Tuesday 29 June 2021

Who was that masked chessplayer?

 The local chess clubs in Canberra normally play at licensed clubs (eg Eastlakes Gungahlin or Tuggeranong Vikings). Due to the new Covid restrictions in place in the ACT, playing chess while masked up is now mandatory. At least at Gungahlin this evening, this seemed to be a minor inconvenience, and even some of the younger players (Under 12 years are exempt) still wore masks, either for safety, or simply to appear more grown up.

However you can remove your mask if you are eating or drinking, so at least one enterprising player parked a drink next to him soon after the game started, and played without his mask for the rest of the game. For those collecting data in whether this helps or hinders your chess it was mask 1 - no mask 0

Monday 28 June 2021

One reason I don't play online

 This post was originally going to be another one about very short losses by people who should know better. I downloaded the latest set of games from TWIC and sorted them by length, to find likely candidates. I quickly discovered that almost all the miniatures I was looking at occurred in online events. I'm assuming with the games played at a fast time limit (3m+1s) that mistakes will happen, but these were pretty horrible. Clearly the online chess boom has made chess more popular, but at least in this format, there is a price to be paid.

Here is one example of what I am talking about!

Zhukov,Anton (2174) - Boyer,Mahel (2412) [A01]
Titled Tuesday 15th June chess.com INT (5), 15.06.2021

Saturday 26 June 2021

The heavy piece middlegame -> ending

 Most people regard chess as a game of three phases. Opening, middlegame and endgame. This is taught in instructional books, and is often used in chess programming. However, the transition between the phases isn't always clear. In the following game, it contains elements of both the middlegame (significant material on the board, not safe to bring the king out) and the ending (pawn promotion is the goal). John Nunn might consider this a 'tactical ending', while Mihail Marin refers to it as the 'Fourth Phase'. It turned out that the win depended on both features being present, with the lack of king safety allowing tactics that assisted pawn promotion.

Press,Shaun - Brown,Jordan [E11]
Belconnen Cup, 22.06.2021

Thursday 24 June 2021

2021 World Cup draw announced

 The draw for the 2021 World Cup has been published, although the new format leaves it looking a little weird. The top 50 players now get seeded into round 2, but they are included in the first round (all paired against Bye). After that it becomes a normal 128 player knockout.

Possibly the changes have encouraged Magnus Carlsen to play this year, although a number of players in the top 20 are missing, although the cause is likely to be connected to travel difficulties. Such difficulties resulted in the top 3 qualifiers from the Oceania Zonal pulling out, and our spot now goes to CM Elmer Prudente from Guam. The short notice has not done him any favours, and he is running a gofundme campaign to help fund his trip.

Australia and New Zealand are also entitled to enter one player each, with Australia being represented by GM Bobby Cheng and NZ by FM Allan Fan. Full details for the event can be found at https://worldcup.fide.com/ 

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Coaching for grown ups

 While there is a lot of coaching activities for junior players, there is a lot less for older players. Partly this is because there is less desire and time in the adult community for such things, but it is fair to say, junior coaching is where the money is.

I do a mixture of both (adult and junior coaching), but I rarely charge for adult coaching. In part because there isn't enough adult coaching on offer, but also because I'm happy to talk chess for an hour in return for coffee and cake (or a fabulous Moroccan Chicken and Rice lunch one of my students cooked for me)

GM Alex Baburin is also dipping into this pool, offering coaching and webinars for older players. His website even has a dedicated section for adult coaching https://www.alexbaburinchess.com/chess-school/lessons-for-adults/ His latest offerings are two webinars for players above 25 years of age, over the next couple of weeks. The two topics are 'Calculate like a chess pro' and 'Mastering Basic Rook Endings'. They are at reasonable times for players on this half of the world, starting at 7pm in the evenings. If you wish to find out more about these courses, just click on the above link for further details.

Monday 21 June 2021


 I've been looking into the topic of tie-break systems again, and one of the challenges is how to define the difficulty of the field. Opinions on this seemed to be split pretty evenly, so I am interested in what other people think or prefer.

Here are the general choices

A) The more points my opponents score, the harder the field is for me (eg Buccholz)

B) The higher my opponents ratings are, the harder the field (eg Average of Opponents Ratings)

C) The earlier I hit the lead, the stronger my opponents will be (eg Sum of Progressive Scores)

D) If I have more games with Black, then the tougher it is to win (eg Most games with Black)


Sunday 20 June 2021

This is too good to ignore


Classical hack

 There are two reasons why I am showing the following game. 1) It has a nice mate and 2) I am testing how this blog handles newer pgn file formats 

(** Update: It did not work as expected, which is a bit of shame as I had annotated this one)

Steinkuehler, Guenter - Blackburne, Joseph Henry [C54]
London, 1863

Friday 18 June 2021

2021 NSW Open - Photos

 If you want to see some good photos (and not so good ones of me) from the 2021 NSW Open, you can see them at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVZkhyD 

Many thanks to Sabrina Koetsier for taking an uploading these pictures


 Bananas are supposed to be good for your chess. GM Max Illingworth famously brings a bunch to the board for every game, while IM Gary Lane once convinced an entire Olympiad team that this was the secret to winning more matches.

One participant in yesterdays interschool event showed me another way that they can help your chess. Early on she told me that her mother had written (actually carved) a message on the banana skin, and I (Mr Grumpy) replied "As long as they aren't chess moves". On one side it read "Woot!! Chess" and on the other "Good Luck". So far so good, but her mother even carved a couple of chess pieces at the end. Although I remembered what happed to Wesley So at the US Championship, I decided that this was harmless enough to let it go. But if I find banana carving becoming a thing, I may have to revise my opinion.

Thursday 17 June 2021

Caught in the middle

 After a slow start to the 2021 Belconnen Cup (0.5/2) I have started to catch the leaders, after 3 straight wins. In what should be an important lesson to newer players, in each game I was winning before my opponent castled. In fact in two of the games, my opponent failed to castle at all. Here is the latest win, highlighting the difficulties you can run into if you fail to get your king out of the centre.

Press,Shaun - Teymant,Roy [D11]
Belconnen Cup, 15.06.2021

Wednesday 16 June 2021

A great escape

 Normally a game that holds up the end of a weekend tournament isn't that enjoyable, either to the players or organisers. However, there are exceptions, and the following is one of them. While the first half of the game involved a lot of manoeuvring of pieces, but little progress, FM Clive Ng decided to spice things up with an exchange sacrifice. The only problem with this approach was that it now meant he was worse, and after a few more moves, was in fact lost. The only ray of hope for Ng was the fact that his king was stalemated on h2, which gave him a drawing defence. When Anthony Fikh pushed his g pawn up the board, Clive was faced with being a whole rook down, but this actually helped him. After Rxg3, the 'desperado' rook sprang to life, offering itself to the Black king. As any capture lead to stalemate, Fikh was forced to march his king across the board, and after Ng found the very rare rook fork of king and rook, the draw was secured.


Ng,Clive - Fikh,Anthony [A29]
2021 NSW Open Sydney, Australia (7.7), 14.06.2021

Tuesday 15 June 2021

2021 NSW Open - Fernandez and Ikeda share the spoils

 GM Daniel Fernandez (ENG) and IM Junta Ikeda (AUS) have tied for first in the 2021 NSW Open, both with an undefeated 6/7. They started the day with draws in the 6th round (Fernandez against IM Gary Lane and Ikeda against IM James Morris), before both winning their final round games. Fernandez defeated Kerry Lin on the top board, while Ikeda beat Gary Lane on board 2.

The minor places were filled by IM James Morris, Sterling Bayaca and Harry Press. Due to the large field in the Open (78 players) and results in the earlier rounds, Fernandez and Ikeda did not play each other. Only Lin and Lane played both of the winners, while the field was much more varied for the other top finishers.

The Under 1600 tournament also saw a tie for 1st place, with Savin Peramunetilleke and Jason Pan finishing on 6/7. Pan lost to Peramunetilleke in round 4, but was able to catch up by winning his final round game against unrated Benjamin Tee. Tee who score an impressive 5/7, actually started the event with a bye, due to the alphabetical sorting of the unrated players in this tournament!

The tournament was very successful, with the 140 places on offer filling up 3 weeks out. Apart from the usual issues with poorly behaved junior players, the tournament ran pretty smoothly. Quite pleasing were the number of new (adult) players taking part, some of whom did very well.

Final crosstables for the tournament are at chess-results.com (Open and Minor)

Ikeda,Junta - Lane,Gary [C78]
2021 NSW Open Sydney, Australia (7.2), 14.06.2021

Monday 14 June 2021

2021 NSW Open - Day 2

 With 5 rounds of the 2021 NSW Open completed, GM Daniel Fernandez, IM Junta Ikeda and IM Gary Lane share the lead on 4.5/5. In round 5 Fernandez once again demonstrated his creativity in complex positions, sacrificing a piece early on against Fred Litchfield, before reaching an ending a whole rook down, but with an avalanche of pawns as winning compensation. Lane got to 4.5 after Harry Press sacrificed a piece in the early middlegame, but this proved unsound, giving lane a quick win. Ikeda also had a quick win, punishing CM Isaac Zhao after Zhao went pawn grabbing in the opening.

Tomorrow mornings round has Lane against Fernandez and Morris against Ikeda. As none of the 4 have played each other yet, this will effectively be a playoff for the top board pairing in the final round.

Saturday 12 June 2021

2021 NSW Open - Day 1

 The first day of the 2021 NSW Open saw a capacity field of 140, and plenty of tough chess. There is still a bit of a logjam at the top of the tournament, although a number of top seeds have decided to have a bit of a sleep in, taking a half point bye for tomorrow mornings round. Nonetheless, GM Daniel Fernandez, IM Junta Ikeda and IM Gary Lane are all hoping to get ahead of the field with wins in the morning round.

With 8 DGT boards in operation there was plenty of chess to follow online. One quick game from round 2 was this win by Fred Litchfield over Ashley Rambukwella

Litchfield, Fred -Rambukwella, Ashley [E33]
2021 NSW Open, 2021.06.12

2021 NSW Open - Live Coverage

 The 2021 NSW Open is up and running, with a maximum sized field of 140 players. Due to venue restrictions, we cannot have spectators in the playing hall, so following the event online is the best you can do. The top 8 boards of the Open are being shown live at this link. As I type this, Board 1 has already finished,but the remaining 7 games are still in progress.

Thursday 10 June 2021

On the road - again

 If my memory hasn't completely gone, this weekends NSW Open will be my first 'away' weekend event since early last year. I'm not going as a player mid you, but as an arbiter. The last event I directed outside Canberra was the 2020 Australian Championship and since then it has either been local events, or online ones.

The good news for the organisers is that there will be 140 players in attendance (actually the maximum allowed). The bad news for spectators/parents is that this is close to the venue capacity, so only 'essential' staff are allowed in the playing area. Otherwise you will have to follow the tournament online via nswopen.nswca.org.au

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Yet another non rule

 The start of the local interschool competition always brings with a new set of 'non' rules, that children assure me are the correct rules (at least according to Dad). I in fact got two today, although is quite an old one, long since discarded.

The totally new one, was when a king makes it to the other side of the board you get one of your pawns back. Not quite sure where this even came from, but the possible logic behind it, is that as you cannot promote to a king, a kind of reverse promotion provides compensation for this. 

The very old one was 'bare king'. One of the players claimed a win on the grounds that he had captured all his opponents pieces. I explained to him that the goal in chess is the 'checkmate' your opponent, not just take everything. Fortunately he then proceeded to do this, and scored a point anyway. 

The most audacious attempt to alter the rules was by a 5 year old who simply declared he had won, ran off to the score table to enter the result, and then refused to return to the board to explain exactly why he had won. As you can guess, he did not actually win (and his opponent did)

Monday 7 June 2021

Late night sports

 The French Open is currently being broadcast, and the Tour de France isn't far away, but of course, the late night sports I'm talking about is the Superbet Chess Classic. It starts late evening Canberra time, and while there are plenty of commentary choices, the one that I have settled on St Louis Chess Club coverage via youtube. Both Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley are part of the commentary team, along with team of supporting GM's. 

The tournament is currently up to round 3 and the link for this round is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pce2ncWepDY 

Saturday 5 June 2021

ACT Interschool 2021

 After a break last year, the ACT Junior Chess League interschool series is up and running for 2021. Term 1 saw one of Girl's zones held, while the open Primary School zones are about to commence for term 2. The North Canberra/ Gungahalin zone is running this Tuesday, and it looks like around 100 players will take part. Over the following weeks 2 other zones are being held, while Term 3 will see the Secondary events taking place.

One thing that is slightly concerning is that not all the event information is getting passed on to the school's chess player. So if you are a junior player in Canberra, and you haven't heard about the upcoming events, head over to https://actjcl.org.au/actjcl/calendar.php and pass the information on to your schools chess teacher.

Thursday 3 June 2021

London 1932

 While not as well known as the London 1922 International Congress, the 1932 London Tournament was still quite an event. The event was won by Alekhine with 9/11, ahead of Flohr who finished a point behind. Sultan Kahn, Maroczy and Tartakower also played, and the tournament saw Vera Menchik* add more members to he 'club', beating G.A Thomas and William Winter.

The second place finish by Flohr was part of a successful run early in his career that saw him touted as a possible World Championship contender. However he was not able to raise the stakes for such a challenge and by the end of the 1930's his cautious, positional style, saw him fall behind his contemporaries. Nonetheless, the following game from the 1932 event showed what might have been.

(* btw Menchik's mothers maiden name was Illingworth 

** Many thanks to IA Roly Eime for sending me the 1932 London Tournament book) 

Flohr,Salo - Milner Barry,Philip Stuart [E33]
London International Masters London (5), 05.02.1932

Wednesday 2 June 2021

The easy rook ending

 Rook endings are difficult to play, as even a pawn advantage isn't enough to secure the point. However I have seen both recently, and in the past, the easiest way to play them is when you have an extra rook! This was spotted in 2 games at my local club last night, and in one of my games from the 2004 Olympiad. 

Despite having to play a rook up for 30 moves, the highlight was after the finish when a passing IM congratulated me on converting a 'difficult rook ending'. To be fair, clearly they hadn't expected my opponent to play as many moves as they did.

Niyontegereje,Edison - Press,Shaun (2070) [C55]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (Spain) (8.61), 23.10.2004