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. 

Saturday 21 August 2021

2021 Online Chess Olympiad - Day 1

 The first day of the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad began with 60 teams in action. Due to the varying levels of infrastructure around the world, some teams were able to play with all players present, while others had to make do with whoever could maintain a stable internet connection. As a consequence not all teams were able to perform to pre-tournament expectations, which leaves the competition for promotion places wide open.

I was a spectator for a couple of Pools (A and B), and was a pool arbiter for Pool C. This involved teams from Africa and Europe, and the results were either feast or famine. Five teams won all their matches to be on 6 match points, while 5 teams lost all of theirs to be on 0. The middle 2 teams one 1 match, drew against each other and lost 1 match. On tie-break, Angola and Ethiopia hold down the top 2 places, with Jersey, Malta and Cyprus close together, battling for third. 

Just like last year, the strength of the lower division teams can sometimes be mixed, with a couple of strong players on the top boards, and lower rated players further down. However Angola has turned out a consistently strong team, as shown by the following board 1 game.

Njau,Albert (1702) - Silva,David (2321) [A00]
2021 FIDE Online Olympiad (3.3), 20.08.2021

Friday 20 August 2021

2021 Onilne Chess Olympiad - Starts today

 The 2021 Online Chess Olympiad starts in a few hours. Division 4 is the starting division this year, with Pool A the first pool to kick off. It consists of teams in Asia (including Oceania) including Fiji, Guam and Hong Kong. The top 3 teams from this pool (and each of the Division 4 pools) qualify for the next round (Division 3). Pool A begins at 6pm Canberra time, and there will be 3 rounds today with 4 rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Based on rating, Pakistan and Lebanon look like the favourites to qualify, but Fiji and Guam are in with a chance to take 3rd, along with a few other teams.

There should be plenty of life coverage of the games, which will be hosted on Details from are here while the official FIDE stream is at

(** I am a paid official for this event, although I will not be involved in Pool A for this round **)

Wednesday 18 August 2021

TV shows that briefly mention chess

 While the show is definitely not about chess, Ted Lasso does have more than a few references to it, including using it as an important plot point in one of the episodes. It even includes a blindfold game, which does end badly for one of the main characters. But chess aside, it is a very funny series, and one that I am enjoying immensly.

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Traxler FTW

 The return of online chess events in Canberra saw some exciting chess played. Fred Litchfield had a nice tactical win against the Dragon, while Mark Hummel wheeled out the Traxler to great effect. Playing Max Albert in the last round, both players seemed a little unsure of what theory was, and there were a few inexact moves. In an effort to free up some of his pieces, Hummel decided to take his king for a walk, and it was at this point Albert missed a crushing move (19. Nc3!). Instead he threatened mate in 1, but as in a lot of Traxler games, it was Black who mated first.

Albert,Max (2141) - Hummel,Mark (2085) [C57]
ACTCA Rapid - 17 August 2021, 17.08.2021

Monday 16 August 2021

Returning to online chess

 The ACT Government has extended the Covid lockdown for another 2 weeks, so there will be no face to face chess before the 3rd of September. The ACT Chess Association has decided to organise some online events in the meantime, to keep everyone happy and (chess) active. 

The events will be held on the lichess server and will probably operate in a similar way to last year. To sign up you need a Lichess account (always free) and then apply to join the When you apply to join, please supply your real name, and which local chess club or activity you are connected to.

The first event (a 5 round rapid) starts tomorrow (17 August), and depending on the level of interest, other events (using different formats) will be organised later.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Why 'we' play serious chess

 I was part of a FIDE Planning and Development meeting this morning for Oceania, and at some point the topic of online/hybrid chess came up. Part of this discussion revolved around how popular/worthwhile is Hybrid Chess. The general consensus (from the people who had been involved in hybrid events) was that it was a lot of extra work for little extra reward. 

The main reason given for this was that it didn't offer ratings and titles. Of course this is due to the fact that it doesn't exactly match the format for OTB events, but there is also an undercurrent concerning the risk of cheating. 

The slightly strange thing is that players seem a little happier to play low key events for online ratings only, but not higher class events for no rating. The Joker may well have got it right when he said "If you are good at something, never do it for free", which in this case is about being paid in rating points.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Canberra in lockdown - 12 August 2021

 Despite the many pointed barbs directed at the Socialist Republic of Canberra, we (both the government and community) have done very well at handling the Covid pandemic. However this good run has come to an end, with a Covid case being confirmed today. As a consequence the ACT is in lockdown for the next 7 days, which means a number of chess events have been cancelled or postponed. 

A non comprehensive list includes

  • Tuggeranong, Canberra and Gungahlin Chess clubs will not meet next week
  • Street Chess will not run on Saturday 14 August 2021.
  • School coaching programs will not run for 7 days (due to schools being closed)
  • The 2021 ACT Secondary Girls Chess Championship will be postponed to a future date
Assuming the shutdown prevents further community transmission  of Covid, things should be back to normal by Friday of next week.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Census Knight

 Things I did not write on my census form

  • Religion: I worship Caissa
  • Job: World Champion
  • Hours worked last week: 0
  • Type of dwelling: A giant rook
  • Number of bedrooms: 64
  • How did you travel to work: On horseback
  • Where were you born: In a hospital
  • Highest level of educational qualification: GM

Monday 9 August 2021


 While I am mainly a chess player, I do occasionally play a bit of backgammon. However I am not that good at it, unlike my father, who has won the ACT Backgammon Championship at least twice. One thing that backgammon has in common with chess, is that you can get plenty of instructional videos on youtube. One series has been produced by someone I regularly play backgammon with, and is designed for the newcomer in mind. I've embedded a clip below, but if you want to check out the whole series, click on this link Backgammon Mechanics

Friday 6 August 2021

The "opposite" strategy does not work

 When on a losing streak it is tempting to do something outrageous or the direct opposite of what you are currently doing. I see this a lot with young chess players, who play sound chess but lose, so decide unsound chess is the way to go. I even fell into this trap when I was starting out, but it turned out my losses were quicker, and more horrible. It also explains why 'suicide' chess is so popular, as kids who get all their pieces captured think that losing them by accident is the equivalent to losing them on purpose (Narrator: No it isn't).

Of course the blame does not with the choice of strategy, but in not understanding the strategy. The "what have I got to lose" approach may work in politics (or sometimes sport), but it rarely succeeds in chess.

Thursday 5 August 2021

Beating up on Stockfish

 Improving your game by beating up chess programs is a lot harder these days than when I used to do it in the 1980's. Most engines these days are used for analysis, which means they are usually set for the hardest level, rather than the easiest when up and running. 

While I still recommended using an engine to improve your play, I did wonder if finding such an engine (with playable strength levels) was becoming impossible. It turns out that there still a few around, and as a bonus, they are accessible online. has a version of Stockfish which can be set to play at specific levels. The easiest level is estimated to be rated around 800, and each new level adds 300 rating points to the strength. For new players the first 3 levels should provide enough practice to learn not to 'hang' pieces, especially if the 1400 version produces the following games! (The Black Queen was trapped on move 6)

1. e4 e6 2. d4 { C00 French Defense: Normal Variation } Qh4 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bd3 Qf6 5. Nf3 Ne7 6. e5 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Qxf3 8. Qxf3 O-O 9. O-O Rd8 10. Qe4 h6 11. Qh7+ Kf8 12. Qh8+ Ng8 13. Bh7 Nc6 14. Qxg8+ Ke7 15. Qxg7 a6 16. Bxh6 b5 17. Bg5+ Ke8 18. Qg8# { White wins by checkmate. } 1-0

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Amazon v Google

 I'm not sure why I did not highlight this at the time (ie 3 years ago), but the embedded video shows a match between Google Home Mini, and Amazon Alexa. If you don't wish to watch the entire game (which is of dubious quality), skip to the end, which is at least somewhat amusing.

Monday 2 August 2021

Be careful what you ask for

 In the 1970's English player Jonathan Mestel revived a very old line of the Philidor. Taking his inspiration from Philidor himself, Mestel played an early f5, inviting his opponent to overestimate his chances. After a win in the 1975 World Junior against Paul van der Sterren, Mestel was chided by another competitor,  Peter Nurmi, for playing 'such rubbish'. Then the following happened 

Nurmi,Peter - Mestel,A Jonathan [C41]
Wch U20 Tjentiste (13), 08.1975

2021 Online Chess Olympiad

 The 2021 Online Chess Olympiad is starting soon, and the tournament website has gone up at 

The deadline for entries closed yesterday, and the allocation of teams should take place shortly. As with all these large scale activities, not every federation was organised, and late entries are still being taken from some countries. 

This years event will follow the same format as last years, with pools of 10 teams playing a round robin over the weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun). Each division has 5 pools (to account for differing time zones), with 3 teams from each pool being promoted to the next division. 35 teams are seeded into divisions 2 to 5 (based on last years performance, and 2018 Olympiad results), with 25 teams seeded into the top division (only 4 pools in Div 1).

The event is being hosted by and there will be online streaming coverage. As this event is worldwide, each day will see 10 to 12 hours of continuous action (starting around 6pm Canberra time, and going through to the early morning)

(** I am a paid official for this event **)