Thursday, July 2, 2015

Holiday Fun

The past few days I've been helping to run holiday programs for Kids Unlimited, the new parent company for Chess Kids. Chess has now become part of something bigger, as we have become part of a group of activities which aim to stimulate kids through various activities. It was great to be part of a holiday program where I was working on chess, but there were other activities such as drama, electronics, computer programming and hip hop dance.

The kids come along to a program, but can try other programs out for a while if they want. In fact, even the teachers can try their hand out at other things. I fell back into my entertainment days by presenting some performance workshops for the kids! All in all, it has been great fun.

Even the chess has been fun for me. While I've presented a few ideas this week, I've also played a game of Kriegspiel chess with a group of kids, where I was the referee, and they were split into 2 groups. They seemed to really like the challenge of not being able to see the other teams moves, and having to guess where things were. I also improvised some boards into a 4 player game which was another hit with the kids. First they tried to play solo, and then the game split into teams which was great fun. For these and more variants of chess check out this site!

So do these games have any educational value from a chess point of view? It could be argued not at all, but I would say that skills such as visualisation, imagination, and overall board vision are improved by playing these games. One also has to consider what an opponent is doing, or what lots of opponent's are doing, or what an unseen opponent is doing! Making kids aware of these skills in a fun and challenging environment must be good for their chess!

An improvised 4 player chess game, made even harder having 2 sets of white and 2 sets of black pieces! Kids loved it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Oceania Zonal 2015

From this weekend, the Australian and Oceania chess scene will turn their thoughts to the Zonal tournament. Held in Sydney from this Saturday, 4th July, the event will decide who qualifies for the World Cup that is being held September-October this year in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Zonal has attracted a big field with most of our strong young players taking part. Unfortunately, none of our Grand Masters have decided to play. Saying that, it gives a great opportunity to the young Masters.

The number 1 seed is Australian Champion, Max Illingworth, but eyes will definitely be on Anton Smirnov currently ranked 4th in the world for players born in 2001. Anton recently beat GM Hrant Melkumyan at the Gold Coast Open, tying for first place with the 2633 rated Armenian. IM's Moulthun Ly and Junta Ikeda make up the quartet of young stars at the top of the seedings for the tournament. However, there are 9 IM's playing, and a bunch of strong players who are more than capable of beating anyone on their day. The winner of the tournament will have to play consistently well over the 9 rounds.

As an MCC player, I'll be hoping for some good performances from my friends and club mates. So I'll be keeping a particular eye out for IM Ari Dale, FM Jack Puccini, Anthony Hain, Kerry Stead, Ray Yang, Tristan Krstevski, Angelo Tsagarakis and Elliott Renzies. And I'd also like to wish luck to my friend from Glen Eira Chess Club, CM Francesco Antoniazzi. If I've missed anyone, then I'm sorry, and I'll be sure to keep a look out for games of players who I know personally, as well as those fighting for the top places.

Monday, June 29, 2015

City of Melbourne Open

With a quickish draw in the final round, I secured first place in the City of Melbourne Open at the Melbourne Chess Club. I have to admit that I'm pretty happy, as this is my first win in one of the Monday night events at MCC in my 10 years of playing there. In some respects I was lucky to be playing Malcolm Pyke in the last round, who has had an overkill of chess over the past couple of weeks due to his participation in the Victorian Championships. He was telling me that he's had a tough weekend personally as well, so a short game suited both players tonight. Malcolm is off to sunshine next week, where I hope he can get some much needed relaxation along with whatever sightseeing he finds to do.

The final round of the tournament was spoiled somewhat by the non participation of a number of players. There were 6 forfeits today which is completely ridiculous. If a player knows they can't play a round, they should tell the arbiter before the pairings are produced. If the reason for being unable to play occurs after the pairings have been published, then it would be decent to let the arbiter know so that they can inform your opponent.

So I finished first with 7.5/9 only half a point clear of IM Mirko Rujevic who won his last round game to finish on 7/9. FM Jack Puccini finished third on 6.5 despite being held to a draw by Simon Schmidt, who has been playing excellent chess recently as can be seen by his strong placing in the Victorian Championship. Sharing 4th place on 6/9 were Richard Voon, Simon Schmidt, Tristan Krstevski and David Lacey.

There weren't really any upsets tonight, except for the lack of players, but the rating prizes would have been decided.

U-1900 leaders were Richard Voon and Tristan Krstevski 6/9
U-1750 leader was Roger Beattie 5.5/9
U-1600 leaders Natlie Bartnik 5/9

Those were all excellent performances. The tournament was played in excellent spirits, and was run well by IA Kerry Stead.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Glen Eira Chess Club

The Second Qualifying tournament of the year has finished, and the club is taking a short break. It was a good tournament for the girls as Sarah Anton came first with Rebecca Strickland second. Both players qualify for our end of year Championship. Third place went to our Dutch visitor J.J Nuitjen, but unfortunately J.J. will be heading back to Europe soon, so the third qualifying spot goes to young Daniel Poberezovsky. Daniel has had a good period of chess recently, scoring 4/7 at the Victorian Open, so it was a just reward that he got the third qualifying place.

That means with 2 tournaments down we have the following 6 players qualified for our end of year Championship:

FM Domogoj Dragicevic
Carl Gorka
Avto Frodiashvili
WCM Sarah Anton
Rebecca Strickland
Daniel Poberezovsky

The third, and final, qualifier starts on Friday July 24th and runs for 7 consecutive weeks. Besides the usual club members, IM James Morris has said he is a definite starter for this tournament, which will liven the event somewhat. James is defending champion at Glen Eira Chess Club, so it is good to see him back again!

Daniel Poberezovsky resetting the black pieces at the Australian Junior Championship in January 2015. Across the board is fellow Glen Eira member, Alistair McCutcheon

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Morse and Endeavour

I can't say I'm a TV addict. I've gone long spells of my life without watching any TV at all, and have now become pretty selective about what I watch. One of the series I have always enjoyed is Inspector Morse, based on the novels of Colin Dexter. John Thaw plays a convincing lead character steeped in culture but haunted by his past.

So it was with anticipation that I awaited the series about Morse as a younger man, Endeavour. It is still steeped in culture which comes into stark contrast with the reality of the crimes committed. What I really like is the intelligence of the script and the references to the earlier series of Morse about his later life. Many factors about the older Morse are explained in Endeavour, such as his limp which was acquired as a result of being shot.

There are also echoes between the series, and one that I found excellent was at the end of series 2 of Endeavour, where Morse and his Chief Inspector are awaiting their doom in the form of a trap set by their adversaries. While awaiting the arrival of the "bad guys", young Morse starts reciting a poem. The poem, by his favourite A. E. Houseman, is the same poem he recited while awaiting his doom as the older Morse in the original series. It is little touches like these that make these series so beautiful to watch.

"How Clear, How Lovely Bright"
XVI More Poems 1936
A. E. Houseman


How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.

Victorian Chess

We're getting close to the finish of the 2015 Victorian Championship. This year was a strange mixture of 3 very strong players, GM Johansen, IM James Morris and FM Chris Wallis and somewhat of a drop off to the rest of the group. It was still a pretty decent field for a tournament which deters players by its schedule. The tournament is played at multi venues, on different days over a number of weeks which makes it hard for people with regular routine commitments to sign up for. Another factor against the tournament is the rule that players may only take one postponement from the published schedule.

Saying that, the tournament has some positive features. The multiple venues can be good for clubs in showcasing them to players and spectators. While playing at a single venue might be convenient, it is also exclusive. The postponement rule also seems to have been waived this year, with a number of players not having their games at scheduled times. This was one of the main reasons that I didn't play, so maybe from next year I'll just enter and rearrange my games as I need!

The tournament has been dominated by IM James Morris who drew with GM Johansen in round 1, and then won his next 5 games including victories against his next nearest competitors. James was then held to 2 draws and sits half a point clear of the field with a game in hand. Johansen and Wallis are in second and joined by FM Domagoj Dragicevic who has had a pretty good tournament including draws against the top 2 seeds. However, with only 2 rounds to go (plus a few postponed games!) Morris looks to have the tournament virtually sewn up.

This will be good news for James after his somewhat disappointing showing at the Victorian Open at the MCC a few weeks back. A last round loss to IM Kanan Izzet cost James the tournament and dropped him to =3rd place as IM Ari Dale tied for first with Kanan. The event was played at the MCC and attracted a decent sized field of over 80 players. There were some notable performances. Carl Dingfelder played well to finish on 4.5/7 tying for first in the under 1700 rating group with Rad Chmiel. But for me, the results of the tournament were from Ruicheng Wang (1075) and Daniel Poberezovsky (801) who both scored 4/7 tying for first in the under 1400 rating category. I'm particularly proud of Daniel who I've worked with and who is a member of my local Glen Eira Chess Club.

The late winter season sees a number of events coming up. While the clubs continue their programs, weekenders will be played at Croydon  (Croydon Chess Classic 11-12 July), Hobson's Bay (Best in the West, 5-6 September), and Noble Park (Noble Park Classic 19-20 September). So the next couple of months promise to be a good time in the Victorian Chess calendar.

Final round of the Victorian Open, IM Morris-IM Izzet nearest the camera, FM-Puccini smiling in his game vs IM Dale, FM Zelesco, head in hands vs Sylvester Urban, while behind Karl Zelesco sits FM Jordan-Dmitry Partsi. In the far corner, Paul Bearup in the hat vs Miodrag Milojevic while Cameron Yung is just about to move in his game against Zach Loh

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

City of Melbourne Open: Penultimate Round

Going into the penultimate round of the City of Melbourne Open at the MCC I was leading the tournament by half a point from Hoai Nam Nguyen and we paired to play. We had previously met in the final round of the club championship when I'd been half a point ahead of Nam. In that game, Nam won, and jumped ahead of me in the championship finishing =2nd to my 4th. As for the current event, the player in the lead of the event has succumbed to the pressure and been beaten continually since round 4. So I was very happy to break this run, and win my game against Nam to take a one point lead into the final round.

The top 2 seeds of the event, FM Jack Puccini, and IM Mirko Rujevic both won to stay within a point of me. I was sitting next to Jack who played the Najdorf against Mehmedalija Dizdarevic. Dizdarevic chose 6.Bg5 and Jack sacrificed a pawn to completely unbalance the position. The game was sharp, with play on both sides of the board, and somehow Dizdarevic found himself with an advanced passed h-pawn, much like in the Poisoned Pawn variation of the French Winawer. A blunder cost him that pawn, and then the game. Meanwhile the veteran IM Rujevic, was playing another veteran in Richard Voon who had been having an excellent tournament. Mirko won, but was "lucky" according to Richard. I can't say I saw much of the game, just a mess of a middlegame at some point. Whether Mirko was lucky or not in the game, he won which he does more often than not.

Standings:

7/8 Gorka
6/8 FM Puccini, IM Rujevic
5.5/8 Schmidt, Cannon, Nguyen
5/8 Dizdarevic, Pyke, Voon, Lacey, Krstevski, Yu

It has been a good tournament for juniors David Cannon and Tristan Krstevski and Bobby Yu who find themselves among the leading places. David is the highest placed player below 2000, while Tristan is leading the under 1900 category with Richard Voon. Bobby is the current leader in the under 1750 category.

The rating prizes are all based on FIDE ratings which means in the under 1600 category the leading score is 3/8 with 7 players sharing that score. Simon Dale, Tanya Kolak, Zhi Xin Guo, Natalie Bartnik, Tanya Krstevska, Edwin Zou and John Beckman. It makes for an interesting final round!

I was very happy with my endgame.
39.Be4! Forcing an exchange of queens which will stop any counterplay black has. White's 2 bishops will dominate this endgame with pawns on both sides of the board. 39..Qxd2 40.Bxd2 Nc5 41.Bd5
Not only do white's bishops dominate, but black's king will not be taking part in this game. 41..b6 42.Be3 Nd7 43.Bc4 h6
As in all endgames, both sides seek a way to bring their king into the action. 44.Kf2 Kh7
My next move was my favourite move that I've played in the tournament so far. 45.Bf7. This effectively stops black's king from entering the game while white's king is ready to move to the queenside to help the bishops attack black's pawns. After this, as we were both playing on the increment, Nam couldn't find a way back into the game, even if there is one, and about 10 moves later, he resigned.

Here's the game, which might give some players inspiration for a crazy line to play against the Sicilian Sveshnikov. Enjoy!