Sunday 30 January 2022

Not quite the finish intended

 As I type this, Magnus Carlsen is enjoying another victory at the Tata Steel tournament, aided in part by a last round walkover win against Daniil Dubov. This was due to fact that Dubov had to leave the tournament early, having tested positive to Covid 3 rounds before the end. While this could be considered a bit of bad luck for Dubov, it should be noted that he also defaulted his game against Giri after being required to wear a mask due to a positive test of a close contact.

In the end Carlsen finished on 9.5/13 (+6=7-0) including wins against players who finished just behind him in the standings. There had been talk of Carlsen breaking the 2900 rating mark before the event began, and if he continues to play like this, he may well do so before the end of this year.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Survival of the Smartest?

 Chess in Canberra has received some fantastic media coverage of the last few years, due in no small part  to James Buckley. He is a sports writer for the Canberra Times, as well as being a more than handy chess player. As a result, a lot of chess coverage ends up being featured in the sports section (alongside cricket or rugby), rather than being relegated to the 'lifestyle' section.

Towards the end of February, James is taking part in a 'Special Forces Challenge' to raise money for the Terry Campese Foundation. Along with a number of other Canberra sporting and business identities, James is spending 30 hours being put through the wringer by a 'bunch of ex-army types'. While most of the challenges are physical in nature, there is a psychological component as well.

As it is for a good cause, and to support a good bloke, it would be great if the Canberra (and wider) chess community jumped on board. You can see the details at and help James get to his $5000 target, buy clicking on his picture to make a donation. 

Friday 28 January 2022

Battle of the Sexes

 Once again the Gibraltar Open has been affected by Covid meaning the big open event isn't being held. In its place is the Match between Team PIA (consisting of strong female players) and Team SABINO (consisting of strong male players). It is being played as a 10 round Scheveningen (ie all players on  a team play all the players on the other team), and after 4 rounds, team PIA leads by 20.5-19.5. Team PIA got out to a good start winning the first two rounds, but Team Sabino has narrowed the gap in rounds 3 and 4. 

Turning out for Team SABINO is Australian GM Bobby Cheng, while Team PIA contains a player very familiar to Australian chess fans, IM Irine Sukandar. Sukandar was one of the reasons why Team PIA took an early lead, beating the captain of Team SABINO, GM Sabino Brunello in the first round.

Sukandar,Irine Kharisma (2407) - Brunello,Sabino (2503) [C93]
Battle of the Sexes 2022 Gibraltar ENG (1.5), 24.01.2022

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Novelty blitz format?

 At the Dubbo Open each year, the organisers run a novelty blitz event on the Saturday Night. It is a time handicap event, where the difference in rating determines the time difference between the 2 players. However, based in part on an idea by IM Jovan Petronic, there may be another format.

Petronic's initial suggestion concerned Swiss Pairings. He wondered if anyone had tried a format where the lowest ranked player in a scoregroup could choose their next opponent (from that group), instead of having the pairing assigned by the computer. Of course there would be issues with floaters and colour allocations, but in looking to deal with those, I came up with a modified format.

NB This would only work in a blitz or rapid event of sufficient rounds. In the first round it is simply top half v bottom half with 5 minutes each. However, for each round after that, the lowest ranked player would choose their next opponent from the remaining players, with the caveat that they had not played before, and the choice would not break the absolute colour history (3 in a row or 3 more than the other colour). If there is an odd number of players, then the lowest ranked player (who hadn't had a bye) would get the bye. However, the extra sauce would be that the difference in points would also be the difference in time on the clock. So if a player on 2 points chose an opponent on 4 points, the lower ranked player would start with 6 minutes versus 4 (in blitz). For a rapid, this difference could be 2 minutes per point difference.

At first I suspect the lower ranked players would choose other lower ranked players, but this means a win would push them up the rankings, and they would get to choose later (or be chosen by stronger players ranked below them). There also might be a situation where a mid ranked player decides to take out the leader, hoping the time difference helps them sufficiently.

I' mot sure something like this has been tried before, and so I may decide to give it a go at an upcoming event. The only draw back is that under most Federations rating rules, an event like this is so far out that it could not be rated.

Monday 24 January 2022

A little bit of learning

 At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, it is all youtubes and engine this and engine that, where chess learning is concerned (*not really). In the good old days (*not that good, really) learning from books was the go. So when I coach, I still use books, including books on the middlegame written by Max Euwe. 

Having shown one of my students a couple of games where a nice kingside attack was executed, I was pleased to see him put that knowledge into practice less than 24 hours later.

Lcheng (1787) - Connor5566 (1858) [D06]
Summer Bootcamp Lightning, 24.01.2022

Saturday 22 January 2022

Superficial chess?

 While I think 15 minutes chess hits the sweet spot between the thud and blunder of blitz, and the longer thinking of classical chess, it can let players get away from bad positions a little easily. If you can keep up the threats (even material down), your opponent may run short of time (or rush to avoid this), increasing the chance of a blunder.

Todays example comes from Street Chess, where White walked into a fairly well known trap, but then put Black under so much pressure that they cracked.

Chibnall,Alana - Radisich,Matt [A51]
Street Chess 22.01.2022

Friday 21 January 2022

2022 ACT Blitz Championship

 The local ACT Chess Clubs are starting up again after the holiday break. Both the Tuggeranong and Canberra clubs started this week, while the Gungahlin Eastlakes Chess Club starts their year with the 2022 ACT Lightning Championship.  The will be a 9 round event with a time limit of all moves in 5 minutes. The venue is the Gungahlin Eastlake Football Club, Hinder St, Gungahlin. The date is Tuesday 1st February. Start time is 7:00pm and entry fee is $10 ($5 Under 18). It is open to all ACT Chess Association Members.

Thursday 20 January 2022

Learning from losing

 I might be getting soft in my old age, but I am not annoyed by players who do night resign at the appropriate time as I used to be. Possibly one the reasons for this, is that for new players, playing on until they are checkmated is a learning experience for them. On at least one occasion I have had an opponent explain why they won't resign ('so I can see how you would win from this position'), and in a few coaching sessions my comment about one side resigning has been met with a 'But why?'

Tuesday 18 January 2022

2022 Olympiad Dates announced

 FIDE have just contacted member federations with the dates for the 2022 Olympiad (and Disabled Olympiad). The Olympiad is scheduled to run from the 25th July to the 8th August in Moscow. The Disabled Olympiad is scheduled to start on the 19th July and finish on the 26th July in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia). 

This is just an initial announcement, and further details will no doubt follow in time.

A big clash

 Round 3 of the 2022 Tata Steel tournament sees the clash of two of the leaders, Carlsen and Duda. Carlsen scored a nice win over Giri in round 2, while Duda beat Rapport in the 1st round. Some might say Duda was a little lucky in that Rapport blundered just before the end, but manoeuvring your pieces in the hope that your opponent makes a mistake is a technique that dates back to the time of Tarrasch and Lasker.

Duda,Jan-Krzysztof (2760) - Rapport,Richard (2763) [D02]
Tata Steel Masters (1.5), 15.01.2022

Saturday 15 January 2022

Tata Steel 2022 - Some lazy predictions

 Magnus Carlsen. This is my pretty safe prediction for the winner of the 2022 Tata Steel Masters, which begins today/midnight Canberra time. As with most editions of the tournament, the organisers haven't packed it with just the top players in the world, although a tournament with Caruana, Giri and Mamedyarov is pretty strong. Even 10th seed Esipenko can be pretty dangerous (as Carlsen knows), although if it isn't Carlsen, then it is only someone else from the top 4 that I can see winning it.

Of interest though is how some of the lower seeded players might do. GM Sam Shankland has been hovering around the 2700 level for  few years, but a tournament like this may be what is needed to move up to the next level. And the bottom seed is R Praggnanandhaa, who is hoping to move up from the 2600 club to the 2700 club.

As with events these days there will be plenty of online coverage, both in terms of live broadcast and online commentary. Youtube is a good place to check (for commentary), while all the major sites (chess24,, chessbomb etc) will also be broadcasting the moves.

Friday 14 January 2022

I guess you can try this

 There is very little that is new under the sub, except weird chess openings. During one of the ACTJCL Online Events being run over the Summer holidays, I came across a combined 3 Knights/Latvian opening, which I do not believe I have ever seen before. As an added bonus Black won, which lead me to think that it may not be bad after all. It turns out that it probably is, but not bad enough as to render it unplayable. A little digging showed that it had been played in other games, including a game between lower rated players, which ended in a win for Black.


Pfeifer,Andreas (1950) - Szitas,Gabor (2170) [C46]
Syre Memorial op 20th Issy les Moulineaux, 05.1997

Thursday 13 January 2022

The Unmasked Chessplayer

 The days of trying to disguise who you are online may be over, at least for chessplayers. A new research paper reveals that it is possible to identify players based on their distinctive playing style. To do this they processed at least 1000 games per player, and then tried to identify anonymous players based on a smaller (100) number of games. Expecting a fairly low hit rate, the researchers were surprised to find that it identified the unknown player 86% of the time.

The results were reported in this article, which also raises questions about privacy. If your chess style can be reduced to a small set of identifiers, then this can be used to discover who you are, even if you have tried to cover your tracks. The other implication of work like this is in the area of online cheating, where such a tool could be used to identify whether a player is no longer playing like themselves, but like an entirely different chess player. 

Identifying mystery chess players isn't a new thing of course. I half remember a story about a very strong player (Alekhine?) giving a blindfold simul, and then halfway through identifying his opponent (a strong master) by name, based on the players style. And quite often historical game scores are attributed to the wrong players, and corrections can be based on who was the 'likely' player.

Tuesday 11 January 2022

Before this blog

 I have been writing this blog for almost 15 years now, but there were things I did before this. There was in fact a lot of writing, in the shape of tournament bulletins, club newsletters and most notably, Australian Chess Forum. 

One of the last things I did before starting this blog was to organise the 2006-7 Australian Open. As part of this Stephen Mugford and myself put together the tournament website, which contained a lot of useful information. Somewhat surprisingly, the website is still online at 

Apart from tournament results etc, you can download (or read online) the full set of tournament bulletins from this event (which was won by Zong-Yuan Zhao). While I was mainly busy as the event organiser, I did take time to play in the Major event, finishing 4th, in part due to the following final round win.

Press,Shaun - Ali,Mos [B03]
2006-7 Australian Major, 07.01.2007

Sunday 9 January 2022

Who says draws are boring?

 While most people think that a drawn game is more often then not a 'non-result', I just think they need to watch a little more cricket!

Saturday 8 January 2022

Street Chess on the news (briefly)

 The lead story on the ABC News (Canberra) this evening was about new health restrictions in Canberra. Street Chess was part of the background footage, which you can see via this link The story is the lead item so you only have to watch the first minute or two.

Friday 7 January 2022

And White has a freer game

 "And White has a freer game" is one of those chess annotations I have never particularly understood. I've always thought it was just something annotators wrote when they felt like they had to add a comment, in a similar vain to "chances for both sides" or "compensation for the pawn". 

Based on some recent reading I've decided it is a more confusing way of simply saying, "White has more space". And advantage in space usually confers greater mobility, allowing the player more control over where the pieces go. 

As an example (from one of the older books I was looking at), here is a quick win for Tarrasch over Meises in their 1916 match.  After White's move 9, Reinfeld remarks "Whites game is noticeably freer". Tarrasch won the match 9-4 (+7-2=4), although it may have been played with fixed openings, as Mieses always played the Scotch as White, and the French as Black.

Tarrasch,Siegbert - Mieses,Jacques [C10]
Match Tarrasch-Mieses +7-2=4 Berlin (3), 13.09.1916

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Too far or too close

 Online chess is increasingly become a perfectly acceptable form of competition, although a number of shortcomings have yet to be completely solved. FIDE are now happy to rate Hybrid events, as long as all the requirements for such an event are met (arbiters, cameras etc). A number of countries moved their teams events online, and this has generally worked, although the non-supervised events still have issues.

There has been a thought to organise an online team event here in Canberra, but the major impediment is that most players are actually too close together. As clubs are still able to meet in person, any local team event may as well be held OTB rather than online. 

You would then think that organising a nationwide teams event would be a bit of a no-brainer, but in Australia this hasn't happened. GM Ian Rogers drew attention to this in his end of year Canberra Times chess column, pointing out that the Australian Chess Federation has done very little to embrace online events (apart from the ASTC). A number of overseas organisers have also asked me why there is no online teams event in Australia, and I have to explain that 'the ACF doesn't really do this sort of thing' (and by 'thing', I mean, organise chess events). 

Quite possibly an enterprising organiser might step up (assuming the ACF then don't try an claim ownership of the concept), but the distance between cities might become the next issue (due to timezone differences). Possibly a club based tournament (by invitation) could be a starting point, but as Australia hasn't really done teams chess for a few decades, even this minimal format might struggle to attract numbers.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

I believe in miracles ...

 GM Nigel Short is currently playing in a strong international open in Italy, having recently come out of hospital after being treated for Covid. He didn't get off to the best start, being held to a draw in round 1, and his round 2 game at one stage was even worse. On move 14 he found his king being forced to move to e7, but move 15 was the real blunder, allowing a fork on f7. Although his opponent did not immediately take the rook, Shirt was soon down the exchange, and acing a strong attack. In his own words, he was considering resigning, but then a miracle occurred. His opponents phone rang, and the game was instantly over (with a win for Short). Bad luck for the opponent, but there should be no excuse for letting this happen. Short himself once lost a game in similar circumstances, so there is consistency in this ruling. Sometimes it is this kind of luck that is enough to kick start a tournament run, so it will be interesting to see how he plays this evening.


Candian,Lorenzo (1966) - Short,Nigel D (2633) [C03]
Vergani Cup January (2.10), 03.01.2022

When does this become a trap?

 In my chess library are a number of books dealing with opening traps. The earlier ones were produced by authors such as Reinfeld, Chernev and Horowitz, and predated the development of chess databases. I assume instead they had a vast collection of scoresheets and index cards, gathering information from tournament bulletins, chess magazines and reader submissions.

As most of the traps presented did not have the players names attached to them, I wonder what the criteria for a 'trap' was. Was it simply a quick game where the mistake wasn't too egregious, or did it have to have been played a certain number of times to qualify? And, in some cases, was it just interesting analysis from the authors themselves, based on things that did not actually happen?

Below is a modern example of a short game, which may or may not be an actual trap. Certainly Black attempted to throw his opponent off by playing the Bb4+ line against the Scotch. And on move 7 Qh4 by Black is a 'trappy' move. It isn't until move 10 does White really go wrong, when the check on the e file is deadly. Possibly they assumed that Be2 would be OK, and then realised that Ba6 is going to hurt a lot. So if this game was to appear in a modern book of traps, it would probably say 'the tempting Bf4 is unsound here because of ...', but unless more people reached this position (and played this move) it might be of little utility for Black to know this.

Sandhya Goli (1865) - Defromont,Benjamin (2250) [C45]
8th Sunway Sitges 2021 Sitges ESP (4.76), 16.12.2021

Sunday 2 January 2022

2022 New Zealand Championship

The 129th New Zealand Championship is running from the 2nd to the 12th of January 2022. The event is being held at Riccarton Park, Christchurch and has a total prize fund of $10,000.The Championship event has attracted a field of 24 players, with FM Nic Croad the number one seed. Two time champion Croad is hoping to finish ahead of 2nd seed IM Anthony Ker (14 times winner!) and IM Russell Dive (7 times winner). The field also contains a number of young challengers, including FM Daniel Gong, CM Felix Xie and WFM Vyanla Punsalan.
Alongside the Championship is the Major Open, New Zealand Junior Championship, and a number of other supporting events. A link to the tournament standings can be found at while live coverage of the championship games is at

The first round did not see any major upsets, although the top seed Nic Croad was held to a draw by CM (and WFM) Helen Milligan. On the other hand the next few seeds had a lot less trouble, as shown by this game from Anthony Ker.

Ker,Anthony - Punsalan,Viyanla [B13]
2022 New Zealand Championship (1), 02.01.2022