Tuesday 28 June 2022

More adventures in school arbiting

 I am running lots of schools events during the last few weeks of the school term in Canberra, and I am very fortunate to have a number of chess coaches and teachers helping me out on the day. 

As an arbiter my main role is dealing with illegal moves, and adding two minutes to the opponents clock (NB Kids are very good at spotting when their opponents king is in check, not so good in seeing if their own king is attacked). One event got off to a particularly spectacular start where each of the top 4 games had an illegal move played within the first 2 minutes.

However there were some extra special rulings I had to make, above and beyond the usual. In one game a player had just a king versus the opponents king and queen. He simply moved his king next to queen and when the opponent said "that's check", said 'OK', and took the queen to get out of check. Luckily I was watching and explained how chess actually works.

Another game ended with a disagreement over the final score (1-0 v 0-1). Apparently one player lost to scholars mate, but told his opponent that as the game finished so quickly, they would now have to play a 'longer game' instead (which then had a different result). 

And having explained that it was impossible to checkmate with a King and a Knight versus a King, one player called me over, showing me a position where they had a King, Queen, 2 rooks a few extra pieces and plenty of pawns, against a King and a Knight. She asked me whether the game was a draw, because her opponent only had a King and a Knight. Without giving too much away, I explained that this only applied if she had only the king.

Monday 27 June 2022

Bad luck or bad prep?

 Round 7 of the 2022 Candidates Tournament saw a strange game between Rapport and Nepomnichtchi. Nepo played a line in the Petroff where Black sacrifices a rook, but draws by perpetual check soon afterwards. However Rapport rejected the first repetition, although this simply forced Nepo to aim for another repetition a few moves later. However, when Rapport avoided the second repetition, he ended up losing his queen for insufficient compensation, with a loss to show for his trouble.

After the game Rapport suggested it was the result of poor preparation, although this move he played was already known to be bad. But not only did this game effect Nepo's standings, it also had an effect on Caruana, who could not believe what he was seeing. Although both Nepo and Caruana won in round 7, the unexpected win for Nepo may have played on Caruan's mind, as he lost to Nakamura in Round 8.

Rapport,Richard (2764) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2766) [C42]
FIDE Candidates Tournament chess24.com (7.1), 25.06.2022

Sunday 26 June 2022

Looking like a two horse race

 It is looking like the 2022 Candidates Tournament is down to 2 players. Ian Nepomniachtchi leads with a very impressive 5.5/7, but is closely followed by Fabiano Caruana on 5/7. Hikaru Nakamura is in 3rd place, but is a full 2 points behind Nepo. Such is the dominance of the leading 2, everyone else (bar Nakamura) has finished the first half of the tournament on a minus score.

Of course there is still another 7 rounds to play, but at this stage, the Caruana v Nepo game in Round 9 may determine who will play Carlsen for the World Championship title.

Friday 24 June 2022

Another 'house' rule

 Another 'house rule' to add to your collection. If you 'try out' a move by moving a piece, but not taking your hand off it, any 'try' that extends beyond 1 square has to be played! This applies to straight moving pieces (rooks, bishops or queens), although I'm not sure it also applies to knights.

As with most house rules, not a real thing.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

The Pinwheel Fork

 Courtesy of my opponent spotting my Plan A, but not my Plan B, I managed to produce a 'Pinwheel Fork' for probably the first time in my career. Having pushed 16.e4, my opponent Ian Hosking, assumed I was looking for some complicated tactic based on attacking f7 and e6. He decided to deal with it my taking on d4, assuming that my next move would be to capture the bishop on f5. Instead the knight landed on c6, and thanks to the pinned b pawn, I successfully attacked the queen, both rooks and a bishop, all of which were undefended!

Press,Shaun - Hosking,Ian [D11]
Belconnen Cup (6), 21.06.2022

Sunday 19 June 2022

Stalemate tricks to know

 The diagrammed position came from a game in the recent ACT Secondary Schools Championship. White looked to be cruising to victory, and in this case, Black believed him. However I, and a couple of spectators realised that White had set up a stalemate trick, by defending the rook pawn from the side.

If you remove the Black rook, then Black has no moves to play. And in this position Black can try and do that with 1... Rxc4+. Capturing the rook is immediately stalemate, while moving the king to the a file runs into 2 ... Ra4+ followed by Rxa5 (or stalemate after the rook is captured). And attempts to run to to a6 after 2.Kb5 Rc5+! 3.Ka6 fail once again to 3... Rxa5+ with a choice between stalemate or 4.Kb6 Rh5 followed by Rxh7!

2022 Candidates

 One effect of the Covid Pandemic has been less international coverage on this blog. At first it was due to the lack of any events in early 2020, but even when online events began, it did not feel like 'real' chess to me. An oddly enough, when face to face events began, there seemed to be a confusing mess of them, with mixed rapid and classical formats. So I tended yo avoid them, both as a blogger and a spectator.

So I am pleased to see the Candidates kick off, with a quite exciting round 1. Two decisive games, and two tough draws, were enjoyable to look at. Two of the favourites (Nakamura and Ding) went down, while Duda might be kicking himself after failing to convert a huge opening advantage. Round 2 began around 2 hours ago (which is quite late for Canberran's) but staying up to watch the action is well worth it.

As for the likely winner, my money is on Caruana. A few people are tipping Firouzja, but I feel it is still too early for him, and that he doesn't have the experience to win this event (but will probably win the next candidates)

Friday 17 June 2022

Hidden talent

 Today saw the first ACT Interschool event of the year. It was the South Canberra Secondary Championship, and saw a number of strong players take part. Canberra Grammar School took out the top two places (based on the sum of the best 4 scores, then the next 4 etc), which wasn't really a surprise. However the third placing of Alfred Deakin High, just a half point behind the 2nd grammar team, was. This group of players has flown under the radar, although they did play in last years event. In talking to their teacher, he said that the improvement came mainly from playing online, rather than face to face.

I have seen this in a few schools in the ACT, and wonder if we may be seeing a generation of 'hidden' chess players. Noting that competition chess can be tough (and can drive people away from the game), being a serious chess player, but not a serious competitor, may become the rule, rather than the exception.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Brian Jones AM

 Congratulations to Brian Jones, who has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia. The rather brief citation was for "For significant service to chess at the elite level.", although those that know Brian recognise that his achievements were far more significant than that. Fortunately the expanded details can be found here, which list the many roles he has filled in Australian and international chess.

Monday 13 June 2022

2022 NSW Open - Days 2 & 3

 IM Igor Bjelobrk is the winner of the 2022 NSW Open, with an impressive 6.5/7. He won his first 6 rounds, and then played out a tough final round draw against close rival IM Junta Ikeda. Ikeda had drawn with Jack Rodgers back in round 3, and so they avoided playing each other until the last round. The draw left Ikeda tied for 2nd on 6 points with FM Yi Liu, who recovered from a round 4 loss to Sam Asaka to win his remaining games.

In the Minor event, Kamal Jain won in a similar way to Bjelobrk, starting with 6 wins before drawing his last round games. There was a 3 way tie for 2nd with Stephen Hemsley, Shane Dibley and Kotaro Inukai all scoring 5.5.

The 150 player event ran pretty smoothly, although the issue of withdrawals and half point byes did pop up. The Sunday night round (round 5) saw around 20% of the Open field take a half point bye, which does indicate the 3 rounds on Sunday is too much for some. There is discussion of starting the tournament on the Friday evening, and then having 2 rounds on the following 3 days. 

Results of the Open can be found at http://chess-results.com/tnr646116.aspx?lan=1

Results of the Minor can be found at http://chess-results.com/tnr646116.aspx?lan=1

Saturday 11 June 2022

2022 NSW Open - Day 1

 As with most events, the first day of the 2022 NSW Open hasn't revealed too much. Most of the top seeds reached 2/2, not all the DGT boards were working, and a number of players still don't understand the reasoning behind the mobile phone rules* (or simply think they have a special exemption).

So the highlight of the day was in the Minor, when two players left the board to go to the bathroom ( after playing their respective moves), and when they returned, found the board has been set up to start  the game. Weirdly they were only 8 moves in, so it was possible to reconstruct the position quickly.

*As for the reasoning behind the not having phones in the paying area, if we did allow spectators and finished players to use the phones as they saw fit, it would be harder to tell if an actual player is taking a sneak peak at their current position on their phone. This kind of reasoning seems to escape some people.

2022 NSW Open Coverage

 The 2022 NSW Open has just started in the last hour. Live broadcast of the top 4 boards is at https://view.livechesscloud.com/#71c54aaf-fa1f-4804-88a0-abcc3568843c while the links the results are

2022 NSW Open

2022 NSW Minor

Friday 10 June 2022

A 4 way election for FIDE President

 Nominations have closed for the upcoming FIDE Presidential elections and although 5 tickets were lodged, only 4 met the eligibility criteria. The one that missed out was actually the first to go public, the Fumey/Fancy ticket. Part of their motivation was to show that international chess shouldn't just be about European  federations, which was ironically their undoing, as no European federation would nominate them.

The 4 eligible tickets are

- Mr. Andrii Baryshpolets and Mr. Peter-Heine Nielsen;

- Mr. Inalbek Cheripov and Mr. Lewis Ncube;

- Mr. Arkady Dvorkovich and Mr. Anand Viswanathan;

- Mr. Bachar Kouatly and Mr. Ian Wilkinson.

Each ticket required a minimum of 5 federations to support the nomination and there had to be at least one federation from each of the 4 continents (which is what the Fumey ticket failed to achieve). Oddly Ukraine did not nominate Baryshpolets (who is Ukrainian), instead supporting the Cherirpov ticket. Australia nominated  the Kouatly ticket, while NZ nominated the Baryshpolets ticket. And South Sudan tried to cover more than one base by nominating two separate tickets, but it was ruled that only their first nomination (Baryshpolets) would be accepted.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Nice tactic - rediscovered

 I witnessed a very nice tactical idea at the Gungahlin Chess Club this evening. However it did look familiar, so I decided to find out where it had been played before. The problem was that I could remember the position, but not the moves, and for some crazy reason, thought it had started as an Exchange French (it had not). Luckily my copy of Chessbase had the game, which was played David Janowski and Emil Schallop in 1896. 126 years later Masaki Horikawa was able to find the same winning idea.

Horikawa, Masaki - Yu, Leiming [D21]
Belconnen Open 7.6.2022

Monday 6 June 2022

Winning > Losing

 I think I recently mentioned that to me, losses hurt immediately, by victories are more enjoyable over time. To test this theory, here is a loss from a club game last week. The immediate cause of the loss was flag fall, but I was in time trouble because I had lost control of the position earlier on (despite being a piece up). Good defence from my opponent btw, which definitely contributed to my shortage of time.

Press,Shaun - Forace,Lee [A55]
Belconnen Cup, 01.06.2022

Looking for Mate in 2's

 One form of chess that seems to still exists mainly on paper rather than online is the Mate in 2 (or more) problems. And by that I mean proper Mate in 2 problems, rather than easy tactics which result in a fairly obvious checkmate after 2 moves.

While lots of players find such problems weird, they serve as an excellent training tool. Accurately calculating the first 3 moves of any sequence of moves reduces your chances of making a blunder significantly. And if you can spot the likely move quickly, then how you sort your candidate moves will also improve. 

But as the title says, finding an online (rather than a printed) source is proving difficult. Suggestions accepted with thanks.

Friday 3 June 2022

Travel good, paperwork bad

 I'm just in the process of applying for a visa to travel to the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai. I've already spent a couple of hours on the process (Fathers place of birth, really?), and am still a long way off completion (Passport as PDF, oh wait, PDF document is too large). I fear that this may be the smallest chess olympiad in years, simply because people won't have finished the process in time to catch their flight.

Wednesday 1 June 2022

After action report

 In any important chess tournament, there are always a few incidents to report. In the case of the recent ACT Chess Championship, a few spring to mind.

There was one game involving a 50 move claim, and one game that almost had one. In the case of the game that reached 50 moves without a pawn move or capture, the first claim was in fact for a repetition. However instead of writing the move on the scoresheet, he picked up the piece to demonstrate the move he intended to play. Unfortunately this simply meant he had to move the piece, and could not then make a claim, as it was his opponents move. His opponent then avoided the repetition, but there were enough checks to reach (and indeed go past) the 50 move mark, at which point a correct claim was made.

The other game saw 48 moves of RvB before the stronger side offered a draw. 

The other main issue was players missing their games. Fortunately there were only 2 games forfeited, and I assume both were simply not knowing the tournament schedule. In one case a player played the 1st round (7pm Friday), failed to appear for the 2nd (the following morning), but did turn up at 7pm (Saturday) thinking the 2nd round started at that time (NB no one else was confused). They then said they would turn up for the 2:30 round the next day (as they weren't paired in the morning round), but once again failed to appear (and weren't included in the pairings). Then they turned up an hour into the 6th round (Monday) asking if they had a game, at which point I suggested that entering the tournament may have not been a good idea.

No mobile phone forfeits, although one player did take their bag out of the playing hall, during their game, and as it did contain a phone, lost the game. After explaining the situation to the player concerned he both accepted the ruling, and understood the reasoning behind it.