than that.

So I suspect this next game would totally blow their minds. It is both the first game in the 'Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games' and the first game in the various Chessbase 'Big Database' editions.

De Castellvi,Francisco - Vinoles,Narcisco [B01]
Causual Games Valencia, 1475

Thursday 15 April 2021

Go programming

 While there is now a programming language called Go, there is of course still the game of Go. And if you are a fan of Humble Bundle, you might already know of the Machine Learning book bundle on offer for the next 4 days. One of the books on offer covers reinforcement learning in the game of Go. I've already purchased my copy, and will have a good read of it over the next few weeks. The only thing to note is that the authors didn't go full self reference by using Go to program Go. Instead it is Python and various libraries, although this is a good second language choice.

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Another good bishop story

 My attempts at learning the Catalan (as White) have been hampered by the fact that most of my opponents avoid the main line. After 1.d4 I've had any number of Indian systems, a Dutch, and even the Albin Counter Gambit (which I lost). However, in a lot of these games the bishop on g2 has still turned out to quite a useful piece. This was once again demonstrated in a game I won last night.

Press,Shaun - Beare,Nick [A91]
Murphy Memorial (3), 13.04.2021

Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Iron King

 In chess the definition of an "Iron King" is a little bit vague, but usually it refers to a king that marches up the board while being pursued by enemy pieces, and not only survives, but eventually contributes to the win. Probably the most well known example is Steel v Amateur from the 19th century, but other games do qualify. 

A new addition to the list is a game that was played at the Gungahlin Chess Club this evening. When I had my first look at the game, the White king was already on c4, and spectators were already starting to murmur. As I was busy with my own game, I did not see the next few moves, but when I discovered the king had gone to a6 to help with the mate on b7, I was more impressed than surprised. Of course in a game like this both sides missed their chances (Black had a couple of chances for a perpetual), and almost like the Steel v Amateur the was even a chance to save the day as late as move 21 (21. ... c6!)

White - Black [C44]
2021 Murphy Memorial Gungahlin (3), 13.04.2021

Chess for beginners - by beginners

 Surely a sign of the growing popularity of chess is the availability of chess magazines in the local news agency. "Chess for Beginners" was spotted by my wife while out shopping on Sunday, and so she thought it would make a nice addition to my collection, even if it weighed in at a hefty $20. Nonetheless it is a well laid out and colourful publication, with plenty of pictures and diagrams in its 160 pages.

The only problem is it doesn't seem to be written by people who actually play chess. The first warning sign is on the cover(!), where the board is set up the wrong way (white not on right). This error is repeated on and off throughout the magazine, and even when the board is the right way around, the king and queen are sometimes on the wrong starting squares instead. 

And while most of the advice given is fairly harmless (and sometimes useful), one odd piece stood out. "Chess is not about dominating the board or taking the most pieces". Well actually, it usually is, but to demonstrate the point, they included a game. Without checking ahead I showed this game to a group of students today, thinking that it involved a brilliant set of sacrifices that led to a checkmate. In a sense it did, as in the magazine Black did win by checkmate. But when I showed the last moves I wondered why White did not choose a better defensive move, which avoided the mate and simply won. A bit of digging then revealed the truth. The game chosen actually ended in a win for White (instead of Black), but they simply changed White's last move to support the point they were making. Here is the real game (with 29.cxb4 and not 29.Nxb4) , instead.

(* Thanks to Ralph Jackson for suggesting the title to this post *)

Sliwa,Bogdan - Bronstein,David I [A81]
Gotha Gotha (4), 12.09.1957

Sunday 11 April 2021

Games without dates

 I have just discovered a large pile of scoresheets containing games I played between the late 1980's and the year 2000. I knew I had them somewhere, but up until now, I wasn't sure where. The obvious thing is to now enter the games into my personal database to fill in the 12 year gap in my game records.

The only issue is a lot of them are both undated, and lacking information such as the event they were played in. They do contain my opponents name (normally), but even then it is a little unclear. As an example, here is a game which I think I played at the Doeberl, in either 1988 or 1999.

Thwaites,R - Press,Shaun [C63]
Doeberl, 1988

Friday 9 April 2021

Thought of the Day

 "Remember that the laws are made to prevent arguments, not to cause them. Never attempt to use the laws to gain an advantage" The Backgammon Book by Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford

Some observations from this year's Doeberl Cup

 I am just in the process of finishing up most of the remaining tasks from the 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup, so now is a good time to reflect on the tournament, in my role as the chief organiser.

Overall I thought the tournament went really well. We may have lucked into getting a record size field, but we handled the extra number pretty well. Tournaments were accelerated for the first time (Minor and Under 1200), but this did not seem to cause any 'bad' pairings. However it is fair to say that the while acceleration did deliver single winners in each event (as opposed to ties in the other 2 tournaments), it did not 'narrow' the leading group as much as was expected.

The playing venue was large enough to comfortably handle the extra numbers, although anything above 350 may take up all the available space, even without social distancing requirements. The foyer area was a little crowded for my liking, despite our attempts to manage this space (more on this below). 

Pairings were produced and published quite quickly, and probably faster than when I was the chief arbiter. There were a few issues with bye requests being missed, but the arbiting team fixed those issues quickly. The Brisbane lockdown did not help some of the Queensland players, but we were both able to help them withdraw, and then re-enter the event as necessary.

The chess itself was quite exciting, with the Premier being one of the most closely contested events in recent years. Having 7 GM's certainly made the tournament quite the contest, and the final round saw 8 decisive games on the top 8 boards.

One thing I was pleased to see (and certainly did not expect) was that despite the easing of rules on withdrawals (due to Covid), only a few player pulled out of the tournament before the last round. I had expected a return to the bad old days of 'Sunday night headaches', but was happy to be wrong about this.

For next year we may change a few things, but nothing significant. Renaming the Premier to the Masters is under consideration, just to give it some extra gravitas. While the Blitz remains popular, an increase in prize money is on the cards, in part to attract some of the stronger players. The issue of dealing with the size of the field in the Minor is also under discussion, with a couple of solutions being suggested (more rounds at a faster time control being one of them).

The one disappointment was the behaviour of some young players, or more importantly, the supervision provided by parents. There were a number of issues with children ignoring the club rules, but this only happens if parents aren't being parents. Sadly, attempts by the staff at the results desk to deal with the situation were met with hostile reactions from some parents, which I personally think is unacceptable.  We are in discussions with the Southern Cross Club about how to deal with this, but the most obvious solution is to simply have parents supervise their children in the manner required at a serious chess event.


Wednesday 7 April 2021

Castling is a good idea, even when it isn't

 Looking through some of the games from the recently completed O2C Doeberl Cup, I came across the following quick win by GM Anton Smirnov over Willis Lo. On move 17 Lo chose not to castle, and connected his rooks with Kf7. A few moves later his position started to get worse and it all fell apart by move 27. At least to my eyes, Lo would have done better to castle on move 17, although weirdly, after 18.Qd3, Kf7 would have been played anyway. The difference may be that by having a rook on f8 instead of h8, Black might have been in a position to defend the kingside a little better. 

Smirnov,Anton (2597) - Lo,Willis (2101) [D10]
Doeberl Cup Premier (3.4), 02.04.2021

Monday 5 April 2021

2021 O2C Doeberl Cup - Final Day

 The 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup has ended with GM Justin Tan (AUS) and GM Daniel Fernandez tying for 1st place on 7.5/9. In an incredibly exciting final round, Tan defeated FM Jack Puccini (AUS), while Fernandez had to overcome tournament top seed GM Hrant Melkumyan (ARM). Tan won the tournament trophy on countback, while both players earned $4000 each for their shared first place. Along the way Tan played 5 GM's (out of a possible 6), and had a TPR of 2690.

GM Bobby Cheng (AUS) finished in outright third place on 7, after a win over local player Roger Farrell. Farrell, who was considered a future star of Australian chess in the early 1980's, made a strong return to high level chess almost 40 years later. Fourth place was shared by GM Temur Kuybokarov and GM Anton Smirnov, who both won their last round games to finish on 6.5.

The Major (Under 2000) tournament ended in a 4 way tie between Dylan Siow-Lee, Aiden Brady, Ryder Testolin and Lachlan Lee, all on 6/7. Remarkably for Siow-Lee, he was eligible for the Minor (Under 1600) section, and had strongly considered playing in that event instead.

The Minor (Under 1600) was won by Tedric Li, who started with 6 straight wins before a final round draw resulted in a winning score of 6.5/7. Vihaan Anup Kumar and James Gao finished in a tie for 2nd on 6. 

The tournament attracted a total of 330 players breaking the previous record set in 2014. This was helped by a growing interest in tournament chess from new players, with the Under 1200 event attracting 67 players, and the Minor a massive 123 players. Even the traditional Kinford Consulting Blitz event had a record field of 133 players, with ben Harris dominating the field to win with 8.5/9.

The 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup was organised by the ACT Chess Association and was supported by the Doeberl Family, O2C Consulting, Mr Baldev Bedi, Kinford Consulting, Street Chess, Matt Radisich and Paul Dunn. The arbiting team was headed by IA Alana Chibnall, assisted by IA Charles Zworestine, FA Nick Kordahi, Bevan Closton and Miona Ikeda. Tournament support was provided by a dedicated team of volunteers which included Shun Ikeda, Juliet Zhu, Mark Kethro, Louisa Hou, Milan Ninchich and Miles Patterson. GM Ian Rogers and WFM Cathy Rogers provided live commentary of the games, while Paul Dunn handled the game entry duties.

Results from the tournament can be be found at 

Fernandez,Daniel Howard (2466) - Melkumyan,Hrant (2663) [E70]
Doeberl Cup Premier (9.2), 05.04.2021

Sunday 4 April 2021

2021 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

 Just as the end of daylight savings caused us to lose an hour of daylight (not really so don't write in), the 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup has caused me to lose a day of blogging.

Yesterday saw a couple of players in the Premier (Bobby Cheng and Justin Tan) establish what looked like insurmountable leads, only to be reeled back in in this mornings round. Wins by Daniel Fernandez (over Cheng) and Temur Kuybokarov (over Tan) left these 4 players tied for first on 5.5/7. Fernandez then beat Kuybokarov in round 8 to take the lead on 6.5/8, but was joined by Tan, who beat IM Junta Ikeda. 

So the final round sees FM Jack Puccini (6) playing Tan on Board 1, while Fernandez is up against Melkumyan on board 2. As the winning score must be at least 7/9, the only other player with a chance of first is Cheng, who is up against one of the tournament surprises, Roger Farrell. 

In the Major (Under 2000), Aiden brady and Dylan Siow Lee share the lead on 5.5/6 and play each other tomorrow morning. In the Minor, Tedric Li holds a one point lead, but with 7 players tied behind him on 5, will need to get something from his round 7 game to ensure 1st place.

There were also a couple of completed events on Day 3, with Charles Huang winning the Under 1200 tournament with 6/6. The popular Kinford Consulting Blitz also attracted a large field of 137 players, with Ben Harris scoring an impressive 8.5/9 to take the top prize.

Saturday 3 April 2021

2021 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

 Day 2 od the 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup saw all events up and running, with a total of 327 players turning out to play. The quickly changing travel restrictions in Queensland did cause a few players to miss out (and a few to arrive in the nick of time), but it is still a record sized entry for this tournament.

The Premier saw a number of dramatic games, with GM's Justin Tan and Booby Cheng reaching 4/4 after beating GM's Kuybokarov and Fernandez in the evening round. Round 5 sees them paired against each other on board 1, while Anton Smirnov (3.5 after a first round bye), players Temur Kuybokarov on board 2. Smirnov will be looking tor a bit of revenge, having lost to Kuybokarov in a tense playoff match at the Oceania Online Zonal 6 days earlier.

It is still early days for the Major and Minor events, with a big group of players still on 2/2. Nonetheless both events are already proving tough with a few veteran players finding it a challenge against the younger brigade. The Under 1200 is halfway through, with the leading group of 8 players on 3/3, including promising Canberra junior Charles Huang, and former Canberra junior Walter Wolffs, who is returning to chess after a break of a number of years.

You can follow the games from the top boards of the Premier at, while links to tournament results is at GM Ian Rogers is presenting live commentary of the games at the venue, while tonight also sees the 2021 Kinford Doeberl Blitz, which will no doubt attract a very large field. If you wish to play in this you can, with entries taken onsite from Noon today.

Friday 2 April 2021

2021 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

 The 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup saw action in the Premier on the first day, with most of the top seeds surviving some tough games. GM's Cheng, Tan, Kuybokarov, Melkumyan, and Johansen reached 2/2, as did IM Junta Ikeda. GM Daniel Fernandez drew with Jeremy O'Carrol in the 2nd round, while GM Anton Smirnov had to take a half point bye in round 1 due to University commitments.

One of the early surprises of the tournament was Sally Yu, who defeated Jesse Jaeger in round 1, and then drew with IM Ari Dale in round 2. She and O'Carrol are the best placed of the lower seeded players, but face some tough competition tomorrow.

Day 2 of the 2021 O2C Doeberl Cup begins tomorrow at 1pm, with the Major, Minor and Under 1200 event starting. Assuming everyone manages to make it to the venue (including the Queensland contingent) there should be 335 players sitting down to play, which I believe is a record for an Open Australian event.