Friday 30 September 2022

2022 ACT Junior Chess Championship

 Phong Huynh is the 2022 ACT Junior Chess Champion, after surviving a tense final day of the competition. Sharing the overnight lead with Masaki Horikawa on 5/6, both players lost their round 7 games to open the tournament right up. Richard Ji then took the lead on 5.5/7, but a round 8 draw with Dev Raichura (and a 2nd loss of the day to Horikawa), left Huynh, Ji and Muhammed Yunus tied for 1st on 6/8. As they had already played each other, it came to to games against other opponents. Both Huynh and Ji won their games, while Yunus missed a tactic against ACT Girls Champion Shriya Karthik and resigned material down. Under the tournament tie-break rules, Huynh was awarded the 1st place trophy due to his win over Ji earlier in the tournament.

The 15 player tournament was hard fought, in part due to relatively closeness of the field. There were few easy games (even after a loss or two) and all but Ji suffered at least 2 losses.

The Championship was the final event of the of the ACTJCL age championships. The winners of the other events were

  • Under 8: Echo Feng
  • Under 10: Max Mao
  • Under 12: Charles Huang
  • Under 14: Masaki Horikawa

Huynh,Phong - Ji,Richard [A21]
ACT Junior Championship, 29.09.2022

Thursday 29 September 2022

Not sure what went right here

 Sometimes you reach the end of a game, and despite a positive result, you aren't exactly sure why. This happened to me in a recent game, albeit one that had missed chances for both sides. Maybe what went right was not getting hit with 30.Rxf6! which leads to a better position after 31. ... Bxf6 32.Rxf6 Rxf6 33.Ng4! Instead the 'automatic' 30.Bxf6 enabled me to exploit my advantage on the queenside, although even then, it was my turn to miss the winning tactic. Fortunately there was still enough to convert the ending into a full point.

Pearce,Tim - Press,Shaun [E81]
Gungahlin CC (3), 27.09.2022

Wednesday 28 September 2022

A position to know


White to play

An interesting position was reached during round 3 of the 2022 ACT Junior Championship. White was trying to hold a rook and pawn ending 2 pawns down, when an opportunity suddenly presented itself. As the king is almost stalemated, White had the chance to force a draw by playing Rf3+. If the rook is captured the game ends immediately, while if the king retreats to e5, then White can check on e3, wither pushing the king to the d file or back to the f file. With the king on the d file, the rook can now keep the king away from the pawns, and White can hold a draw. If the king returns to the f file, more checks drive the king behind the pawns, where checks from the side (after a move like Rb3 for White) also reach a drawn position.

Sadly for White, he  missed the stalemate trick and after that Black was able to win in the end. 

Tuesday 27 September 2022

2022 ACT Under 14 Chanpionships

 Today saw the finish to the 2022 ACT Under 14 Championships. The field of 21 players was a mixture of established junior talent, and enthusiastic newcomers.  In the end the tournament was dominated by Masaki Horikawa and Charles Huang, who tied for 1st on 5.5/6. The subsequent playoff game was drawn, meaning that Horikawa won the Under 14 trophy on countback. As this event was combined with the Under 12 Championship, Huang collected that prize, meaning he has won the ACT Under 8's, 10's 14's and now the 12's over the last few years.

While some of the field was there for serious competition, the real highlight for most were the endless games of bughouse played between the rounds. Normally I frown on such frivolity as a chief arbiter, but as pretty much did the same thing when I was a junior I decided to let it slide this one time. There was even an informal bughouse event at the end of the day, with the tournament winners (Horikawa and Huang) teaming up together to win that as well.

Sunday 25 September 2022

Try and avoid this

 This example probably falls under the heading of "Do as I do, not as I say". I've always told young players to spend their time on understanding openings, rather than simply memorising moves. On the other hand, when I was young, I spent a lot of time memorising lines, especially lines which contained a number of traps. If White had followed my example, but not my advice, they may not have had their queen trapped so quickly. 

White - Black
Street Chess, 24.09.2022


 This years AFL grand Final has been run and done, with the Sydney Swans getting smashed by Geelong. During (or after) the coverage, I did see an advertisement for an insurance company which had a bit of chess in it. AFL legend Kevin Sheedy was one of the players, although the game was halted when someone ran through the game, smashing board, table, pieces etc. I'd post a link but I can't find one at the moment. 

If anyone does have a link, please post in the comments section.

Thursday 22 September 2022

2022 ACT Teams Championship

 After a break of a few years, the 2022 ACT Teams Championship is being held on Sunday, 23rd October, at Campbell High School. It will be a team of 4 tournament, played with a time limit of G15m+5s. It will be FIDE rated (Rapid) and there will be 7 rounds. Cost for the team is $10 per player, with trophies and medals being awarded. The last time it was held (in 2019) there were 10 teams, and hopefully this year will see more players (especially given the larger numbers at each of the clubs).

One interesting innovation this year is that a teams average rating is based on Boards 2,3 and 4 (and not board 1). The average limit is 1700, but this rule means you can have a strong board 1 player without forcing the team to have a lower rated board 4 (or even 3 and 4). The idea is to encourage some 'creative' recruitment, or simply to get the higher rated ACT players to turn out.

The event is being organised by IA Alana Chibnall (  ) and teams can enter by contacting her. If you don't have a team and want to play anyway, you can still enter, and extra teams will be formed on the day.


Tuesday 20 September 2022

Apparently 2.c4 doesn't win instantly

 Following the latest opening theory I tried to finish tonight's game with 2.c4. Instead my opponent decided to resist for a few more moves, but eventually the pawer of the c pawn did the business.

Press,Shaun - Cheng,Larry [E65]
Gungahlin CC (6), 20.09.2022

Monday 19 September 2022

Activity not age

 Former World Champion Garry Kasparov had a tough time of it in the Chess 960 event in St Louis, finishing with a single draw over 9 games. He did acknowledge that the main reason for his showing was a lack of recent activity. 

Usually a decline in ability is attributed to the effects of aging, but it is more likely that simply playing less is the real culprit. Both Korchnoi and Smyslov were able to play high level chess well into their 70's, outlasting much younger players who had retired earlier.

The JB Generation Cup is currently running, pitting new stars against old. Although the younger generation looks to have the upper hand, 53 year old Vasyl Ivanchuk did strike a blow for the seniors, with a good win over Anish Giri.

Ivanchuk,Vasyl (2678) - Giri,Anish (2740) [E51]
Julius Baer Generation Cup | Prelims (3.1), 18.09.2022

Sunday 18 September 2022

Grumpy old man

 In looking for articles for this blog, I usually have a few rough guidelines. They should be about chess (but not always), I should find them interesting (even if you do not), I try and avoid 'clickbait' (which I can usually do), and there should be at least one game on the front page.

So I went looking for an interesting game from recent events, and have run into an issue. While a lot more chess is being played and recorded than at any time previously, there is a lot more chaff to sift through. A lot of the online games (even played by strong players) are decided by blatant mistakes, or attempts to trick opponents into pre-moving the wrong response. This is both a function of the time controls (blitz or bullet), but also due to the method of play. In the case of a couple of OTB events I looked through, the data seemed incomplete, in that there were an enormous number of games lasting less than 10 moves, but finishing in unclear positions. I assume data entry issues in this case.

As a result I came up short, but I have also resisted the urge to return to an earlier time. As an avid book collector (and reader), I appreciate more and more the printed word, in so much as there is a degree of quality control before publication. Having just started to read Keres' book on the 1948 World Championship, I am struck by the amount of description he has put into every game, versus the somewhat sterile centipawn evaluation that newer players are familiar with.  

Of course this makes me sound like a grumpy old man (hence the title), but for newer players, grabbing an older tournament book and playing through the games and notes still has a lot going for it.

Friday 16 September 2022

Upcoming Junior Events

 If you live in Canberra (or close enough to it) and are a junior player, then there are a number of events coming up.

The 2022 ACT Junior Championship is being held between the 26th and 30th September. It is being run in different age groups, but the format is designed to allow younger players to play more than one event. (Fun fact: I played in the 1982 ACT Junior Championship, my first serious event)

The following week is the Spring Bootcamp, which is a week of coaching and chess. On this case the events are Lightning, Rapid and Standard, and the schedule allows players to play in 1, 2 or all 3 events.

You can register for the Championship here, and for Bootcamp, here.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Theory v Practice

 The new version of the FIDE Laws of Chess are to be published soon, and will go into effect on the 1st January 2023. As a member of the FIDE Rules Commission, I have been involved in a bit of proofreading, hopefully to eliminate any glaring errors in both language and meaning.

This stands in stark contrast to my experiences earlier in the day. Visiting one of the Canberra schools i coach at, I had a number of interesting rules explained to me by 5 and 6 year old chess players. The main thing they had in common was that the 'rules' allowed my opponents to escape from fairly dicey positions. One example was having played Qh4+ (as Black) to attack the White king on e1, I was told that my queen could be captured by h2-h4, as that's how pawns move. When I tried to explain the correct rule I was told 'No, this is the real rule'

Tuesday 13 September 2022


 For anyone who has tried to teach young kids how to play chess, the clip below is amazingly accurate.

Sunday 11 September 2022

2022 ACT Women's Championship

 WFM Alana Chibnall is the 2022 ACT Women's Champion, after winning todays tournament with a perfect 7 from 7. 25 players took part in the tournament, which has returned to the ACT chess calendar after a gap of 8 years. The tournament was a 7 round Rapid, with a time control of 15m+5s.

Tied for 2nd place were Shriya Karthik and Jo Mason, who finished 5.5, drawing their Round 6 game, after both losing to Chibnall earlier in the tournament. Unrated newcomer Kenisha Gaind won the Best Under 14 Years player, while 7 year old Echo Feng finished in a tie for 5th, and won the Best Under 12 Years player. With Gain picking up a medal for the Under 14 title, Claire Bradbery was the best Unrated player.

The tournament was sponsored by the ACT Junior Chess League, and all the players had an enjoyable day. There was a good mix of adult and junior players, with a number of players playing in there first non-school tournament. There were also a couple of players returning after a break of a number of years, including Jo Mason who tied for 2nd.

It is hoped that next years event will be a two day weekend event, with a longer time control, and a bigger prize pool. This year's tournament showed that such events can be successful, and with the ACT's reputation as the home of high quality events, a well funded Women's weekend event could be another such event.

Friday 9 September 2022

Spring Bookfair

 For those looking for good second hand chess books (in Canberra), this years Lifeline Bookfair has a good selection. There were around 30 books for sale when I passed through this morning, including a number that I already have in my own collection. I grabbed a couple of books (including a 2nd Edition of Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine), but I left plenty on the table. There was even at least one more box of books under the table, but the rules of etiquette frown on 'accidently' knocking it over!

The only issue for this year is that prices on some books have gone up. This may to be discourage commercial re-sellers from buying in bulk, or simply to reflect a fairer value, so it may be a more expensive trip if you decide to go. The Bookfair runs across the weekend, so there is still time to add to your collection.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

B+N v K

Moving on from the short games at the Olympiad, I decided to have a look at the longer ones. While waiting for the round to finish, I did witness a number of interesting endings, including R+B v R, N+R v R, and in the following game, K+N+B v K. 

White was winning in the late middlegame, but gave Black drawing chances once the ending was reached. However Black missed the best moves, and as his position crumbled, decided to sacrifice his last two pieces for the remaining pawns, hoping to escape in a B+N ending. However, White knew exactly how to play this, and only took 21 moves to checkmate Black. For those who have never played this ending, it is well worth studying the approach that White used, as real life positions can be different from text book positions usually given in ending manuals.

Berend,Fred (2307) - Gerena Rivas,Eliam (2102) [A45]
44th Olympiad Chennai 2022 Mahabalipuram, Chennai (10.1), 08.08.2022

Tuesday 6 September 2022

This is big

 The decision by Magnus Carlsen to withdrew from the 2022 Sinquefield Cup is big news, but the supposed reason behind it is definitely bigger news. Carlsen himself was very careful not say more than the minimum, but online commentators have been freely speculating about what happened in game against Hans Neimann.

At this stage I will not comment on whether the implied reason for withdrawing was valid, but I will point out that accusations of outside assistance seem to carry more weight if they come from a top 10 player than if they come from a lower rated player. Wesley So received a very quick hearing after his game against Petrosian in the online World Club Cup, but other cases have either taken longer to decide, or have been dismissed as 'sour grapes'.

Noting that all this has happened in the last 24 hours, it may be a few days or weeks before the full story comes out. 

Monday 5 September 2022

The Draw Master

 In the 2006 Chess Olympiad I went through the event with 1 win, 3 losses and 9 draws(!). On reflection this was probably too many draws, and I should have made a greater effort to convert my advantages. 

However this was topped by a player at a recent schools event I ran. The player in question drew his first 6 games, and was well on his way to a 7th draw when his opponent instead lost on time. What was remarkable about these draws were that they were all stalemates and I'm pretty sure the player in question was winning in each position. As some of you might now suspect, they seemed to be K+Q v K positions that 'went wrong'. Certainly the two positions I observed fitted this description, and I assume the others did as well.

Sunday 4 September 2022

Sinquefield Cup 2022

 The 2002 Sinquefield Cup started with one decisive game, and 4 draws. The one decisive game involved Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi , and resulted in another victory for Carlsen. Having gone through the game a few times, I'm still not sure what really happened, as Carlsen's position did not look appreciably better, until Nepo kind of fell apart. If I had to criticise a move 23 ... c5 did not look right to me, although Stockfish thinks it is perfectly fine. The problem I had with this move was that it created a target for White to aim at, and eventually Black misplayed the defence. Of course just sitting on the position might have resulted in a different set of problems for Black, and a different kind of conclusion.

Carlsen,Magnus (2861) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2792) [D35]
Sinquefield Cup (1.4), 02.09.2022

Friday 2 September 2022

Getting fit playing chess

 Alan Turing once invented a version of chess called 'Round the House Chess'. After you moved you had to run around the outside of the house, and if you returned before your opponent had moved, you had another move (and another run). A good way to keep fit, but apparently not the only one.

Someone has invented a version of chess called "Chesst". Every time you capture an opponents piece, you have to do a set number of push-ups, based on the 'point value' of each piece. (Pawn = 1, Rook = 5 etc).  Possible modifications include making your opponent do the push-ups as punishment for having pieces captured, and adding a pushup penalty for being in check. An even crueller version would be to replace push-ups with burpees.

Of course you can go the other way, and simply play chess while getting fit. Blindfold chess while cycling as a pair, or in a group is one such possibility. Another variant is while one player is thinking, the other is doing sit-ups (or even rowing), and swapping over when a move is played. For this I would certainly recommend using a chess clock, although this may lead to a trade off between losing on time and wearing your opponent out.