Saturday, August 29, 2015

Glen Eira Last Chance

It is getting to the final stages of our last 7 round Swiss qualifying event for 2015. The Last Chance event has seen 6 out of 7 rounds played, and the only qualifier for the championship so far is John Nemeth. It is great to have John along at the club, away from his usual Noble Park Chess Club. Noble Park are coming to the end of one their events too, and we are not far away from Noble Park's annual weekender.

The Noble Park Classic is an excellent weekend event, rated on the ACF system and run under a 60 + 10 time control. This means that there can comfortably be 7 rounds played over the weekend. The tournament will be held over the weekend of 19th and 20th September, and I would urge everyone to play in it. I've played before and had a great time there.

Anyway, it is great to attract players to our club from other clubs, and hopefully we are making them feel welcome. John is currently tied in first place with me on 5/6, we drew with each other and both took a half point bye. In third place is IM James Morris who was unable to play today because he was playing a catch up game in the Noble Park event that finishes tomorrow! James is on 4/6 and will qualify for the championship next week if he draws or wins.

After that there are a bunch of players lined up for the final qualifying place. Young Daniel Dessau has 3.5 and sits in clear 4th in the tournament, but he will have to avoid losing to a tough opponent if he wants a chance of making it to the championship. Then there are 3 players half a point behind, 2 of whom are looking for that final place: Axel Ahmer, and Alastair Locke, who had a great victory tonight against Alistair McCutcheon. There is an outside chance for Jerzy Krysiak to qualify, as he sits on 2.5, but other results will have to go his way.

Interestingly, the games between the juniors tonight were the longest games, with Mahalakshme Thiagarajaran and Gabriel Rips playing for 2.5 hours, and the Alastair-Alistair game lasting 2 hours. All the adults tonight were finished earlier!

I was quite happy to be told by IM James Morris a few weeks back that he thought my endgame play was a strength of mine. So here's a nice study that I found. I've been showing to some students.

White to play and win
I'll give you all a few days before giving you the answer!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Australian Championship 2016 Quality Assurance

It is still early days in the build up to the 2016 Australian Chess Championship, organised by the Melbourne Chess Club from 2nd January to 12th January.

Early entries include the exciting young players IM Ari Dale, and FM's Jack Puccini and Gene Nakauchi, all of whom have proved capable of competing against GM opposition. 

Chess Victoria President Leonid Sandler announced this week that Latvian GM Arturs Neiksans (2596) will be playing in the Blitz Championship. It will be interesting to see if the 2016 Australian Championships gains other players who are coming to Australia for either the 2015 Australasian Masters or the 2016 Australian Women's Masters tournaments.

If these factors aren't enough to persuade you of the quality of the event, take a look at this beautifully crafted promo video. A lot of time and effort is being devoted to this event by a talented organising team, and that will ensure the quality.




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Malitis Memorial Wrap Up

Last night was the final round of the Malitis Memorial. This year the tournament had been split into 2 sections, an 8-player round robin for the top rated players, and a swiss for all others. This had the desired effect of getting a larger than usual number of players to attend. A total of 43 players competed across the 2 divisions and I'm sure this is something the MCC will look at repeating in the future.

The Round Robin section had already been decided before yesterday's final round. IM Mirko Rujevic was 1.5 clear before the last round, but relentlessly won his final round game to score a clean 7/7 picket fence. Second place on an excellent 5/7 was junior David Cannon. I'm not sure if this is David's first breakthrough performance, but it will certainly not be his last. The improving youngster deservedly came clear second. I managed to salvage a bad start by claiming third place on 4.5/7. Not a brilliant performance, but not bad either. Somehow, I felt that I didn't play well enough to credit the +2 score.

The Swiss section was won by another veteran, Mehmedalija Dizdarevic, with an excellent 6.5/7. Mehmedalija could still have been overtaken going into the last round, but he secured victory with a win against Irishman Eamonn O'Molloy. The field was very competitive, which makes the winner's result even more impressive. Second place was shared by David Lacey, Rad Chmiel and Gary Bekker on 5/7. The strength of the field can be seen by the fact that no one in the top 18 was FIDE rated below 1700, with the top rated player being 1946. Roger Beattie proved to be the best under-1700 player, though Axel Ahmer finished on the same score as Roger, 3.5/7 but couldn't receive a rating prize because he is unrated. I don't think it will be long before Axel has a rating of at least 1700.

The MCC offer brilliancy prizes for each of their FIDE rated tournaments. I am, unfortunately, probably my own harshest critic, and instead of seeing the brilliant in my games, I tend to focus on that which was less good. Oh, and endgames, but it isn't often that an endgame wins a brilliancy prize! So while I've played some ok chess in this tournament, I haven't been too impressed overall with my play. Last night against Malcolm Pyke, I was gifted a positionally strong position out of the opening, and then converted it. There were some interesting tactics, but as is often the case, these were in the variations, rather than that which was played. The key position was:
This is a fairly typical Sicilian Rauzer type position. I can't say I know too much Rauzer theory, but I know that if white castles king side, it takes a little out the sting of a black exchange sacrifice on c3, but offers little in the way of playing for an opening advantage. As I tend to be the safety first type of player, this suited me. I thought that the game would continue with 8..Qa5 which virtually forces white to play 9.Bxf6 when we have  dynamically difficult position for both sides to play. I was also considering 8..Be7 in the above position, where it looks more like a Scheveningen, though white has played Bg5, rather than the more common Be3.

I was surprised to see 8..Rc8?! played. It is obviously what a Sicilian player is thinking of, putting a rook on the semi open c-file, but it leaves d6 weak. In the game, I was thinking that I'd seen this type of thing but without black having played e6. However, I haven't looked at the Rauzer for quite a while so I might have been mixing things up. Anyway, I played 9.Ndb5 hitting d6 twice, and black is already on the defensive. Malcolm saved his pawn with 9..Qe7, but it is not the sort of move that he would have wanted to play.
Black's pieces are all in the way of each other. I chose a plan to weaken black's light squares, and it worked out nicely. 10.Bf4!? e5 11.Bg5 losing a tempo, but taking over the d5 square, and the light squares.
Now, a white knight is going to land on d5 with plenty of force. After the moves 11..a6 12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Na3 Be6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Bg4 black is in a very difficult position, which I was able to maintain, and develop into a winning advantage later in the game. 
By pinning the Be6, white maintains the knight on d5. Black is cramped for space, has weaknesses to aim at, and no counterplay so the win was relatively straightforward from here. I think that if I was black here, my chances of surviving against an equally rated player would be close to 0%.

My play in this tournament hasn't been brilliant. I have played some solid positional chess and some decent endgame play, but my openings are still rather shaky, and my calculation has been off at times. I can't play in the next event, The MCC Open which starts next Monday. It's a shame as it looks as if it's going to be another good field.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Malitis Memorial

Last night saw the penultimate round of the Malitis Memorial at the MCC. The tournament has been split into 2 sections, and 8 player round robin for the 8 highest rated players in the field, and a swiss for the rest of the field.There is still a lot to play for in both sections, but one thing is for sure. IM Mirko Rujevic has won the round robin with one game to spare. Mirko has been in great form in this tournament, hang tough from some not so good positions and given himself chances in all his games. He has an amazing 6/6 which is likely to take him back above 2200.

After Mirko, David Cannon has continued his excellent form drawing last night with Simon Schmidt to sit on 4.5/6 and clear second place. David is a point clear of myself in third place, so even if results go against him, he will finish equal second at the worst, which will be a fantastic result. My 3.5/6 is back above half points, but is still only about par, or a little worse. I have had an issue with over extending my positions which I'm trying hard to work on, and last night I played a nice game to win with black against Omar Khaled Bashar. So along with most of the field, I'm fighting for third place, which doesn't sound too bad, but it is only an 8 player event!

The swiss is more competitive. Veteran Mehmedalija Dizdarevic is the clear leader on 5.5/6. He is half a point ahead of David Lacey but they have already played. So teh final round will see Mehmedalija play Eamonn O' Molloy while David plays Rad Chmiel, both tough games. Eamonn sits on 4.5 in clear third, while Rad is part of a group of players on 4/6. Whoever ends up winning this tournament will have deserved it as the field is quite evenly matched at the top end.

Next Monday is the last round, and the following Monday the MCC already start their next event, the MCC Open.This is a 9-round swiss which already has a field of over 30 players entered, so it looks like being a good tournament which means the Monday nights of 2015 have proved a great success for the MCC.


This was a position from my game last night. I was black against Omar Khaled Bashar, and I'd managed to create an immense passed pawn on b2. The next part of the game was a fight for this pawn, and finding a way for each side to activate their dormant king side minor pieces.

29.Rb1 Bb4 30.Na4

30..c3! Now I'm not saying that this was a difficult exchange sacrifice to play, but I was very happy to be considering these types of plans, as I am usually too materialistic. 31.Nxb6 axb6 32.a4
White has blockaded my pawns on the light squares. There is only one piece that can break that blockade. 32..Nd7! 33.Rd1 Qd5 34.f4 a bit of desperation and to retreat the bishop to e1 to fight against black's advanced passed pawns.

34..b5 making way for the knight 35.axb5 Nb6! There is no need to take the pawn back now, improving pieces is the most important thing at the moment. While this line of play might seem sharp, it is wholly positional and I was very happy with it. My exchange sacrifice was to secure a pair of advanced passed pawns, and then I moved queen and knight to their optimum squares. All that is needed now is a breakthrough, which my opponent allowed after 36.Be1 Qxb5
White's position is pretty hopeless, but the game finished after 37.f5 when I was finally able to take charge of the light squares by 37..Qa4. Omar thought for a while before resigning. It will be massive material loss for white after black plays c2.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Diplomacy

I was at a chess camp with my company Chess Kids and one evening we were playing a load of strategy games with the kids. I was talking to the other coaches about various games when the classic strategy game, Diplomacy came up. One of the coaches had never heard of it before, so we decided we would arrange a game of Diplomacy and after some negotiations, today is the day when it is happening. We have a group of players ranging in experience from raw beginner, to played once or twice, with one very experienced player, Frank Meerbach, who is hopefully going to be a referee (we're hoping all players show up, or Frank will play).


Diplomacy is an amazing game with no dice but lots of strategic play. The idea is to take control of the board and to this you have to move your armies around the board taking over control centres. To win you have to get control of over half the centres on the board, and to do this, most usually you have to create alliances with other players. The big problem is that when you try to move your armies, if another army moves to the same place, there is a stand-off. You need a superior force to move somewhere if you are opposed. This is why you need alliances.

So the first part of the game involves deciding who will be who.....
Frank Meerbach, ex Victorian Diplomacy champion with grey hair, teaching a bunch of noobs the rules

All the above was written before the game. Now for what happened! Well first off, I loved it. I really enjoyed the game which lasted from about midday to about 11 pm at night. The first half hour was spent teaching all us noobs the game. I found that even with a couple of games the best part of 30 years ago under my belt, I was by no means the least knowledgeable about the game. We had a random draw out of a hat and I picked Turkey which I'd never played before. And we also had to pick a name for the game. We chose "Dips Unlimited", as the game was played in the Kids Unlimited building (an excellent venue for a Diplomacy game with many nooks to go discuss things).

Frank was a referee and a stickler for the rules. he had us writing our orders out correctly, and playing to a set time. The first hour saw a big dust up in the Northern part of the board, and I think a couple of players who were trying out for the first time, realised that this wasn't really the game for them. So after about 2 hours, 2-3 countries were all but eliminated, and at least one of the players seemed pretty happy with that. I used a very defensive strategy which saw me survive but left me with a difficult job of growing my empire. As such, by the time I eventually made my move, a huge backstab against my boss David, it was already too late for me to win the game. Frank said that I'd played well, but was a bit timid. I think I can cope with that.

After 11 hours of play, we finally had to call it a draw, but the pyrrhic victor was definitely Smari. This is totally fitting for this game, as it was Smari who had been the coach on the chess camp who I'd been talking about Diplomacy to. Smari used the right combination of expansion, and consolidation and at the end he sat on 16 centres, just 2 from victory. Unfortunately for him, the rest of us stonewalled across the board denying him an outright victory.

The final scorecard showing Smari leading on 16

So would I play again? Absolutely. I loved it, and would like to play it more. I'm not sure I'm ready to play regular players at a diplomacy club, but a few more friendly games would be good. I'm also looking into playing the game online. The problem with getting 7 players together for a full 11 hours to play a game of Diplomacy means that friendly games are going to be few and far between. But I'm hooked, and though I might not be the greatest player ever, it doesn't prevent me from enjoying the game!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Australian Chess Championships 2016

There are only 145 days remaining until the 2016 Australian Chess Championships. The event is being held in Melbourne's suburb of Fitzroy which is a short hop from Melbourne's CBD. The tournament is being held from January 2nd through to January 12th with a rest day on the 8th January when the blitz championship is being held.. While the tournament is the property of the ACF, it is being run by my chess club, the Melbourne Chess Club.

The Australian Championship is held every 2 years with an Open Championship happening in the years between. Last year's open in Sydney saw Chinese GM Ni Hua come over and take the title by 2.5 points. The top Australian was IM Max Illingworth. The last Championship was in 2014 and was held in the south east Melbourne suburb of Noble Park. The champion was Sydney based IM Max Illingworth who will hopefully be defending his title in January. There is already one IM entered in the field, Ari Dale, and when I spoke to James Morris on Friday he seemed genuinely excited by the upcoming event. I think that will be the case for lots of local players, and I'd be guessing that a lot of travellers from interstate will come down too. The Championship in 2014 had a field of 42 players. The tournament has an eligibility criteria that basically means that you can't play unless you have an Australian Chess Federation rating of 2150 or higher, or are exempted under one of the other selection criteria. This ensures that the tournament has a decent quality field.

There is a reserves tournament for those players who don't meet the championship entry criteria. This will run alongside the championship and will also be a great event. Over 90 players entered the 2014 Reserves which was won resoundingly by ex Australian Champion, FM Doug Hamilton. In a very competitive field Doug ended up a point clear. Like Max Illingworth, I hope to see Doug at the tournament in January.

And I hope to play myself. My rating has made it 2151 and hopefully it will rise again. As an Australian citizen, I am hoping that my FIDE designation as English will not count against me. I'll put my name in the list and see what happens. It would be a funny twist if I did play. When I lived in England I tried to qualify for the British Championship and only managed it the year I emigrated and so missed playing in the Championship. Now after 10 years in Australia I could play in my first national championship, but not in the country of my birth.

Here is the final round game from the 2014 Australian Championship. It was dramatic with Max Illingworth playing Anton Smirnov, the winner taking the Championship.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Glen Eira Chess Club

The club seems to have settled into a routine now, after being open for a bit over a year. We have about a dozen regular players, about another 5-10 occasional players, and a number of players who come along once in a while. Our year is made up of 4 tournaments and a load of free nights where social chess can be played. The four tournaments are all Swiss events with the first 3 being 7-round tournaments which qualify for the end of year 9-round championship.

We are currently into the last of these 7-round events and 2 of the 7 rounds have been played. There have only been 14 players involved in the tournament which is somewhat small compared to other events in the series, but the field is pretty good. I have had some enquiries from some other players, but I think we will probably have seen the field set now. Details of the tournament can be seen here, and I'll be putting out provisional draws each week:

https://au.tornelo.com/tournaments/glen-eira-last-chance

The third round saw the first games between the top seeds. John Nemeth had to play against me, and it was the sort of game that neither player would really want to remember. I walked into a typical f7 sacrifice that had my king wandering around the centre of the board, but amazingly, John missed a clean win, and the game fizzled out to a position where I had a piece for 2 pawns, but my king was rather open. I offered a draw which John accepted. The final position was one that neither of us really fancied! Next door to me, IM James Morris was winning handily against Jerzy Krysiak while Nick Husek and Axel Ahmer were able to overcome tough opposition from juniors to win through.

Here's the moment when John dragged my king into the centre. 10.Bxf7+! Kxf7 11.Ne6!! sacrificing 2 pieces to bring black's king into the firing line. The king has to take, as the knight threatens to take black's trapped queen 11..Kxe6
The congestion behind black's king and an inevitable opening of lines in front mean that black is pretty much doomed here. James Morris made an interesting observation after the game. He was surprised that John didn't finish things off as James thought that calculation was one of John's great strengths. I guess that having too many tempting moves can be an issue and while John played a variation that looked unbelievably promising, I managed to throw some spanners in the works and ended up in relative safety. 12.Qc4 d5 13.Nxd5 [13.exd5 looks immediately terminal] 13..Bc5!? [Allowing double checks, discovered checks and threatening nothing, but trying to untangle the clump of black pieces]
Now what to play for white when there are so many tempting moves? A knight check, or double check, develop a new piece into the attack? Stockfish suggests 14.Bg5 which coincidentally is what James thought was the best move in the post mortem! John played 14.Bf4 which also looks rather good, but that appearance is artificial and I was able to give a piece back to survive with 14..Nxd5 15.Qxd5+ Ke7 16.Bg5+ Nf6 17.Qxc5+ Qd6 when black is still a bit shaky but is not getting mated, and black is still a piece up for 2 pawns.