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 https://sites.google.com/site/belconnenucchessclub

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 https://lichess.org/study/bKXC, 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 https://australianchesschampionships2024.org/ and there are links to live coverage.

Rishi Sardana (2470) - Julia Ryjanova (2285) [B12]
Round 4: Rishi Sardana - Julia Ryjanova https://lichess.org/study/Uz2f, 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