Saturday 30 December 2023

2023 World Rapid and Blitz - Day 4

 Day 4 of the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz turned out to be pretty wild. The big news story was the game between Nepomniachtchi and Dubov in Round 13. They agreed to a draw after dancing their knights around the board for 12 moves, reaching the starting position (with the knights have swapped starting squares). The Fairplay team immediately alerted the Chief Arbiter, who scored the game 0-0. An appeal was lodged, but at 2:15 am it was rejected.

There was another appeal earlier in the tournament, around whether a clock was pressed, or whether it was faulty. This took an hour to resolve, throwing out the schedule considerably. And finally there was a technical issue with the pairings in the later rounds, resulting incorrect results being recorded on some lower boards (NB This was my responsibility as the tournament pairings officer to avoid, which I did not, and fix, which I did).

There was even some chess, with the day ending with 6 players tied for 1st on 9/12. Day 5 sees 9 rounds played in the Open (and 8 in the Women's), so an eventual winner may take some time to determine.

Friday 29 December 2023

2023 World Rapid and Blitz - Day 3

 Magnus Carlsen emerged as the winner of the 2023 World Rapid Championship, after 13 rounds of very tough play. His last day could be described as an exercise in tournament management, as he started with 2 wins (including beating his closest rival Vladimir Fedoseev) before finishing with 2 draws. With the final round games on the top boards also being drawn, he finished on 10/13, half a point ahead of Fedoseev. Behind the top two were 12 players on 9 points, with Yangyi Yu finishing with the Bronze Medal on tie-break.

The Women's Rapid saw a three way tie at the top, which necessitated a playoff match between the top two finishers on tie-break. After the initial 2 games, Anastasia Bodnaruk and Humpy Koneru were tied 1-1. The next game (sudden death) was drawn, but Bodnaruk won game 4 and the title. 

GM Anton Smirnov had a solid finish, scoring 2/4 on the last day to finish the event with 7/13 (+5=4-4). Felix Xie (NZ) finished with 3.5, and will no doubt benefit from the experience.

Today is the first day of the World Blitz Championship. There will be 11 rounds today, and 10 tomorrow.

Thursday 28 December 2023

2023 World Rapid and Blitz - Day 2

 Day 2 once again saw a number of upsets in the Rapid section of the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz. Magnus Carlsen started with another win, before slowing down with draws in the next 3 rounds. This allowed Vladimir Fedoseev and Yangyi Yu to catch him on 7/9. There is now a large pack of 13 players half a point off the lead.

One player who bounced back strongly after a slow start was GM Anton Smirnov. After score 1.5/5 on  day 1, he reeled of 3 straight wins  and a round 9 draw to end day 2 on 5 points. New Zealand representative Felix Xie would also be pleased with his second day results, scoring 2/4 to move up to 2.5/9.

Today is the final day of the Rapid, with 4 rounds to be played. In the case of a tie for 1st place, there will be playoffs arranged, which may involve up to 8(!) players.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

2023 World Rapind and Blitz - Starting day 2

 Day 2 of the 2023 FIDE World Rapid and Blitz is starting shortly. Day 1 went well (at least from my perspective), with lots of exciting chess, and no major incidents. There were a number of upsets on the first day, with a number of very strong GM's suffering at the hands of some younger talents. Given the faster time limit, it was no surprise that the top boards saw a number of players outside the top 50 take their turn in the spotlight of the top boards. 

There will be 4 rounds today in both sections, starting at 9pm Canberra time. There has been a lot of effort put into the live coverage of the games, so you are pretty much spoiled for choice when it comes to watching the event. Below is one of the games that attracted my attention while I was checking the game results.


Tuesday 26 December 2023

That did not start that badly

 Round 2 of the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz has begun, after the 1st round saw a number of upset results. The top 4 boards were all drawn, with Lev Aronian being the highest seeded player to collect the full point. This also the other top seeds disappear into mid-tables, with the exception of Magnus Carlsen, who gets to play on board 1 regardless of his score.

As for my job as Pairings Officer, things went quite smoothly. Everyone turned up, which is quite remarkable for an event of this size, and the first round results were processed both efficiently and accurately. The only delay was caused by displaying the next round pairings, which relied on getting the giant TV's in the playing hall to work, which did take some time.

2023 World Rapid and Blitz - starts today

 I've arrived in Samarkand for the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz, but there has been very little time for me to post an update. I spent around 36 hours traveling (mainly due to long lay overs between connections), before catching a few hours sleep on my arrival. The it was straight into the work of preparing for the tournament, which starts on the 26th.

As with all these events, the first major task is seeing who has/hasn't arrived. With 320+ players across both sections, there is always a chance that some players do not make it. In some cases it is visa issues, while in at least one case, trying to by tickets at the last minute failed due to no seats left on the planes. So while the expected field has been posted, nothing is official until 10am Samarkand time. 

If I do my job correctly (as the Pairings Officer for the Open section) play will begin at 3pm local time, which is 9pm Canberra time. The first day will see 5 rounds of the rapid, followed by 4 rounds on each of the next two days. I can tell you that Magnus Carlsen drew the white pieces at the opening ceremony, but who his first round opponent will be won't be known for a number of hours.

Saturday 23 December 2023

On the road

 I am heading off later today to be a Pairings Officer at the World Rapid and Blitz Championship. Eschewing the traditional method of travelling to Samarkand, I will still be in transit for the next 36 hours. To pass the time a little light reading, in the form of the decisions made by FIDE Council at its most recent meeting

Thursday 21 December 2023

Pocket Sets

 While doing some random Xmas shopping the other day, I came across some 'cheap and cheerful' chess sets. The kind that would never do for a competition game, but might be handing for a casual game on Boxing Day. It occurred to me that if serious chess players were given the choice between miniature sets, and oversized 'sculpture' sets, they would probably take the miniature set.

Bobby Fischer was said to carry one with him at all time, and Ulf Andersson used one on the way to becoming the highest rated Correspondence Chess player in 2002. Just in my line of sight as I type this are 5 such sets, and I suspect I have another half dozen scattered around the house. So if you are looking for a gift for another chess player, bigger is not necessarily better.

Monday 18 December 2023

Late nights and whiskey

 Except there was no whiskey.

For the last week and half, I've been attending various sessions of the 2023 FIDE Congress. This of course is from the comfort of my own home, as the whole congress was being held online. This started as a result of covid, but has continued for the non Olympiad years.

All very good in that counties that normally don't send a delegate in the off years were well represented, but not so good for delegates representing Oceania federations. Most meetings started at midnight Canberra time, and usually ran until 4 or 5 am in the morning. This meant that Oceania was probably less represented than other regions, although that made a difference overall is not clear.

Anyway, the major outcomes from the meetings that I attended were

  • Three new federations from Zone 3.6 (Oceania). Tonga and Vanuatu are now full member Federations, while New Caledonia is an Affiliated Member (can participate in FIDE events, but not vote at General Assembly's)
  • Term limits for the FIDE President are abolished (only a few years after being implemented) 
  • The 2028 Olympiad is to be held in Abu Dhabi. Genoa, Italy was the other bidder, and the deal breaker for them seemed to be getting visas for players from non-European countries. 
  • The proposed changes to the FIDE Rating System were approved (including the compression of ratings below 2000). These changes will take effect on 1st March 2024.
There were probably more important decisions, but for now, this is all my sleep deprived brain can remember,

Saturday 16 December 2023

Why no drop for mate?

 This is a follow up to a question asked in one the comments to a previous post.

I'm not sure this is the definitive reason why there is no "drop for mate" in Transfer (Bughouse), but at least in my memory, this rule was active in Canberra around 1983. In that year the Australian Junior Chess Championship was held in Canberra, and was organised by Nathan Stirling. On the opening day there was an introductory event, consisting of blitz and transfer.  For the transfer we were given the choice of allowing drop for checkmate, or not. IIRC the majority chose to allow 'drop for mate', and that was the rule adopted. I can remember winning at least one game using this method.

However in subsequent local events, the majority choice was 'no drop for mate'. At the time I assumed that both rules were equally used, and it was only after bughouse was played on the internet that it became clear that 'drop for mate' was the standard rule. However, Canberra has stuck with its preference, arguing that it requires greater skill to finish the game, rather than relying on a lucky break.

Friday 15 December 2023

2023 World Rapid and Blitz

 The player lists for the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz have been released. Magnus Carlsen is the top seed in the Open events, while Wenjun Ju is the top seed for the Women's Rapid and Tengjie Lei for the Women's Blitz.

All the events are incredibly strong, with the 200+ players in the Open, and 125 in the Women's event. The venue is Samarkand in Uzbekistan and the tournament runs from the 26th to the 30th of December. 

Full details of the tournament can be found at I will be onsite at the event, as I am one of the Pairings Officers for the tournament. Unlike the Chess Olympiad (where I have also filled this role), the turnaround times will be a lot quicker that one round a day, with the blitz schedule being 1 round every half an hour.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

An ideal game?

 I once read that Capablanca described the ideal chess game as one where a player played positionally correct moves, forced the win of material, and won with the last remaining pawn on the board. While I'm not convinced that all moves were positionally correct, it at least fulfilled the last of Capablanca's conditions.

Cheng,Larry - Press,Shaun [D03]
Swiss Festive Fun --- (6), 12.12.2023

Sunday 10 December 2023

Bakers Attack ? !

 I played in the annual Transfer (bughouse) event held in Canberra each year, with middling results. However, when I had the opportunity I wheeled out was I vaguely remembered was an opening called "Baker's Attack". It is an early sacrifice on f7, using 1.Nf3 2.Ne5 and 3.Nxf7. The the idea is to go the hack, either with an early Qh5+, or with e4 followed by Bc4+ 

However, I've failed to find an online reference to it, which may mean I am misremembering the name, or that it is even a real thing. Nonetheless, it did give me a few wins, even if isn't quite effective under the rules that are normally used in the ACT*

(*It has been a long tradition in Canberra Bughouse events that you cannot for a piece for checkmate. You can drop for forced mate, but not for an instant mate)

Friday 8 December 2023

Just the right amount

 After a game involving direct sacrifices, and a game which was more restrained, this game lands somewhere in the middle. It does involve an attack on the king, with a piece sacrifice, but the offer of a piece was more to distract White from the best defence, rather than the overrun the White position. And unlike the other 2 games, play wasn't the best for either side, with stronger moves being available at various points.

Horikawa,Keisuke - Press,Shaun [C56]
Swiss Festive Fun --- (4), 28.11.2023

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Slightly less violent

 After yesterdays lesson in targeting the king, a slightly more restrained game, in this case played by myself. In the end my opponent took a few liberty's in the opening (taking both centre pawns gives White too much play), and never quite untangled himself. At move 17 I was planning to play Be3 with the idea of winning the exchange after 18.Nc7, but I realised it was stronger if I reversed the move order. The game ended when my opponent flagged in a losing position.

Press,Shaun - Grcic,Milan [E04]
Swiss Festive Fun --- (5), 05.12.2023

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Some Street Chess carnage

 This game was played in the final round of a recent Street Chess event. I'm not sure of the provenance of 8.Qd2 (due to a broken Chessbase database), but after move 11, White was well ahead.  The only difficult question seemed to be the timing of the sacrifice on h6.

Press,Harry - Li,Hui [D55]
Street Chess (7), 02.12.2023

Monday 4 December 2023

London Chess Classic

 The London Chess Classic has returned, albeit in a much smaller form than in pre-covid years. It is now consists of a single 10 player RR, rather than the mix of GM event, Open swisses, monster rapids, and other events. 

The GM event is strong as usual, with 4 English GM's against 6 visiting players. There are a couple of interesting inclusions, including Gukesh, who is trying to qualify for the 2024 Candidates, and Hans Neimann, on a hot streak after winning in Zagreb last week.

At this stage 2 rounds have been played, with some interesting games on show. GM Michael Adams (current World Seniors Champion) won a very nice game in round 1, against his slightly higher rated opponent. If I had to take a lesson from the game, it would be the player who kept the better pawn structure, had the better result.


Adams,Michael (2670) - Tabatabaei,M. Amin (2694) [C50]
13th London Classic 2023 London ENG (1.4), 01.12.2023

Friday 1 December 2023

Some surprising endgames

 Today I helped run a school chess event in country NSW. It was a small affair, with 34 players taking part, and the emphasis was on fun and learning, rather than competition. Despite the relative inexperience of a lot of the players there were still some games that attracted my attention. Specifically, there were a number of endgames that may well have appeared in stronger events, even if that wasn't the intention.

In no particular order I saw

  • K+Q v K+R (win for the Q)
  • K+B+N v K (at least twice, both being drawn)
  • K v K (drawn of course)
  • K+2N v K+P (eventually drawn. I guess they haven't studied Troitzky as yet)
And while there were a few drawn K+QvK games (either by stalemate or exhaustion), there were more than a few conversions, which was pleasing to see.