Sunday, May 24, 2015

Internet Abuse

The internet is a strange world. As a repository for information it is amazing, and some of the things that can be done and shared online are wonderful. As a chess player, I know that I can now play at any time, day and night where before the internet, I'd have to make the effort to travel to a chess club, possibly once a week. And chess is certainly not the only thing that has benefited from online development. But there are negative sides to the internet too, and I'm not just talking about flagrant criminal activity.

As a minor user of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I see people abusing the sites in bizarre ways. Cyber bullying or "trolling" is rife throughout these social media sites, illegal downloading of media is also rife, and internet addiction is becoming more widespread and recognised as a social disorder.

From a blogging perspective, I try to keep this blog positive, I write it for myself because I enjoy writing, and hope that some others enjoy reading it. I don't seek to make anything out of it, I don't make a big effort to publicise it outside of my close network of friends and acquaintances, and I try my best to link to, or credit, as much as possible so each blog post of mine will hopefully lead some readers to a new site.

Yesterday I was scrolling through some internet sites, linked to one, and saw a photograph that I knew Caroline had taken. I didn't recognise the site, and didn't see a credit to Caroline's name, so I asked her whether the site owner had asked permission to use the image. Caroline had not given permission, whereas I have just asked permission and it has been granted :)

"Alone in a Crowd" by Caroline Gorka (redbubble)
When I search for this image using the google image search function, it comes up with about 70 pages that use this image. Caroline has uploaded this picture to certain sites, such as Redbubble and Artists Lane which act as onlne galleries and sell materials on behalf of the contributors. But well over half the sites using this picture have not asked permission to do so, and are not attributing the creator of the images they are using.

This brings me to the dodgy subject of copyright and fair use of materials. Apparently, the photo above is subject to copyright once it has been taken and for someone like me to use it, I would need to gain the permission of the creator of the image before posting it. An exception to the rule is called "fair use" and this applies to use of an image that doesn't interfere with the owner's rights. A good example of this has been used on this blog before, where I talk about a book I've read and download a photo from a site such as Goodreads, or Amazon of the book cover. From an etiquette point of view, I would still link to the site where I took the image from and attribute the site in a caption, or footnote. However, this still would not be anything to do with copyright of material. I found a pretty good site which explains these issues in layman's terms.

All the sites I have been to about these issues give the same advice:

"when in doubt, assume it’s subject to copyright and don’t use it without the appropriate permission."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Basingstoke Chess Club, A Sad Day

I learnt a little earlier today of the sad loss of stalwart organiser, Joe French.

Joe had been putting his heart and soul into junior chess in Basingstoke and Hampshire since I was a kid, and it is partly his influence that makes me coach the way I do today. Joe's strengths were his tireless energy, his enthusiasm for the game, and his inspiration to the kids who he brought through his ranks. Chess, like all pastimes, needs people who are willing to devote themselves to their passion, and Joe did this spending masses of time organising Saturday morning Junior chess clubs, and helping to run the Basingstoke Chess Club.

After I left Basingstoke, Joe extended his efforts to include Junior Chess administration throughout Hampshire and finally won the ECF President's Award in 2004 for services to chess.

I was lucky enough to meet up with him briefly when I visited Basingstoke in 2012, but I have no photos of Joe, just memories. Since that time when I wrote about my visit to the club, Basingstoke Chess Club have a new website. There is more information about Joe French, including a photo, on the club forum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Online books

The other day I was looking for a chess book and I googled it. This was unusual for me, as I usually go straight to a chess retailer and search for the books there. Google produced a result which was unexpected to me and that was it's own google books site. I'd never really looked at Google books before but I was rather amazed at the amount of books they have. Apparently Google Books has scanned over 30 million books and put them online.

There have been problems with this service, the most notable being copyright infringement. I have to admit, that I'm unsure of the issues here. We have public libraries which freely lend copyrighted material to members of the library, and in some respects, services like Google Books appears as an online version of a library. But digitizing books and making them freely available online can only damage the livelihood of authors. Authors who will hardly bother to waste their time and effort just to see their material freely distributed with no recompense.

There are resources online which seek to digitize non copyrighted material, works that are old or in the public domain. Project Gutenberg is one such resource with nearly 50.000 titles to download.

However, the mother of all online resources is the Internet Archive. I looked at it earlier today and was astounded by the amount of material they have. There are nearly 5 million books, nearly 4000 films, , over 100,000 concert recordings and many other services such as collections of NASA images, web archives with approaching 50 billion pages, educational resources including lectures and supplementary materials, and a mass of historical software.

I downloaded an interesting little book by the chess player Hugh Kennedy from 1876. "Waifs and Strays" has some personal reminiscences by Kennedy of some players of the day and is an amusing portrait of chess players. In the first couple of pages, Kennedy talks about snobbishness in chess, wondering,

" is it that we constantly see persons of upright character, faultless manners, and whose tempers are proof against every common trial, the moment they set themselves behind a chess board, undergoing a kind of metempsychosis, and becoming the reverse of their normal selves - unjust, rude and quarrelsome - in a word, unmitigated snobs?"

I'll be reading through this gem and looking for more timeless truisms in its pages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

City of Melbourne Open round 5

Due to some work changes I found myself at the MCC early. I walked into the main tournament hall, and placed my stuff by my board and looked up to see the official banner of the 2016 Australian Championship.

I usually arrive with moments to spare, or with time already on the clock, so I felt fairly relaxed, and had time to chat a bit and look around. I even had time to head to Brunswick Street for a coffee before the game.
Richard Voon is always ready for a chat
Round 4 of the City of Melbourne Open saw little in the way of upsets. Only one game in the top 10 boards went againt the rating, and that was Justin Penrose's victory against Hoai Nam Nguyen, but Penrose is an accomplished player so I take it as only a small upset. The field is beginning to spread out with myself, Carl Gorka, leading on 4/4 followed by IM Mirko Rujevic and Justin Penrose on 3.5. While last week I couldn't begin to guess who I might play, I can quite confidently say that the top board game next week will be Rujevic-Gorka.

IM Mirko Rujevic just half a point from the lead
I feel as if I'm in pretty good form, but Mirko is absolutely fearless. Playing against talented youngster David Cannon, Mirko didn't hesitate to play the Two Knights opening. I sat eagerly watching to see whether David would throw his knight to g5, but he opted for the safer 4.d3 instead of testing Mirko's calculation in a critical opening.

FM Jack Puccini heads the group of players on 3/4. He is joined by Malcolm Pyke and Simon Schmidt, who are both doubling up in the Victorian Championships, Richard Voon, Zhi Lin Guo and the brilliancy prize winner from the Club Championship, David Lacey.

Brilliancy Prize winner, David Lacey
Further down the field, the Zou brothers both scored good draws, Edwin against Tanya Krstevska, and Brendan against Gary Bekker, while Tanya Kolak had a good win against Stephen Jago.

My game finished abruptly when my opponent misjudged a position in a Hedgehog type Sicilian. I'm no great expert, but black has a very tough job of sitting and waiting for white's advances and being ready to strike at the right moment.

Black has just thrown his knight into e5 feeling that white would have to protect the pawn with b3. I managed to punish this aggression by playing 15.g5 Nfd7 16.f4!

My opponent, Efrain Tionko, couldn't find a good continuation, so he went with 16..Nxc4? Unfortunately, after the forcing sequence 17.Bxc4 Qxc4 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Rxc4 Bxc4 black has a rook, bishop and pawn for the queen.

Now after 20.Rc1 black's bishop is short of squares, while his other pieces display no activity. It didn't take too much to convert this to a sizeable material advantage.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Glen Eira Chess Club

Glen Eira Chess Club is a small but active club based at Carnegie Library. We meet on a Friday evening which doesn't suit some of the older players, but is good for junior players. Actually, in this cosmopolitan, 24 hours a day city of Melbourne, any time is as good as any other for a small chess club to run. The link above takes you to our Facebook page, and it has just reached 100 likes, and it would be great if you could help by liking our page or passing on the information to people in or near Glen Eira. Don't worry, we don't spam you constantly!

The club runs 3 qualifying tournaments throughout the year, with 3 places from each going towards a Championship event which starts in October. Currently, the second qualifier is in progress, and it is a small and slightly weaker than usual field that contests it. To me, this is great as it means that some regular club members who turn up week in, week out, will qualify for the championship rather than their places being taken by strong visitors to the club. Saying that, we haven't had too many strong visitors in the year since we started.

Top seed for the second qualifier is WCM Sarah Anton, so it is still a respectable event. Second seed is another female player, Rebecca Strickland, while Jerzy Krysiak makes the third seed, and all 3 of these players qualified for last year's final.

Colourful action as Rebecca and Maha warm up watched by JJ
The winner and runner up from the 2014 Championship, IM James Morris and FM Domogoj Dragicevic, are currently competing in the Victorian Championship. Both players have got off to a good start and are on 1.5/2. There are 11 rounds, so a long way to go, but we wish both James and Domogoj, the best of luck in the rest of the event.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

City of Melbourne Open Round 3

The 2015 City of Melbourne Open at the MCC has started in a strange way. After the first 3 rounds only one player has moved to a perfect score. This shows just how competitive the field is, and how open the tournament really is. The favourites for the tournament were IM Rujevic, and FM Puccini, but Mirko was held to a draw in the first round by Rad Chmiel, while I beat Jack last night. Third seed, Nedimovic, has disappointed and lost his last 2 games to sit on just half a point, courtesy of David Cannon and Damien van den Hoff. However, I'd be guessing that no one feels out of the running yet, especially with only one player on 3/3.

And that player is me. I ran my luck a little in the first 2 rounds, but played pretty well last night. There were only 3 of us sitting on 2/2. Besides Jack and myself, Malcolm Pyke had won his first 2 games, but lost last night to Hoai Nam Nguyen. I'm no expert, but it looked as if Malcolm had a difficult position out of the opening. Malcolm is spreading himself a bit by competing in the Victorian Championship as well as the City of Melbourne Open and I wish him well in that. Nguyen is joined on 2.5 by Rujevic, Simon Schmidt, Efrain Tionko, Justin Penrose and David Cannon. I'm struggling to anticipate my next opponent as there are players who have already floated, and there are colour preferences to consider. I'll just accept that I'll be playing one of these players, and I'll probably be white.

There were more upsets in this round with wins for Natalie Bartnik against Tom Kalisch and Bobby Yu against Gary Bekker, though Damien van den Hoff's victory was probably the upset of the round. There will now be no more late entries and the field is set at 45, a very reasonable number for this traditional second tournament of the year. Let's just hope the tournament stays as competitive as it has started, and that upsets continue to happen!

My game saw FM Jack Puccini follow a method of development considered good for white against the Antoshin variation of the Philidor. Yes, I know that I said I was going to stop playing the Philidor for a bit, but a combination of a busy lifestyle and laziness have meant that I had nothing else to play. Saying that, I have put some work into the Philidor, and wasn't surprised by Jack's choice.

I don't consider myself an opening's expert, but I'd been looking at exactly this position a few before the game. When Jack played 12.b3 here, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I knew it to be a novelty in the position. However, novelties only apply to databases, and I'd seen this position before. In fact the position only became new to me after a few more moves:
I'm not sure I'd have played 15..Nc6!? if I hadn't analysed the move before. It looks as if white can take on d6, but black gets good play and full compenstion starting with 16.Bxd6 Rad8. Jack plunged into a 34 minute think leaving me ahead on the clock for the first time in the tournament! The position remained tense until the following position.
The position is in the balance with both sides looking to gain a winning initiative in their respective attacks on opposite sides of the board. Moves for white worth considering might be 20.g5, or 20.Rhe1. However, Jack retreated with 20.Bc1? handing me the initiative, which I didn't relinquish. 20..Nb5 21.g5 but this is too slow.
21..c4! This counterattack was probably my best move in the tournament so far. Jack dropped his bishop back to f1, as taking on f6 is hopeless as black just recaptures on f6 with a winning position. The remainder of the game just saw my black pieces moving towards white's king until Jack resigned with mate imminent.

It was a well played game, but still not one for the brilliancy prize. At least I don't think so!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

City of Melbourne Open Round 2

Yesterday was the second round of the City of Melbourne Open at the Melbourne Chess Club. The tournament grew to 44 players, there being only 40 players in the first round. All these late entries were given half point byes for the first round, which was a bit generous, but a sensible policy encouraging more participation. There is still time to join this tournament up to round 3 which is next Monday, though whether entries will be accepted after the draw is published on Thursday, I'm not sure. Also, I don't know whether these new entries will receive half points for the rounds they missed.

Round 2 produced more upset results, the most notable being on board 2 where David Cannon beat number 2 seed Ljubisa Nedimovic. To be honest, David is pretty strong and like most juniors can play well above his rating, but also sometimes, can play a bit weaker. David is joined on 2/2 by top seed Jack Puccini, Carl Gorka (me!) and Malcolm Pyke. So the tournament is already spreading thin at the top end. There is a large group of players half a point back, including Jack Shanks who upset Mehmedalija Dizdarevic. Jack joins his brother Bryan, and 9 other players on 1.5.

Sarah Anton was one of those players on 1.5 and she benefited from her opponent's mobile phone ringing. This was ridiculous, as it happened after only about 5 minutes of the game and arbiter Kerry Stead's warning to switch off mobile phones was still running round my head. I am now so concerned about phone forfeits that I don't even bring my phone into the venue, or if I have to from now, I will leave it with the arbiter.

The other upset winner was Natalie Bartnik who overcame a 500 point rating difference to beat Gary Bekker. Gary has been somewhat of an upset causer himself, so he will now know things from the other side.

My experience from round 2 was one of endurance. My game was the longest of the night, and the longest I remember playing at 114 moves. The big problem was my time management. I spent quite a time over some fairly standard moves. This meant that I was left with very little time from about move 35 when the game started getting interesting. I played some fast, and not particularly critical moves until my 46th move when I dropped to 1 minute on the clock. I stayed at under 2 minutes for the next 50 moves, and it is not an experience I'd really like to repeat. Playing on the increment is stressful, and there is no time to stretch, get a drink, go to the toilet, etc.

I managed to win the game, though there were a few hairy moments.Here's how you turn a winning advantage into an even position!

As white I instantly played 51.Qa3, the second best move according to Stockfish which gives white a +3 advantage. Richard played 51..Qxb5 when I was able to bash out the moves 52.c6+ Kg8 53.c7 Re8.

Now, white has a number of winning moves. I chose a move that isn't best, but still wins, 54.c8=Q [54.Ra8 and 54.Nd6 are much better] 54..Rxc8 55.Ne7+ Kg7 56.Nxc8.

So here Richard played 56..Qc4 forking my bishop and knight, and to my embarrassment in the 40 seconds left to me I had a complete brain fade. It was as if I'd succeeded in combinational terms, and it was time to relax, regroup and go about winning. But with only 40 seconds left, I didn't have time to relax.

In this position the obvious move is 57.Bf5 moving one attacked piece to protect the other. The less obvious, but stronger move is 57.Qc5! defending everything. With seconds left on my clock and brain death still an affliction, I gave up my knight by 57.Qb2?? going from +5 to = in one fell swoop.

The moral of the story has to be to mind one's time, and to play with a purpose from the start, and for every move. There is no time for relaxation, and every move is important. I doubt I'll be finishing near the top of this event if my time management remains so poor.