Saturday 20 April 2024

Yeh, nah

 Sometimes a trap is so tempting, so obvious, and so spectacular, that there is no way it could work. And in a lot of cases you would be right. But sometimes you play it anyway, and it turns out that it really doesn't work. The game below is an example, except the trap did work. To preserve the identities of the perpetrator and the victim, I'm leaving the names off. The moves given are what *should have happened* if Black had played 7. ... Qb6. Instead he chose 7. ... Qd6?? and resigned after 8.Ne5+ Kd8 9.Nxf7+ 7. ... Qb6 would have been -3 for White with the correct follow up

FM White - Mr Black
I'm not telling Swiss

Friday 19 April 2024

Down to 4

 After a couple of exciting rounds, the 2024 Candidates is down to 4 players. There is a 3 way tie at the top, with Nepo, Naka, and Gukesh all on 7.5, with Fabi on 7. Nepo and Nakamura have the toughest assignments, playing each other in round 13 and then Caruana and Gukesh respectively in the last round. Gukesh has an out of form Firouzja in round 13, while Caruana is playing a much tougher Prag. At this stage Gukesh seems to have the best run home, but this could all change if Nakamura can pull off the big final round comeback. 

Caruana,Fabiano (2803) - Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2727) [C54]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (12.4), 18.04.2024

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax ...

 I was asked by one of my readers about whether I was going to comment on the latest happenings in the Candidates Tournament. My initial inclination was to say no*, but with todays extra spice I've changed my mind.

Yesterdays fun started when Chief Arbiter Aris Marghetis asked Alireza Firouzja to stop making so much noise with his shoes when walking around. Apparently this had disturbed at least one other player, who had complained to Aris. Firouzja was not happy about the request, and after the round complained on social media. 

As an Arbiter, I've also had to deal with this issue from time to time. It usually occurs when the venue has hard wood floors, and more formal shoes (ie not sandshoes) are being worn. Normally such requests are handled in good spirits, although not always.

Having dealt with yesterdays issues, another Firouzja related incident occurred in todays round. Normally no spectators/seconds/family members are allowed on the playing floor after the round starts. However this as relaxed for later rounds, with access for the first 15 minutes for family etc being allowed. However, when Firouzja father was asked to leave he made a bit of a scene, and outside said he was going to call the police on the organisers. Again this looks like a case of a reasonably normal request being treated with outright hostility. Again in my experience as an arbiter, players/parents/spectators who insist on everyone else being potential lawbreakers are the ones that react the worst when regulations to protect the integrity of the event are applied to them!

*By way of explanation. At one point in the lead up to the Candidates I was asked if I was available to be one of the Deputy Arbiters. I did say yes, but it then turned out they rolled the job of Deputy Arbiter and Fairplay officer into one position and I was the odd one out. I've also worked with Aris Marghetis in the past and he is an excellent arbiter, especially in the area of  'crowd control'. So anything I write on this topic is going to support the decisions he made.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Watching rather than writing

 I'm a big fan of reading about chess (and most other things) but I am falling into the trap of watching more chess than reading (or writing). Maybe this is just me catching up with the times, or just part of my continuing descent into laziness. It probably hasn't been helped in the short term by picking up my usual cold after running an interschool event (120 players at the ACT Girls Primary Championships). 

Having said that I will probably stick to writing as (a) I have a good face for radio and (b) it probably takes *more* effort to produce visual content than it does to produce written content.

Monday 8 April 2024

Randomised positions

 While there is a belief that top level chess has a dependence on extensive opening preparation, I'm not convinced it is true. Certainly Carlsen seems to do well with his "make it up as I go along" opening approach, and a number of other players are following his lead. The following game from the Candidates certainly started with a surprise opening, but the evaluation of who was better seemed to swing back and forward throughout the game, indicating the while Prag may have been comfortable with the opening, he wasn't relying on it to deliver a victory.

Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2727) - Praggnanandhaa R (2747) [C70]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (3.4), 05.04.2024

Sunday 7 April 2024

Candidates Chaos

 The 2024 Candidates Tournament is underway in Toronto, and round 2 of the Open section saw 4 decisive games. Probably the most noteworthy was Vidit beating Nakamura, although Caruana's win over Abasov may be the most consequential. 

Going into the tournament, Caruana was probably the favourite, with Nakamura considered the player most likely to defy the odds. However, considering the rating spread of the field, I think the games between the leaders won't be as important as the games against the back markers (like Candidates events of old). So the win by Caruana was an important won, as was Nepo's win over Firouzja. If at the halfway mark someone is +3 (or more), then it may be all over for the rest of the field.

Caruana,Fabiano (2803) - Abasov,Nijat (2632) [B30]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (2.4), 04.04.2024

Friday 5 April 2024

Melbourne International Open

 With the Doeberl Cup run and done for another year, a number of players made their way to Melbourne for the new Melbourne International Open. The brain child of local organiser Walter Wolffs, the event has attracted both a large and strong field. And whether there were some residual effects from the Doeberl schedule, the first couple of rounds were a bit of a bloodbath for the top seeds. 

The top 4 boards saw the higher rated players only manage 1.5 (3 draws and a loss), with GM Darryl Johansen also a victim. After that things settled down a bit, although there are few GM's and IM's playing catch up. 

And while the net effect of this may be to provide lower seeded players a change to challenge titled players, the results aren't always pretty.

Venkatesh,M.R. (2382) - Li,Tedric (1990) [C00]
Round 4: Venkatesh, M.R. - Li, Tedric Melbourne International Open, 04.04.2024

Tuesday 2 April 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Three in a row for Melkumyan

 GM Hrant Melkumyan has recorded his 3rd O2C Doeberl Cup tournament win in  a row, after a dominant performance in the 2024 edition. Going into the final round a full point ahead, he drew with GM Mitrabha Guha to reach 8/9. IM Peng Cheng also drew on board 2, to take 2nd place on 7/9. IM Arghyadip Das defeated FM Albert Winkleman on board 3 to take a share of 2nd, also ending Winkelman's chances of scoring an IM norm in the process. 

The Major was won by Bryan Yang on 6..5/7. He finished a point ahead of Elliot Wong, Ethan Chang and Daniel Wang. The Minor was shared between Austin Chen and Chee Seng Lue, who both scored 6/7. The Mini saw Aden Power finish with a perfect 7/7, a full point ahead of Alexander Warne.

Monday 1 April 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

 GM Hrant Melkumyan ended the 4th day of the 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup with one hand firmly attached to the trophy. After a draw in round 7 against IM James Morris, he played a nice attacking game against FM Fred Litchfield to maintain his one point lead over the chasing pack. Chinese IM Peng Cheng holds down second place after beating Morris in Round 8, with the Indian trio of GM Guha, GM Venkatesh and IM Das in equal third.

Of interest to the Canberra Chess community is FM Albert Winkelmans final round games against IM Das. A win for Winkelman will secure him an IM norm, his first. Other Canberra players on the top boards are IM Junta Ikeda (Board 4) and FM Frred Litchfield (Board 7).

The final round will finish around 1:30pm today. You can see the final standings for the Premier, and the other events at

Sunday 31 March 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

 GM Hrant Melkumyan is on track for another Doeberl Cup win, starting the tournament with 6 from 6. In the morning round he defeated reigning Australian Champion IM Rishi Sardana, and then IM Mihajlo Radovanovic in the afternoon round. He is now a full point ahead of second place with 3 rounds to play.

One of the players in 2nd place is FM Albert Winkelman, who has good chances of scoring an IM norm. He has a performance rating over 2500 and his round 7 pairing against GM M Venkatesh gives him the required mix of opponents for a valid norm. Also in 2nd place are IM James Morris, IM Peng Cheng, and FM Fred Litchfield. Despite Litchfield's good score (5/6), starting the event with a round 1 loss has meant that the field he has faced is well below the level needed for a title norm!

Day 3 also saw the holding of the traditional Doeberl Blitz event. This year there 2 events, and early starting Under 1600 blitz and the regular late event Open. GM Anton Smirnov won the 120 player Open blitz with 8/9, ahead of a field that included GM Mitrabha Guha, IM James Morris, IM Mihajlo Radovanovic and WIM Heather Richards.

Today will see Melkumyan face James Morris on the top board, Peng Cheng against Litchfield on the 2nd board, and Winkelman v Ventatesh on board 3. Lower down a closely watched pairing involves IM Gary Lane against Ryan Lane on board 11.

Saturday 30 March 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

 Day 2 of the 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the rest of the sections join up with the Premier. 413 players in total sat down to play when all events officially began at 1pm on Friday, which is once again, a record entry for the tournament.

Round 3 of the Premier had a sensation on the top board,  with GM Hrant Melkumyan having a walkover win againt GM M Venkatesh. Suffering the effects of jet lag, Venkatesh overslept, missing the 1pm start, and the 30 minute deadline to show up. The extra rest probably assisted Melkumyan, as he won a very long round 4 game against IM Peng Chen to reach 4/4. In joint second are IM Rishi Sardana, IM James Morris, and FM Albert Winkelman. Sardana and Morris drew their Round 4 game against each other, while Winkelman drew with Indian GM Mitrabha Guha.

As for the other events, there were the usual upsets across the top boards, especially in the Major and Minor,  with less than half od the top 10 seeds getting to 2/2. Full results from all events can be found at

Friday 29 March 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

 The 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup began with the first 2 rounds of the Premier section. This year's field includes 4 GM's, 8 IM's and 38 titled players overall. While the top boards saw the usual rating gap between top half an bottom half, this actually shrunk on the lower boards, in part due to the recent changes to the FIDE Rating System. Consequently there were a few upsets in the first round, and even into the second.

Defending champion GM Hrant Melkumyan started the tournament with 2 straightforward wins (including one over Harry Press). 2nd seed Mitrabha Guhu found round 2 a lot tougher, salvaging a draw against FM Michael Steadmen (NZ) from a position where he was a lot worse. IM Das from India and IM Ikeda from Canberra were also held to draws by their lower ranked opponents in the 2nd round. 

Round 3 has 10 players on 2/2. The top board will see GM Venkatesh face GM Melkumyan in a game that will be an early indicator of how the tournament may work out for both players.

The rest of the tournament sections start today, with last years record entry already broken. Across the 5 section there are 415 players taking part. The action begins at 1pm today. GM Darryl Johansen is providing onsite commentary of the Premier section, while games are being broadcast (on a 30m delay) at Lichess 

Ashwath Kaushik (1986) - Sardana,Rishi (2476) [B96]
Round 1, 2024 Doeberl Cup, 28.03.2024

Wednesday 27 March 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Starts tomorrow

 The 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup begins tomorrow, with the first 2 rounds of the Premier. The pairings for the Premier are available at As with any large tournament (416 players in total) there have been a couple of hiccups. We lost a couple of GM's at the last(ish) minute, in at least one case due to the sudden scheduling of a national teams event. On the other hand the event has attracted a larger than usual group of titled players, so there will be plenty of exciting games.

The first round begins at 1pm tomorrow, with round 2 at 7pm. There will be live coverage on Lichess while GM Darryl Johansen will be providing live commentary on site. If you are in Canberra, feel free to drop into the Canberra Southern Cross Club in Woden. Spectators are welcome.

For results, links and further information head to

Monday 25 March 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Arriving GM's

 With the 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup starting on Thursday, the first of the visiting GM''s are starting to arrive. The 2024 Commonwealth Champion GM Mitrabha Guha is arriving early tomorrow, and will be soon followed by a number of other strong players. Coming off a number of recent good results, Guha looks to be in form, and may prove a threat to tope seed GM Hrant Melkumyan, who is aiming for his third win in a row (and 4th overall).

Mitrabha,Guha (2526) - Rohith Krishna S (2410) [A36]
202 Commonwealth Championship, Round 9

Friday 22 March 2024

Simple questions with simple answers

 Saw this on youtube (no link cause I am lazy)
"Is checkers a better game than chess?" No

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - 1 week to go

 The 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup starts in a week, and at this stage the event is very close to breaking last years attendance record. The Premier is the strongest it has been for years, with 5 GM's, 8 IM's and 27 other titles players. Both the Major (Under 2100) and Minor (Under 1800) have reached capacity, while there are a few spots left in the Mini (Under 1500) and the Under 1200 event. 

With last years Blitz event attracting a field of 177 players, this years Blitz will have 2 sections. There will be an early starting Under 1600 event (beginning at 5:30pm on the Saturday), and the Open event (starting at 7:30pm). And for the first time since 2019 there will be an onsite commentator, with GM Daryl Johansen covering all 5 days of the tournament.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

I was today years old

 I only learned today that the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 f5?! was the Rousseau Gambit. I'd heard this opening discussed numerous times within the Canberra chess scene, but for some reason I thought it was a different opening, and the moves above were just sort of dodgy Italian/Latvian hybrid (The Italvian Opening?). I'd even played it in the past at fast time limits, albeit with little success.

Despite it's poor reputation it sometimes works out for Black. Here GM Dejan Bojkov comes undone against Pavel Dimitrov in what appears to be a brutal kingside hack.

Bojkov,Dejan (2514) - Dimitrov,Pavel (2304) [C50]
BUL-chT-A 62nd Sunny Beach (1.3), 19.09.2012

Sunday 17 March 2024

Roll your own openings

 Every time someone mentions the Jobava London to me, I feel compelled to point out that the true author of this opening was Canberra junior player, Gary Wilson. Indeed, Wilson was playing it before Jobava was born (Nov 1983), so credit where credit is due.

I'm now seeing a similar case, although to be fair, it isn't an exact copy. Anna Cramling has created her own opening, The Cow. Not so much an opening as a system, the basic moves are e3,d3,Ne2-Ng3,Nd2-b3,Be2,Bd2. White allows Black to opportunity to build the big centre, before trying to dismantle it.

If White played 1.d4 (instead of d3), it would be very similar to a system that Canberra player Erik Jochimsen has been playing for years. The early knight manoeuvre to g3 is a staple of the system, followed by the development of the white squared bishop. Now I'm not sure what Anti-Cow strategies have been developed, but once local players targeted the knight on g3 with a h pawn thrust, Jochimsen found the opening was not as effective as he had hoped it would be. But ever the optimist, Jochimsen has stuck with it, keeping faith with his invention.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Some important AGM's

 If you are a Canberra resident (or live close by) there are a couple of important Annual General Meetings coming up.

The ACT Junior Chess League AGM is on Sunday 17th March 1:30pm at Campbell High School (during the ACTJCL Autumn Allegro). It is open to the parents of members of the ACTJCL. The ACTJCL has been running without a full committee for the last few years and so there is a need for parents to step up and fill the executive roles.

The ACT Chess Association AGM is being held on Thursday 28th March 7:00pm at the Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden. This is during the Doeberl Cup, so members can drop in a spectate the Premier, before attending the AGM. Unlike the Junior Chess League, the ACTCA has been running with a full committee (who are re-standing this year), but that should not prevent interested members from attending.


Monday 11 March 2024

Burning bridges

 One advantage higher rated players often have, is that their lower rated opponents feel the need to do something dramatic, to try and avoid being ground down. I fell into this trap recently, blundering a piece to a faulty combination last week at my club, while the example below came from the final round of the Ballarat Begonia Open. While top seed GM Gawain Jones would be expected to win this final round clash, his opponents over optimistic attack made the task a lot simpler.

Jones,Gawain (2618) - Chan,Kris (2071) [E90]
Begonia Open 2024 Ballarat, Australia (7.1), 11.03.2024

Saturday 9 March 2024

Some blindfold practice

 Try and visualise the following position - White:Kf1, Rd6, Pa7,d7,g3,h3 Black: Kd8, Ra2, Pg5,g6,h7

How do you play as white?

(From the book Cognitive Chess by Konstantin Chernyshov)

Despite getting the position in my head quite quickly, it still took me around 5 minutes before I worked out the winning idea. See how well you can do.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

A proper GM event

 The headline is a little dramatic, in that there are lots of proper GM events. But the Shenzen Masters kind of feels like a pre-covid GM event, rather than the an event that is squeezed between the next online KO/Rapid/Troll-fest that seems to be prevalent today. Four local GM's and 4 foreign GM's in the 2600-2800 range has seen some entertaining games. 

The one game I picked from the tournament is a 30 mover, surprisingly won by Black using the Petroff. In the end the sneaky black pawn on b2 made all the difference.

Erigaisi,Arjun (2738) - Bu Xiangzhi (2671) [C43]
5th Shenzhen Longgang Shenzhen CHN (2), 01.03.2024

Sunday 3 March 2024

2024 Olympiad

 It might seem a long way off, but the wheels are already in motion for Federations planning to attend the 2024 Chess Olympiad. It will be held in Budapest in mid September, but Federations are already able to register their attendance. In fact the deadline for doing so is sometime next week, so the organisers are clearly trying to have a solid estimate of numbers well in advance.

Although the actual team registrations are not open as yet, I do note that the New Zealand Chess Federation is off to an early start, having already selected their squads. Normally the Australian teams are selected some time after Easter, while for other teams in the region selections are often complicated by availability of players (due to work/financial issues).

Friday 1 March 2024

Xmas day for chess players

 The 1st of March FIDE Rating List saw the proposed rating 'compression' come into effect. All rated players under 2000 were given a rating boost, based on the formula New rating = Old rating + (0.4 * (2000 - Old rating)). So for a player rated 1001 that would bee 400 points, while a player rated 1990, that would be 4 points. 

From a local point of view there ware 2 main effects. Firstly, lots of players qualify for higher categories in the upcoming Doeberl Cup. Secondly, there may well be a lot of 'farming' going on, as older players regain some of the points previously lost to younger players (ie rather than avoiding junior players, it may be an advantage in playing them as their ratings increased by a greater amount)

Thursday 29 February 2024

Every 4 years

 In honour of the 29th of Feb, I've dug up a game that was played on the 29th of Feb, and lasted 29 moves!

Fressinet,Laurent (2700) - Ding,Liren (2766) [D78]
China Elite Mind blitz Huaian (20), 29.02.2016

Monday 26 February 2024

Similar concepts

 While sorting out some games from my current club event, I was struck by the similarity between the game featured in the "Found Scoresheets" article, and the one played below. They both used a combination of the knight and dark squared bishop to attack c7, and in both cases Nb5 was an important move. The other interesting thing was that they were played at exactly the same time, on the same table (this game being on Board 2). I'm sure some advanced plagiarism detector might have something to say about that, but apart from noticing that Nb5 was a threat in the board 1 game, I can't say that I borrowed anything specifically from it.

Press,Shaun - Garland,Liam [E67]
Rama Memorial --- (4), 20.02.2024

Saturday 24 February 2024

Off to the show

 The Canberra Show is on this weekend, and I plan to visit tomorrow. There is even a chess themed craft competition this year, with prizes for the best crafted chess sets. However (according to Philp Vels, who tipped me off), the distinguishing feature of every set on display, is that they are all set up incorrectly. Apart from the usual 'white on right' error, there are also some sets with the kings and queens on the wrong starting squares, or the slightly more imaginative, king opposite queen across the board.

I will take photos.

Thursday 22 February 2024

Lost scoresheets

 The flipside to yesterday's post on Found Scoresheets, are lost scoresheets. Sometimes they legitimately disappear, but in some case, they are "lost" because looking at them is somewhat painful. 

As an example, the scoresheet for the game below was "lost" for a number of days. Having collected an undeserved point*, and generally unhappy with the course of the game, I couldn't locate the scoresheet the next day. To be honest, I didn't look terribly hard for it either, and assumed it had gone out with the rubbish. In fact it was where I normally put my scoresheets after a game (in my bag), but it took me a week to realise this. So here is a "lost scoresheet" game, with apologies to my opponent.

*My opponent left a knight fork on at the end, and resigned due to not realising he was still winning.

Knight,Will - Press,Shaun [C27]
Rama Memorial --- (3), 13.02.2024

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Found scoresheets

 One of the simple pleasures in life is finding a book that you know nothing about, and discovering it is quite a good read. I've had occasion to do this, usually when travelling, or simply out and about. The chess equivalent of this may well be finding a left behind scoresheet at a tournament or club.

The game below is from one such scoresheet. To be fair, it was actually played on the board next to mine at the Gungahlin Chess Club yesterday evening, but if one of the players hadn't left it behind, then I doubt I would have remembered enough of the game to put it here. 

The game itself has a few points of interest. Before the game Matt Radisich was being encourage to play the Albin Counter Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5), but thought that FM Fred Litchfield would avoid it with 2.Nf3. So when 2.c4 was played, Radisich had a bit of a think, probably weighing up the chances that White had something prepared. 5.Bf4 was another interesting choice, as this gave White an opportunity to play an eventual Nb5, although I had assumed that Black would takes steps to prevent this. When he failed to do so, Blacks positions was already close to collapsing, which it did after a short tactical sequence around move 20.

But the real lesson from this game. Always clean up after yourself.

Litchfield,Fred - Radisich,Matt [D10]
Rama Memorial 20.02.2024

Tuesday 20 February 2024

David Bronstein

 Yesterday (19 February) was the 100th anniversary of the birth of David Bronstein. Although he never became World Champion (tying his only match 12-12 with Mikhail Botvinnik) he was still one of the most consequential figures in modern chess. Early on in his career he developed or strengthened a number of important opening systems, while towards the end he participated in a number of matches involving increasingly strong chess engines. 

An inventive attacking player, Bronstein demonstrated a propensity for sacrificial play from the very start of his chess career,

Bronstein,David I - Zaslavsky,A [C43]
Bronstein in Kiev Kiev, 1938

Saturday 17 February 2024

2024 ACT Teams Competition

The 2024 ACT Teams Rapid Championship is being held on Sunday, 3rd March 2024, at Campbell High. This event is open to all ACTCA members as well as all members of the ACTJCL. The format of the tournament is teams of 4, playing 7 rounds of 15 minute chess. The last event was held in 2022 and a good time was had by all.

Tournament Details
Date: Sunday 3rd March 2024 - Registration from 9:30am, Prize giving at 3:30pm

Venue: Campbell High School, Trealor Cres, Campbell ACT

Rounds: 7

Time control: G15+5s

Prizes: 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed trophies. Medals for the best scorer on each board. Bonus prizes for best dressed team, best work/social team. The Larko Cup will be awarded to the best official club team

Team Rules
1. Teams consist of 4 players (+1 reserve if you wish)
2. The average rating of boards 2,3 and 4 must be below 1850 (FIDE Rapid). Board 1 can have any rating you wish! If a player does not have a FIDE Rapid rating, then ACF Quickplay will be used. Unrated players will count as 1400 (NB FIDE is increasing players ratings on 1st March 2024)
3. Teams must play in rating order (players within 50 points of each other may swap)
4. Players without a team are welcome as teams will also be formed on the day
5. Each team will appoint a captain who is responsible for results etc

Cost: $10 per player (Pay on the day)

Lunch: A nutritious lunch will be provided by the organisers

Pre-registration: To make organising a little easier, teams can be submitted to Shaun Press There will be a lucky door prize for teams that pre-register

Rated: This event will be ACF and FIDE Rated.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Some basic endgame tips on youtube

 A shameless plug for an eventual 12 part series on Basic Endings for Beginners (based on the book of the title by JH Blake)

The direct link is

Monday 12 February 2024

Oops I Resigned One More Time

 After the success of his book "Oops I Resigned Again", GM Ian Rogers has released a follow up. "Oops I Resigned One More Time". Once again the book looks at the tragic side of chess, where players prematurely throw in the towel, instead of finding the saving, or even the winning, move.

Each chapter consists of 5 positions, where the reader is asked to find the saving move. With 20 chapters, there are 100 position of varying degrees of difficulty to work through. But that's not all! Every position has a story attached to it, whether it is the circumstances behind the game, a potted history of one of the players involved, or just an amusing anecdote related to the position. So you actually get 2 books for the price of 1! A book to help you sharpen your tactics, plus a book of engaging chess stories which you can share next time you are at the club.

The book is available from Australian Chess Enterprises (for local readers) plus online retailers for overseas buyers.

(** I was sent a review copy of the book, as well as having one of my own games featured **)

Sunday 11 February 2024

The downside of playing for tricks

 There are some games where you just fall into the trap of playing for tricks. Common sense disappears and instead, each move is based on some dodgy 2 move trick you hope your opponent will fall for. Here is an example where White tries for a tricky idea around move 12, which basically loses. After that he just keeps digging a deeper hole, hoping his opponent might fall in (Narrators voice: No he didn't)

Stevanic,David (2294) - Kozlovic,Jernej (2174) [C52]
28th HIT Open 2024 Nova Gorica SLO (9.12), 02.02.2024

Friday 9 February 2024

2024 Book Fair

 This years Lifeline Book Fair was absolutely packed. Even getting there early left me a long way back in the queue. Fortunately there was quite a large collection of chess books on offer, so I didn't miss out on the bargains. 

Somewhat shamefully I did by a book on the London System, but I made up for it by grabbing a copy of the Jan Timman classic "The Art of Chess Analysis". At first I thought I already owned a copy but it turns out that it was a significant omission from my library. I did grab a few other titles, and also was interviewed by ABC Radio while browsing. As the Book Fair runs until Sunday I will probably make the effort to return towards the end, to see what remains.

Thursday 8 February 2024

Things Shaun has been doing recently

 Putting together a new 5 shelf bookshelf.

Why? Because it is the Lifeline Bookfair tomorrow. No other reason is necessary.

Monday 5 February 2024

2024 O2C Doeberl Cup - Choosing your section

 There are now only 8 weeks to go before the 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup. At this stage there are 154 entries across all the divisions, which is 37 more than this stage last year. 

While the tournament format is the same as last year (except for an additional Under 1600 Lightning event on Saturday evening), there is one change that players might not be aware of. Although the rating cutoffs are unchanged, FIDE is giving all players rated under 2000 a one off rating boost on the 1st March. This means that players who would normally not have a high enough rating to qualify for a section may now do so, based on their FIDE rating. To make it clear, the rating cutoffs for the various sections will not be changed. Players can ask to move up (if their rating allows), after the 1st of March.

The other thing I should remind people of, is that the rules for the rating cut offs are enforced ruthlessly. Every year we receive emails from parents (and the odd grown up), asking for special consideration for their child (or themselves)  to be allowed to play in a higher section. The answer is always no. And all the time I have been reading these emails, there has only been one case where a player over performed in the section they qualified for (an unrated adult player in the Minor about 10 years back). 

(** I am the Chief Organiser of the 2024 O2C Doeberl Cup ** )

Saturday 3 February 2024

I thought we were good

 Some more drama in the world of chess, with the St Louis Chess Club releasing a statement concerning GM Hans Niemann. Basically it says that due to past behaviour, he is not invited to any events being organised by the St Louis Chess Club for the remainder of 2024.

While they did not list the behaviour concerned, Niemann copped to damaging a hotel room while attending a previous event. And while this is a matter between Niemann and the SLCC, one aspect of it did pique my interest. In complaining about his treatment, Niemann remarked that having apologised to the hotel (and paid the cost of damages), he thought he was in the clear. The fact that they did not see it in the same way was somehow unfair on him.

Previously I posted something on how people justify there own poor behaviour (Techniques of Neutralisation) This response from Niemann seems to be related to that, specifically a variant on Denial of Harm. Believing he fixed the issue, he seems to contend there was no harm done. There is also an element of Denial of Victim here as well, arguing that he is the 'good guy' because he apologised, and therefore the SLCC and the hotel concerned are behaving badly. 

But clearly the SLCC and the hotel see it differently, which is the real point here. You don't get to behave badly, and then set the parameters on how such behaviour is to be treated. 

Thursday 1 February 2024

Softly, softly

 The FIDE Qualification Commission has decided to restrict the use of Scheveningen and Schiller format events for earning title norms. The full announcement can be found at 

As the statement says, the motivation for this decision is mainly about what titles represent. Historically, chess titles were awarded (formally or informally) as a consequence of achievements in important and significant events. I* would like to think this should still be the case, recognising that the growth in chess has lead to a growth in the number of events that may fit this criteria. Nonetheless, I believe that there still should be standards applied to the events that award titles, rather than existing for the sole purpose of simply awarding titles. 

(*I am the Secretary of the FIDE Qualification Commission, and drafted the linked statement on behalf of QC)

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Club season kick off

 The Gungahlin Chess Club started its first tournaments of the year, with the Ramakrishna Memorial and the Gungahlin Junior Championship running side by side. A total of 44 players turned up to play, which is a good number to start the year. I was called in as the 'house man' for the Ramakrishna Memorial, and got off to a good start, scoring a nice win in 17 moves. After my opponents 8th move, I decided to check out 9.e4 as a response, and having looked at enough lines to convince me it worked, played it. I had calculated that I was better up until around move  14, and when I reached that point, realised I had a pretty quick checkmate, which my opponent kindly let me play on the board.

Press,Shaun - Cunningham,Cam [D15]
Ramakrishna Memorial --- (1), 30.01.2024

Sunday 28 January 2024

I did enjoy that

 Just spent the last few days watching the 2nd Test Match between Australia and the West Indies. In the end, the West Indies won by 8 runs (which for non cricket fans is a very close result). Having started seriously following cricket from 1974 onwards, I spent most of the first 20 years watching Australia get soundly beaten by the West Indies (1975-76 being the exception). From the late 90's onwards this flipped, with Australia being the dominate team, but as someone who thought Australia ay never win a series against the West Indies, I'm OK with todays result. Well done to the West Indies for a well deserved victory.

Friday 26 January 2024

Roy Teymant OAM

 Congratulations to Roy Teymant, who has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal, in the 2024 Australia Day Honours. The rather terse entry simply says "For services to chess", although it is certainly for more than that.

Roy has been a long term organiser in Canberra,  particularly with the Canberra Chess Club. When the club was in a bit of a slump, he took on the management role at the club, rebuilding it up to it's former glory. He has also served on the ACT Chess Association Committee for a number of years, assisting the ACTCA in organising various events in the nations capital. I believe Roy is the first local player/organiser to be recognised for work in chess, and it is a well deserved honour.

Also being recognised on the honours list was another recipient with a chess connection. Dr June Factor was mas a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her work in the field of literature. Apart from being a successful author, she is also GM Ian Roger's mother. 

Thursday 25 January 2024

Bacon, Morphy, Erdos

 I saw a recent article concerning the mathematician Paul Erdos. A prolific collaborator and publisher, he was probably the first subject of the 'n degrees of separation' game, which was more popularly attached to the actor Kevin Bacon.

In the world of chess there is also the concept of the Morphy number, where you trace the number of steps back to Paul Morphy, through a chain of opponents. Surprisingly, my Morphy number seems higher than either my Erdos or Bacon numbers, although the distance in time may account for this.

My Erdos number is 4, having collaborated on a paper with someone whose Erdos number was 3. My Bacon number (probably 4) is somewhat tenuous, as I worked on an amateur film with the Australian actor Joseph Clements (we we 12 years old at the time!, and I don't believe it was ever completed or shown). But my Morphy number appears to be 5, via GM Ian Rogers who has a Morphy number of 4, at least the last time I checked. Of course there may be other paths that I am not aware of, but I'm happy enough with 5.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

How not to play chess

 While it is certainly harder to play good chess than bad chess, the reasons for being bad at chess do deserve some study. I did see a quote (allegedly from Lasker), about not understanding how people could be bad at chess, but maybe I imagined it.

There is a book called "How Not To Play Chess" by Zonosko-Borovsky, although his first rule is the rather broad "Avoid Mistakes". He does break it down a little, but if I was explaining this concept, I would at least have the following

  • Don't get checkmated
  • Don't lose your queen
  • Don't lose other pieces
  • Don't lose pawns
  • Don't try and win by moving the same piece over and over
After that I would probably line up with what Zonosko-Borovsky said, such as "Don't make automatic replies", "Don't abandon the centre", "Don't surrender open files"

But in reality, for new players, it is the first set of rules that you need to focus on. otherwise the rest of the rules won't matter

Monday 22 January 2024

When is it a good time to resign?

 For some players, there is never a good time to resign. "Play it out" is their mantra. For others, resigning is a way of gaining at some small amount of dignity for an otherwise awful game. But generally, there is no absolutely correct answer.

In the following game between Firouzja and Ding Liren, there were potentially 3 places where an understandable resignation could occur. The first was on move 21 after Firouza collected 2 pieces for a rook. The second was on move 30, when Firouzja was ahead a piece for a pawn. And the third was when it did actually happen, as Ding realised he had no more saving chances.

Firouzja,Alireza (2759) - Ding,Liren (2780) [D40]
Tata Steel Masters 2024 Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands (8.6), 21.01.2024

Thursday 18 January 2024

Gungahlin Chess Club - Meet and greet

 Gungahlin Chess Club is resuming next Tuesday, 23rd January. The first night is a bit of a casual meet and greet, with the more serious events starting the week after. If you have never played club chess before and you live in the close by (North Canberra, Gungahlin, Belconnen etc) then drop in to the Eastlakes Gungahlin Club (51 Hinder St Gungahlin) from 7pm on Tuesday.

The following Tuesday sees the start of 2 events. The Gungahlin Junior Championship is for all players under 18 years old, while the Ramakrishna Memorial is for players 18 years and older. Both are 7 round events (one round per week), with a time limit of G60m+30s.

The full years calendar is at

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Black is more than OK

 Another round of Tata Steel, another set of wins for Black. If I can count correctly, there have been 10 black wins and only 1 white win over the first 21 games. Is it because White is over pressing? Have a lot of White opening lines been sorted out? or just a quirk in the pairings?

Donchenko,Alexander (2643) - Giri,Anish (2749) [E60]
Tata Steel Masters 2024 Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands (3.2), 15.01.2024

Sunday 14 January 2024

Ding Returns

 After an extended post-world championship layoff, Ding Liren has returned to international chess. He is taking part in the Tata Steel masters, which began yesterday in The Netherlands. His first round opponent was Vidit (IND), and the game ended in a draw. I'm not sure if there were signs of Ding being a little rusty, as I thought White stood better for a lot of the game, although by the end, a draw was the correct result.

Tata Steel is slightly unusual (at least these days) in that the players in the top section aren't all 2800+ GM's. This leads to some more combative games, as even missed half points against the back markers can affect the final outcomes. Curiously, the first round saw 4 wins, all by the players with the black pieces, with the victims all being rated below 2700!

Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2742) - Ding,Liren (2780) [E20]
Tata Steel Masters 2024 Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands (1.3), 13.01.2024

Friday 12 January 2024

2024 ACT Lightning Championship

 The first ACT Chess Association event of the year was held at the Canberra Chess Club yesterday evening (11 Jan). The ACT Lightning Championship traditionally starts the chess year in Canberra, and usually attracts a good turnout. The 2024 edition saw 35 players take part, with Harry Press winning with a perfect 9/9. He finished 2 points ahead of Andrew Mather and Willis Lo, with Malik Amer and Jordan Brown a further point back. The time limit of 3m+2s favoured the younger players, although Miles Patterson and Lee Forace flew the flag for the older generation, finishing on 5.5 (+2).

The next ACTCA even should be the ACT Teams Championship, which is likely to be held in late February or early March, depending upon venue availability.

Thursday 11 January 2024

Sardana wins Australian Championship

 IM Rishi Sardana has won the 2024 Australian Championship, by a comprehensive 2 point margin. He score and undefeated 9.5/11, to finish 2 points ahead of Yi Liu and Samuel Asaka on 7.5. Tied for 4th were Fred Litchfield and Stephen Solomon on 7.

The win by Sardana was the first time a player from the Australian capital has won the national championship. It was looking like a possible ACT 1-2 finish with Litchfield, but a win by IM Solomon over Litchfield in the final round put an end to that dream. 

Monday 8 January 2024

2024 Australian Championship - A two horse race?

 The 2024 Australian Championship appears to be a race between two players/ With 8 rounds completed IM Rishi Sardana leads on 7/8, having conceded a second draw in todays round. FM Fred Litchfield is in 2nd place with 6/8, while the remaining players are on 5/8 or below. Sardana has a potentially tricky matchup in round 9, playing IM Stephen Solomon, while Litchfield is up against one of the tournament surprise packets, CM Daniel Melamed. 

While Litchfield still has chances to earn an IM norm from this event, the pairings are not doing him any favours. While he has played the required number of IM's for a 9 game norm, he hasn't played the required number of titles players (only 4 at this stage, CM's not counting). if he goes for a 10 game norm he needs another IM, as well as hoping his average rating of opponents is above 2230. The other option is to drop a win (or wins)  against his lowest rated opponent and hope the remaining games are enough to give him a 9 game norm/


Frederick Litchfield (2176) - Aaron James Lee (2051) [D31]
Round 2: Frederick Litchfield - Aaron Ja, 02.01.2024

Sunday 7 January 2024

Tougher titles?

 I'm interested in receiving feedback on the current FIDE title system, especially in regards the number of titles being awarded. At this stage this is a non official request (ie not in my role as Secretary of the FIDE Qualification System) but it may turn out to  lead into a more formal review. 

One of the main comments I do hear is about the number of (W)GM's/(W)IM's/(W)FM's currently going around, especially compared the the historical origins of the titles. On the other hand, I don't see players who are close to the title hoping that the process is made harder.

One suggestion made to me today was to simply increase the peak rating required to earn a title (ie 2600 instead of 2500 for a GM). Certainly this would be a simple change, but I suspect the players who miss out due to this would be somewhat resentful of the players who beat the deadline. 

Thursday 4 January 2024

2023-24 Australian Championship

 The 2024 Australian Championship is underway in Adelaide. In good news for local readers of this blog, the top 2 places are currently held by Canberra players. IM Rishi Sardana is the top seed, and leads with 4/4. FM Fred Litchfield is in 2nd place on 3.5. Of course they are now paired in round 5, although this ensures that at least one of them will maintain the lead just before the half way mark. 

The Championship attracted 29 players, with 4 IM's, 2 WGM's and assorted other title players. Although title norms for this event are exempt from the normal foreigner requirement (due to it being a national championship), the performance rating required for an IM norm will be difficult to achieve, due to the ratings in the field.

The tournament runs for 11 rounds, and there are supporting events, including a Reserves tournament for players who did not qualify for the Championship. The tournament website is and there are links to live coverage.

Rishi Sardana (2470) - Julia Ryjanova (2285) [B12]
Round 4: Rishi Sardana - Julia Ryjanova, 04.01.2024

Tuesday 2 January 2024

A lot of games to look at

 At some stage, I will take the time too look through the games from the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz. With 160 games per round, and a total of 34 rounds (across Rapid and Blitz), the event saw approximately 5000 games played. Some were great, some were memorable (for various reasons), and a few were best forgotten. But the following game played by Australian GM Anton Smirnov in the first round of the Blitz, falls into the entertaining category.

Monday 1 January 2024

2023 World Rapid and Blitz - Final Day

 Magnus Carlsen completed the double at the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz by winning the Blitz tournament with 16/21. He started the 2nd day of the Blitz with a loss to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave but finished with 7/8 to end up half a point ahead of Daniil Dubov. Vladislav Artemiev was in the lead at round 16 but fell back to 3rd place by the end.

Valentina Gunina was the popular winner of the Women's Blitz, finishing with 14/17. Alexandra Kosteniuk was 2nd on 13.5, and Jiner Zhu was 3rd on 12.5.

Unlike Day 4, there were no issues on the last day (at least from a pairing and organizational point of view). There was a slight delay for the final round after Carlsen queried the color allocation of his final game (he had double black), but a brief explanation from the Chief Arbiter  was all that was needed to assure him. 

My own experience of the event was overwhelmingly positive. It was well organised by the Uzbekistan Chess Federation, and the arbiting team was top notch. The quick turn around time between rounds to collect/check and produce pairings meant I was on my toes for the entire event, but to get to the finish was enormously satisfying. 

I'll be in Samarkand for another full day (due to flight rescheduling) then I begin the 30 hour trip back to Australia