Wednesday 30 March 2022

Dubbo 2022

 Only a few days before the 2022 Dubbo Open starts. The field is starting to take shape, and at this stage there are over 30 players entered. Current top seed is Cameron McGowan (2233), with two of Australian leading female players WIM Biljana Dekic and WFM Alana Chibnall seeded 2nd and 3rd. 

The tournament starts on Saturday 2nd April at 10:30 am at the Dubbo RSL Club. It runs for 6 rounds (3 Saturday and 3 Sunday) and has a 1st prize of $800. The current list of entries can be seen here

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Pulling the pin

 Finding the right time to resign after it has all gone wrong is a fine art. I usually play on for a little longer than I should, hoping that something might turn up. On the other hand, some players (especially strong ones) will throw in the towel early especially when playing even stronger opponents. Jan Hein Donner went this way after misplaying the opening against Smyslov back in 1965. The assessment of the position isn't that terrible (White ends up a pawn ahead), but Donner may not have have wished to spend the rest of the day defending a position that would eventually be lost.

Smyslov,Vassily - Donner,Jan Hein [E06]
Capablanca Memorial Havana (9), 1965

Saturday 26 March 2022

Games that are chess "like"

 A few years ago I mentioned a game called Smess (AKA Ninny Chess, or All the King's Men). It is a board game very similar to chess, but with different game mechanics and strategies. A similar game (invented around the same time) was Ploy. Ploy was a 2 or 4 player game, where the direction the pieces could move was imprinted on the piece itself (each piece was a disk). Some pieces had a single direction, while more powerful pieces had 2,3 or 4 directions. However, the pieces could be rotated, instead of moving, to enable them to move in entirely different directions.

Although the game is out of print, it can be played at various online game platforms. In my old collection of board game books it is quite highly regarded, although it never seems to have really caught on (in the same way that Mastermind or Othello did). 

I have just picked up a second hand copy of the game (in good condition) to add to my collection of older boardgames. Reading the rules I can see why it is similar to chess, albeit in a simplified form. I might even try and play some the online versions to see how close it is to the "real" thing!

A short warm up event

To help ACT players prepare for the upcoming O2C Doeberl Cup, the ACT Junior Chess League is organising a small warmup event. It is a 5 round FIDE rated event, and has attracted 22 players. The semi-invitational event targeted local juniors who are playing in the Premier, Major or Minor, as well as adult players taking part. The tournament is being played as a single section, with a time control of 90m+30s

While there is no live coverage of the event, you can follow the results at

Thursday 24 March 2022


 While picking up the latest Humble Bundle (Stand with Ukraine), I came across a curious game called Pawnbarian. It is a mixture of chess, deck building, and dungeon crawler, all packed into one. In the game, you are the Pawnbarian, he is called upon to defeat a host of enemies (goblins, monsters etc). You play cards to move your piece on the 5x5 board, either trying to attack the monsters, or run away from them. The cards initially match existing chess pieces (and their moves), but as you progress, you can but more cards to add to your deck (which often have additional effects). As you progress through the dungeon the monsters become harder to beat, and you have to do a bit of preplanning of your moves to find the best solution.

It is a fun little game, although reasonably difficult to win at (like chess!). If you can't pick it up as part of the Stand with Ukraine charity bundle, it can be purchased as a stand alone game on Steam for $14.50


Tuesday 22 March 2022

Karjakin gets 6 months

 The FIDE Ethics Commission has suspended GM Sergey Karjakin for 6 months for his comments supporting Russia during the current invasion of Ukraine by that country.

To be honest I am astonished that they even decided to hear the case, let alone suspend him. For me, the right to say dumb, hurtful, stupid, offensive or ignorant words, is met with the right to say that the first speaker is dumb, hurtful, stupid, offensive and ignorant. In the case of Karjakin, his comments have been rightfully condemned, his invitations to tournaments are likely to disappear, and anything he says is countered by people who point out he is lying about many things. Banning him is unlikely to change his opinions, but speaking against him might.

For some, a decision like this sets an unfortunate precedent. There is now a clear mechanism for dealing with chess players who have opinions that are considered wrong or unpopular, simply applied because the person is a chess player. My worry however isn't the precedent it sets, but the previous precedent it ignores. Previously chess players were able to say all sorts of stupid things without punishment (cf Bobby Fischer), because they were people first, and chess players second. As this appear not to apply any longer, then I guess almost anything that is considered a poor look for chess is now actionable. 

Monday 21 March 2022

Oceania news

 The last 2 years has seen very little chess activity in Oceania , for obvious reasons. Apart from some online participation in FIDE and Asian events, it has been pretty quiet. Signs of life are starting to appear though, with the decision to hold the 2023 Oceania in Melbourne in January 2023. Teams are starting to get themselves organised for the Olympiad, and there is also talk of a possible Oceania Juniors in 2022 (or 23), and an Oceania Seniors. Unlike almost all other FIDE zones, air travel is the key to the success of these events, so hopefully the opening of borders between the various countries will see renewed enthusiasm for these tournaments.

Saturday 19 March 2022

Playing down the right flank

 Miles Patterson sent me the following game from the 2022 Tasmanian Championship, which he finished in first place. His opponent opened with a double fianchetto defence, which gave White time to launch a typicla dark square attack on the king, swapping the bishop on g7 and pushing the h pawn. g4 to break open the kingside was a good move, and Nxf7 both won material, and essentially finished the game, although Black played on to mate.

Patterson,Miles (2000) - Pretorius,Wynand-Jack (2000) [A04]
Tasmanian Championship LAPTOP-RNTASBER, 14.03.2022

Friday 18 March 2022

2022 Dubbo Open - 2-3 April 2022

 After a break of 2 years the Dubbo Open is back on. It will run on the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of April, at the usual venue of the Dubbo RSL Club. This is the 20th anniversary of the tournament, and already a sizeable filed has entered.

You can enter at the venue from 930 am on Saturday. 1st prize is guaranteed at $800, with other prizes dependant upon entries. Entry is $50 for adults, $35 for concessions, and $25 for juniors. The event is 6 rounds, with a time limit 60m+10s. There is also a tournament dinner and blitz event on the Saturday evening.

The current tournament entries are here, and I am the Director of Play for the event.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Russia Out

 FIDE have just taken the decision to exclude teams from Russia and Belarus in any official FIDE team competition, at least for the foreseeable future. The most obvious effect of this decision is that both countries will not be able to take part in the upcoming chess Olympiad. This decision does not effect individual players, although in that case, the players themselves are required to play under the FIDE flag (or change federations).

In terms of how this effects the Olympiad itself, the loss of the Russian team does make it a little easier for other countries. However it is worth noting that Russia last won the Olympiad in 2002, while countries like Armenia, China and Ukraine have won it multiple times since. Of course the previous incarnation of the Russian team, the USSR, was absolutely dominant, winning every Olympiad from 1952 to 1974, and then again from 1980-1990. In that era they were able to draw on players from other republics, including Ukraine. 

One of the players from the early years of the Soviet Olympiad team was David Bronstein, considered one of the most original thinkers in the game,  and one of Ukraine's greatest players. Here is a game from his first Olympiad, against Henry Grob, who missed the chance to play his own opening (1.g4).

Grob,Henry - Bronstein,David I [B23]
Helsinki ol (Men) prel-C Helsinki (2), 1952

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Olympiad Venue Confirmed

 The FIDE Council have confirmed Chennai as the new host city for the 2022 Chess Olympiad. The exact dates for the Olympiad have not yet been announced, but the organisers have said it will still be late July to early August, in line with the previous dates. The venue will be the Sheraton Mahabalipuram, which is about an hour south of Chennai, with teams staying in the various hotels located in that area. Exact details will be announced shortly.

Monday 14 March 2022

2022 Tasmanian Championship

 Miles Patterson (ACT) has won the 2022 Tasmanian Championship Tournament, but not the Tasmanian Championship. Although the tournament is an open event, the state champion title is restricted to local residents. In this case Kevin Bonham and Wynand-Jack Pretorius tied for the title, after finishing equal second.

The tournament itself suffered a degree of drama after one of the players had to withdraw on the final morning after testing positive to Covid. A couple of close contacts had to also go into isolation, while a few other players (including the tournament leader) withdrew out of health concerns. 

The win for Patterson repeats his success from last year, where he also finished outright 1st. While it isn't common for state championships to allow interstate players to play, it would be interesting to see if bac to back wins has ever happened in other states.

Sunday 13 March 2022

2022 Olympiad Venue

 A bit of an update on what is possibly happening with the 2022 Chess Olympiad. At this stage India seems to be the only federation bidding, and they have put together quite a nice video presentation supporting the bid. The proposed venue city will be Chennai, or more correctly, Mahabalipuram, which is a resort are an hour to the south. At the moment, federations are being asked to comment on the bid (in place of a formal vote), and the PNG Chess Federation is in favour of the bid.

For local (ie Australian) chess fans, there are a couple of benefits. The difference in time zones isn't that large, so games can be watched in the evening. Also , for people who wish to watch in person, travel is not that expensive (under $1000 return), and you can get from Canberra to Chennai on the same day.

A final decision is likely to be announced in a few days, but barring any last minute bids, India is currently the likely destination.

Australian Tournament Streaming

 GM Ian Rogers has entered the world of live streaming, covering the current Ballarat Begonia Open at He plans to follow this up with coverage of the 2022 O2C Doeberl Cup next month. The move to online coverage is both as a consequence of current covid rules, but also an understanding that technology has advanced to a level where the traditional in person lecture has been replaced with online versions. 

There are theree rounds of the Ballarat tournament today, so if you tune in from around 10am (I think) you should be able to watch around 12 hours of tournament play.

Friday 11 March 2022

Pay to win - Chess?

 The concept of 'pay to win' games has always offended me. If you are not familiar with the concept, it is essentially allowing you to pay extra money to a free game, to receive benefits that other players do not get. It is a business model for some games, which while profitable, can annoy an existing user base. More so if the game starts out as 'free forever' before it isn't. 

In the past I played a few games like this, but as soon as they became 'p2w' I lost interest. But having said that, I do wonder what 'p2w' chess might look like. eg Buying takebacks, Rejecting your opponents first choice, two moves in a row, castling after moving your king

Some of these are probably too drastic (Playing QxQ and then blocking their recapture!), but the more subtle additions might be a thing. At least one possible advantage is that it may reduce the effectiveness of chess engines (at fast chess), but in the end it would probably fail in the same way that all attempts at 'improving' chess fail. They aren't really improvements.

Thursday 10 March 2022

Not knowing the classics

 One of the most famous games in chess history is the Morphy 'Opera Box Game'. I often show it to students I coach, and now know it off by heart. I even thought I knew it when I was a lot  younger, but it seems that I only knew the first few moves, and forgot the rest!

Press,Shaun - Mathe,Richard [C41]
ACT Junior Championship, 19.11.1983

Tuesday 8 March 2022

2022 O2C Doeberl Cup Major and Minor

 An important update for players wishing to play in either the O2C Doeberl Cup Major and Minor. The Monir event (Under 1600 ACF) reached the 80 player limit late last week. As a result we have extended the size of the event to 120, but it is unlikely that it will be increased further. At the moment there are 20 places left in the Major (Under 2000 ACF), so if you wish to play the Major, you should get your entries in quick. At the moment there are over 200 entries for the event, and with 5 weeks before the event starts, a field well in excess of 300 is expected.

If you are eligible for two divisions (due to an overlap in rating requirements), picking the less crowded of the 2 would be great (eg play Premier instead of Major, or play Major instead of Minor). This was one of the reasons why the rating requirements were relaxed a bit this year, so as to balance the numbers better.

** I am chief organiser for this event **

Sunday 6 March 2022

A curious miniature

 For no particular reason I decided to see what was opening in the Bundesliga, which is running as I speak. Almost all the games were still in the opening stage, and yet one game was already finished. At first I thought it was a forfeit, or even worse, a mobile phone default, but instead it was just a misplayed opening that was quickly punished. White didn't play any outright blunders (in the usual sense), but every move seemed to make the position worse. Realising that f2 was about fall, White decided that they had seen enough.

Pitl,Jarno (1988) - Wegerle,Joerg (2404) [A04]
Schachbundesliga (2.8), 06.03.2022

Saturday 5 March 2022

2022 Olympiad speculation

 After the cancellation of the 2022 Moscow Olympiad, FIDE have requested bids from other federations. At this stage it appears India have submitted a bid, but there is still a few days left for other federations to bid. I have heard (third hand I think), that at least 2 European federations are considering bids, while a suggested Middle East bid may not be feasible due to the short notice.

Although I am pretty sure that the FIDE Federations won't be part of the decision (due to the urgency of finding a venue), India would at least make travel quicker and cheaper. And based on comments I heard at a conference I attended this evening, the Asian Chess Federation (and countries) would strongly support such a bid.

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Good Technique

 There is a huge difference between having an advantage, and converting that advantage. The gap is often so large that there is room for a step in between, which is increasing your advantage. During post-mortems I've often heard players sat "I thought I was winning here", without actually being able to say why.

Here is a game from the current Grand Prix series where White does a good job of slowing improving his position, based on the plan of targeting weaknesses in Black's position. This starts around move 15 when Black has an isolated e pawn. By forcing Black to defend this weakness, White is able to improve his position, creating further weaknesses in Black's position. As the game continues, this target/improve plan results in White's advantage increasing to such a point that Black can no longer defend.

(B) Giri,Anish (2771) - (B) Tabatabaei,M. Amin (2623) [C24]
All Pools | Belgrade FIDE Grand Prix (1.4), 01.03.2022