Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last post of 2011

I hope 2011 has been a good year of chess for you. I'm sure Alexander Morozevich will be happy with his year. He reappeared earlier this year to win the Higher League of the Russian Champs, finished second in Biel just half a point behind Carlsen, came second in the Russian Championship just half a point behind Svidler, won the category 19 Governor's Cup in Russia and should reappear in the top 10 in the World in tomorrow's FIDE rating list. He is currently playing in Reggio Emilia where he won his first 2 games to take a lead in the tournament. Among these was a textbook attack against a king in the centre against Anish Giri

Morozevich as black senses an attack against a centralised king, but must open lines of attack. 22..e5! 23.fxe5 fxe5 24.Rg5 pinning the e-pawn

and after lines are open the attacker shouldn't be afraid to sacrifice. 24..exd4! 25.Rxa5 Rhe8 26.Bg2 dxe3
and the final picture is an exposed king with black's major pieces all aiming at it.

Since those first 2 wins, Morozevich has drawn with Nakamura and lost to Ivanchuk, this final game I've only briefly looked at but it appears to be a very complicated Spanish where Ivanchuk won 2 pieces for a rook and pawn and created dangerous threats around Morozevich's king. Morozevich was unable to defend, and Ivanchuk takes the lead in the tournament equally with Nakamura.

The San Sebastian Centenary tournament in Donostia has a great new format where players play 2 games against the same opponent with different colours simultaneously! The tournamnet is a knock out, where losing players can join a swiss tournament that is running alongside. Players joining the swiss are put on the same points as the leader in that tournament. All in all, it is a refreshing change from the usual events of swiss or round robin, and the games are not FIDE rated so no one is playing to defend or gain points. While there have been some upsets, I think it's a bit rich to claim a victory by a 2600+GM is much of an upset. The field is very strong with the top 5 players:

Gashimov 2757
Mamedyarov 2733
Ponomariov 2723
Moiseenko 2715
Bacrot 2714

All these players got through their first round simuls and we are now at the last 16 stage, so we're soon going to get some 2700-2700 clashes!

At Hastings the preliminaries are over and the tournament is settling into a rhythm. There are all GM clashes and each game is important in this 9-round swiss. Only 2 players are on a perfect 3/3. Istracescu of Romania and Howell of England will meet in round 4 at the top of the table. 2697 rated Wang Yue was held to a draw in the third round by Indian GM Sengupta Deep, but Wang heads a group of 8 players on 2.5 just half a point behind the 2 leaders. In this group are 2 interesting players. Sam Franklin is 17, close to 2200 and playing well above it here. He has just beaten one GM in Glenn Flear and has to face another now. That  GM is none other than the ginger Simon Williams, champion of the Dutch Defence and an all out aggressive styled player.

Like Morozevich, David Howell also knows how to attack a king in the centre. Here is his first round game against FM Ryan Griffiths from Ireland. Howell as white makes it as difficult as possible for black's king to find safety. When he eventually castles, he castles into an attack. 16. g4 Nfd4 17. Qe4+ Be6 18. Be3 f5 [18..O-O loses material to 19.Bxd4 Nxd4 20.Rxd4 Bxd4 21.Qxd4] 19. gxf5 gxf5 20. Qg2 Qd7 [20..O-O defends the Bg7, but also pins it, so it isn't defending d4] 21. Nf4

O-O-O [Finally black feels he can hide his king away, but..] 22. Bxd4! [Wins material] Nxd4 [22..Bxd4 23.Nxe6 Qxe6 24.Qxc6+] 23. Qa8+ Kc7 24. Qxa7+ Kc8 25. Qxb6 1-0

Australian Championship reaches halfway point

The organisers of the Australian Championship have generously designated January 1st a rest day in the tournament, which will allow the players to celebrate the new year without the nagging worry of a game looming the next day. If I was being very cruel, I would be disappointed that we spectators are going to miss out on what could have been a day full of booze addled blunders. But then again, a New Year's Day round would certainly have increased the chances of the junior's and teetotaller's in the tournaments.

I personally had a rest day yesterday, but I'm back to blogging again. My New Year's resolutions are to write more, and play more, and hopefully these 2 will coincide as well! As for the Championship, the 2 top seeds were able to break the deadlock and pull away slightly from the field. Top seed Zhao defeated Ly while second seed Xie defeated Wohl to put them both half a point clear of the field. Victorian GM Darryl Johansen won again, to keep himself in the hunt, while Smirnov stayed in contention with a draw against Morris.

Then came the pairing we had all been waiting for with the top board for round 5 featuring:


These 2 had a head to head in the last Championship in 2010 where they finished way clear of the rest of the field. In that Championship Zhao proved the stronger scoring a magnificent 10/11 including a win over Xie. George Xie also scored a great score of 9/11, a score that could have won him the Championships some years and left him 1.5 clear of 3rd place. This year, their meeting just before the halfway mark ended in a draw and helps build the tension of the championship with both players sitting on 4/5.

Here they are joined by Johansen who scores his third win in a row, and Smirnov. Johansen has won the Australian Championship a record 5 times and stayed in the hunt for his 6th victory by beating young FM Ikeda clinically. Smirnov also had a young challenger in FM Cheng, but the experienced IM who still represents his native Russia was too good on the day and took advantage of Cheng's adventurous play. These 4 share the lead going into the rest day, and will have to play each other in the next round.

Round 6:

Only half a point behind is Wohl and there is then a big pack a further half a point behind, featuring almost all the young hopefuls in this years Championship: Illingworth, Morris, Ly, Solomon, Ikeda, Cheng (spot the odd man out!). Also on 3/5 are 2 local favourites, Dragicevic, and Stojic who are both keeping up with the pace. Although there are still some strong players behind these, I don't think the winners and place getters are going to come from outside this group. Not unless someone starts to really up their game in the second week. However, almost anyone in the 3/5 group and above have a chance. Zhao is obviously still the man to beat being highest rated and defending champion, but there's a lot of talent at the top of the championship!

And at the other end, I'm glad to say that everyone has at least one point. This might sound patronising, but it really isn't. I have been in the situation where I'm not playing well and every game is a tough one and I know well the feeling of relief when you finally get off the mark. Even when you are scoring, if it's not at the rate you expect, it can make you put yourself under extra pressure to win at all costs. I wonder if this was what happened to Max Illingworth in this Championship? Max is undoubtedly one of Australia's stars of the future. He has had a terrific 2011 scoring a GM norm in Budapest and working his rating to over 2400. But the start of the Championship was mediocre by his standards. in round 1 he drew with Ferozkohi, in round 2 he scored another draw with Pengyu Chen, and then in round 3 he lost to Dragicevic. I'm taking nothing away from those 3 guys, who must have been doing something right, but Max would have expected more than 1/3 against those players. In his game against Dragicevic, he built an imposing position with the black pieces, but then made an inexplicable blunder.

Max as black has a powerful, mobile, advanced centre while Dragicevic as white is waiting for black to finally make his move. Black needed a preparatory move such as 27..Rce8 and then the pawns can be pushed. However, Max played 27..Qe5? which loses a pawn to the shot 28.Nxf4! where the knight is protected by the fact that the other knight can hop to e6 with check.

Happily, Max is back on track with 2 wins pulling him up to 3/5  and poised just behind the leaders. But I wonder if he was trying too hard to win his first few games, and not just let his immense natural playing ability  just do the talking. If that is the case, he certainly wouldn't be the first player to have heaped too much pressure on his own shoulders. As a comparison, look at the most experienced player in the field, Johansen. He started with an unpretentious 14 move draw with local junior Laurence Matheson and followed that up with another draw against 2008 Champion Solomon. But since then he has gone about winning his games in whatever manner it took, and pulling himself into joint first.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Australian Championship Pack Mentality

After round 3 of the Australian Championship, the tournament remains as close as ever. the only decisive result on the top boards was George Xie's victory over James Morris. This lets George leapfrog James and join the leaders.

2.5/3: Ly, Smirnov V, Wohl, Xie, Zhao
2/3: Cheng, Dragicevic, Ikeda, Johansen, Khamparia, McClyrmont, Morris, Steadman

This is a big pack separated by just half a point, and still strong players lurk behind these such as Illingworth, Solomon, Stojic and Wallis. It is far too early to tell where the prizes are going to go which keeps the excitement within the Championship.

24 hours can be a long time in chess. This time yesterday, James Morris was celebrating a win over Indian IM Khamparia, while today, he will be trying to regroup after losing to George Xie. However, he has the comfort of knowing that he has 2 of the top players behind him already in this event.

A critical position in the game Morris-Khamparia, where black couldn't find the best continuation. 23..Rac8? allowing white to win a pawn with 24.bxc4 Rxc4 25.Qb3 and here Black tried 25..Rc3
but lost the pawn after 26.Rexd3! Rxb3 27.axb3. James went on to win the ending in good style.

The top fourth round pairings:


Can the deadlock be broken at the top of the tree? And for us locals, can any of the Victorians, Morris, Cheng or Johansen maintain their challenge?

Chess heroes

There are some great tournaments around the World at the moment. Forgive me for promoting my English heritage, but tonight the annual Hastings tournament starts. It's an excellent field, and I know a few players and I've played against quite a few. Unfortunately, the time difference between here and England at the moment means that to watch the games, I'll have to stay up half the night which won't be happening. It's tremendous for the tournament to have a player of the strength of Wang Yue 2697 at the top of the field. But I'll be hoping that one of the locals takes the title. Top English player is David Howell 2633 and he is the second seed and main hope for England. But not the only hope. I'd love to see Mark Hebden or Keith Arkell do well even though (or maybe because) they kept beating me up in weekend tournaments in the UK.

Meanwhile, there are 2 top World class events happening this new year period. Reggio Emilia started yesterday with everybody's favourite comeback player, Alexander Morozevich.

Morozevich was the little player's favourite, he played unorthodox openings and had interesting games. Since his return this year, Morozevich has played much more orthodox openings, and had outstanding results. He still plays interesting positions, as can be seen from the complicated game he played last night against Fabiano Caruana. The Closed Spanish is the most orthodox of openings but when 2 dynamic players come together things can get very interesting.

Morozevich is black, and has given a pawn for amazing play, a knight on d3 is going to be a pain for white, and black's dark squared bishop will work its way to the long diagonal. This had all been played before in the game Anand-Kamsky (m7) PCA Candidates Final 1995, and is typical of Morozevich's dynamic style. It is great to have top players who are not scared to take risks to win games.

Later the game reached this position, where Moro has been outplayed by his younger opponent. Caruana took his advantage now by playing, 42. Nxc4 Qf6 43. Qf1 Be8 44. d6 Qd8 45. Nd5 Bb5 46. Rxf7 Nxe4

and could have won, but erred with 47.Nc7? [47.Nf6 Kh8 48.Qb1 wins] and Morozevich didn't need another invitation 47..Bxc4 48. Qxc4 Nxd6 49. Ne6 Nxc4 0-1

Nakamura also won a game against Vitiugov while Ivanchuk and Giri drew their game. Funnily enough, Morozevich wasn't going to be playing in this tournament, but rather Gashimov was in the event. However, Gashimov chose to play at the other interesting event, starting later today in San Sebastian. Celebrating the centenary of the 1911 San Sebastian tournament won by Capablanca, the Donostia Chess Festival will be a 7 round knockout event. With 10 players over 2700 in the field, it looks to be an exciting prospect.

In the 1911 event Capablanca scored 9.5/14 ahead of Rubinstein, Vidmar, Marshall, Tarrasch, Schlechter, Nimzowitsch,     Bernstein, Spielmann, Teichmann, Maroczy, Janowski, Burn, Duras, Leonhardt.

Now that's a field to try to emulate!

Capablanca is 7th from the right, sitting and looking calm at San Sebastian 1911

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Australian Championship Day 2

Day 2 of the Australian Championship didn't really help to sort out the pecking order. There are a few players at the top, a few at the bottom, and the majority in between. In fact, the table looks more like a round robin after 2 rounds, which I suppose reflects the fact that there are only 30 players and many are evenly matched. This is an 11 round event and it's already looking like a plus score will be a good effort for most players. Those who are on 2/2 are GM Zhou, IM's Ly, Morris, Smirnov and Wohl. Half a point behind is IM George Xie and everyone else is on half points or less. The top pairings are:


For us locals, the interesting pairing of these is the bottom one as Victorian IM James Morris takes on number 2 seed George Xie. Now I know I said that I am supporting George to win this tournament. However, I will be loyal to my fellow Victorian, and friend James Morris, who lives just up the road from me and plays at the same club, the Melbourne Chess Club. James has had his supporters and some detractors over the years, which I've thought pretty unfair as he's only young. Ok, if a junior plays a bad game, then it's a fair enough to tell them, and junior's are generally sturdy enough to take constructive criticism. But James has copped it for a number of things, the most notable in my mind being when he became an IM. James won his title at a zonal tournament, rather than gaining norms and reaching 2400. However, becoming an IM at 15, most of us who knew James realised it was only a matter of time before he worked his strength up to 2400. (coincidentally, Bobby Cheng gained the FM title at the same zonal before reaching 2300, but has also fulfilled this potential!). This year has seen James reaching heights he has not previously achieved, and his win today against 3rd seed IM A. Khamparia of India is another confirmation of his great potential.

The organisation of the tournament seems to be well in hand, and the website is regularly updated. One thing I have not been able to find, is the results of the previous rounds, though that is probably more due to my ineptitude than the website. A pgn of the first round games was put up today, and there was a very nice attack pulled off by 2010 Victorian Champion, Dusan Stojic.

 In the above position, Dusan Stojic as white played 24.Bh6 against Jonas Muller. The game continued 24..Rc8 25.fxg6 hxg6 to reach the following position where, Dusan tore black's defences apart.
 26.Rxf7!! Kxf7 27.Rf1 Ke7
 28.Qxg6 [28.Bg5 is preferred by Stockfish, but the text is certainly good enough] 28..Ne8 29.Bg5+ Nef6
and to finish things off in style, 30.Rxf6! Nxf6 31.Qxf6+ Kd7 32.Qe7+ 1-0

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Chess

Ok, where to look? Today the 2012 Australian Championship started....yes, I know its 2011, but when the tournament ends it will be 2012. The tournament favourite is GM Zong-Yuan Zhou and he had an easier than expected first round game as his opponent didn't show up. In fact, there is some sort of story here, but I'll wait till I see Bill Jordan to find out the full thing. I said that I would be following IM George Xie in this tournament. In the first round he drew with local player Domagoj Dragicevic. It was a pretty mad game, with Domagoj choosing a wierd b4 idea against the Sicilian.

Meanwhile, not all the favourites had their day. GM Johansen agreed to a 14 move draw with local youngster Laurence Matheson, while the 2008 champion Stephen Solomon also drew. However, the big upsets of the round came on the lower boards. Queensland junior Yi Liu defeated FM Bobby Chneg, while 2009 Victorian Junior Champion Jason Tang beat New Zealand FM Mike Steadman. I think this shows that while the battle at the top might be between a few, there is competitiveness in the middle and bottom half of the field.

The round 2 pairings have been produced, and the most intriguing one is between 2 of the players on half a point. The pairing Solomon-Johansen would have been expected at some stage in the tournament but probably not as early as round 2!

Across the world there are some great tournaments happening over the festive holidays. The traditional Hastings congress looks to be pretty strong this year (although I remember the round robins of the 1980's that were always great). I'll be following this one closely. Reggio Emilia is holding an elite round robin tournament which will be a good warm up for Wijk in January. Then there are strong opens in Groningen, Litomsyl, Geneva ( 2 live games happening as I write!) and Zurich.

Personally, the tournament that I would most like to play in at the present moment is in Davos, or Interlaken. The tournament is not strong, and not big, but what a place to hold a Christmas Chess Event!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting for Wijk

It's almost Christmas and chess is playing second fiddle to eating, drinking and making merry! But the festive holidays are a traditional time for chess and the break from work gives chess players time to recharge ready for the next batch of tournaments. Here in Australia, Christmas marks the start of the summer holidays, and with it comes the typical glut of chess tournaments.

First is the Australian Championship, and associated events, which are due to start December 27th in Geelong, Victoria. Geelong is about 45 minutes west drive from Melbourne so I guess players have the choice to commute if they want. Of course, the National Championship will have players from all over Australia and overseas. It is quite an impressive list of players, and it is a tournament that I would some day like to play in. Although I am currently English on the FIDE list, I think that I qualify as an entrant based on my residence and citizenship, which is now Australian. I think that by the next Championship (they are every 2 years), I will probably have Australia next to my name anyway!

After the Championship, 2 tournaments start. One is the Australian Junior Championships which are being held in Melbourne. The other is the biennial Queenstown Classic in New Zealand. I will be at the Australian Junior as a coach and helper so I should be able to report first hand on what is happening. The Queenstown tournament will be followed avidly here in Australia, as so many of our players will be playing. With 11 GM's already in the field, this is likely to be a great tournament. Congratulations to Murray Chandler, Paul Spiller and Helen Milligan (and everyone else) who have put together another great tournament.

I will be watching some of the action from New Zealand while at the Australian Junior Championship. Both tournaments start on the same day, Saturday 14th January. At a local level, these are hugely important events, but in the scheme of things both will be overshadowed by the traditional Wijk tournament in Holland. The Tata Steel tournament has an amazing field led by World Number 1, Magnus Carlsen. Probably the best thing for us in Australia, is that the games in Holland will be starting at night for us so it is doubtful we will be able to follow them live. However, the games and analysis will be followed closely while live action from this end of the World is also being watched.

I reckon that by the end of my holiday, which coincides with end of the Tata Steel Tournament, I'll be in need of another holiday!

Anyway, I suppose I better stick my neck out with some tips:

Australian Champion: George Xie (really nice guy, deserves it this time)
Queenstown Classic: Gawain Jones (go with the English!)
Tata Steel: Levon Aronian (Time for him to go for World number 1 spot!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Following chess

There have been 2 events happening in Melbourne this weekend. The Melbourne Chess Club hosted their traditional Christmas Swiss tournament. This was a 6 round event registered on the Australian weekend Grand Prix. I think the weekender suffered a little form the fact that it clashed with the last weekend of the Australasian Masters. At least a couple of the competitors in that would most probably have played in the MCC event if they had been free.

The weekender was a small and mostly local affair with about 30 players, most of whom play at the MCC. In the end, the tournament was won outright by FM Michael Baron. Michael is an interesting character at the MCC. His passion in chess for fast time controls, and when playing he is deeply competitive. Away from the games, he is more than willing to share his knowledge and ideas and it perhaps only when talking to him that I've been able to guage his understanding of the game. I played him once at long play chess a few years ago under terrible conditions (it was over 40C outside with no aircon in the building) and we both agreed to a draw in a position that was rich with possibilities. Michael is often underestimated as a player because he rarely plays long play events. When he does, he is, however, usually a force to be reckoned with.

The Australasian Masters is still in progress as I write, The last round started a little while ago with a couple of players still in contention for first and Bobby Cheng needing to win against Leonid Sandler to gain an IM norm from the event. (Actually, as I'm writing I've just noticed the event has been won by young IM James Morris). This tournament has been a triumph for the young players with James Morris and Bobby Cheng making most of the running. Experienced IM Stephen Solomon is also in the running, but times are definitely changing for him to be challenged so seriously by the younger generation. Actually, with these great young talents and the authors of the FIGJAM blog, Australian chess seems to be on the verge of a new top layer of players. Hopefully, at least one of these talented youngsters can make it to the GM level!

Unfortunately I haven't been able to see any games from either event, though this has been my own fault rather than because of the organisers. Also I was planning to drop into these tournaments yesterday, but with one thing and another, I couldn't seen to get to them. I think it's high time I tried to get some words of wisdom from some of those players that I'm quite close to, so that's my next task for this blog.....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chess only

From now on this blog will be devoted to chess only. Mostly, it will be about chess in Melbourne, and wherever I am, but there will be some other stuff (such as refuting the Petroff).

I've nearly finished work for the year and in retrospect I have to admit I overcommitted myself to chess activities in 2011. At one point I was working about 70 hours a week (coaching chess!), arbitering tournaments one night, running chess groups another night, trying to organise a teams tournament as well as captaining 2 of the teams in the event. I burnt out pretty badly, had to cut out all chess at my club, lost the thread of the teams tournament which luckily others were able to take on, and only just managed to hold the work together, though I was feeling pretty ill or just run down at times. Anyway, my New Year's resolution is to keep my activities to a manageable level, so if you ask me to help out with something and I refuse, please don't feel offended. I will still do what I can, especially around my club, the Melbourne Chess Club.

Around Melbourne there are some events in this lead up to Christmas. Box Hill Chess Club just finished what seemed an extremely successful tournament called the Canterbury Day Nighter. The tournament had a pretty good turn out and was won by popular local player Domagoj Dragicevic. Domagoj has had an active year, and seems to be moving up towards the FM level in strength.

Box Hill Chess Club are also hosting the annual round robin norm event, the Australasian Masters. This tournament has been organised by various individuals over the years (I had a go in 2006!) and is always a tough event to make happen. To qualify as a norm event, there has to be the requisite number of foreign players and the requisite number of titled players. Depending on who happens to be floating around Australia at any given time, this can make organising this a thankless task. This year the organisation has fallen on the head of Chess Victoria President Leonid Sandler. Leonid has taken it upon himself to organise this event for the past couple of years and has done well in the end to assemble a field this year. The tournament runs on a shoestring budget (big thanks must go to Eddy Levi for his continual sponsorship of the event) so it is difficult to pay out too much for titled players. However, IM's Rujevic, Morris and Solomon made up the requisite number for the 10 player round robin. Foreign players proved harder for Leonid, but he came up with the 4 players in the end (recently the Masters has been lucky to have strong foreign players Vladimir Smirnov and Erik Teichmann playing, but neither are in the event this year. I am nowhere near their strength, but I have also found myself in the tournament in years gone by as a foreign player but not this year). The main norm hunters in the event are local FM's Bobby Cheng, Dusan Stojic and Eddy Levi. The tournament finishes at the weekend and I hope to be there for a round at some stage.

Melbourne Chess Club are hosting their traditional Christmas Swiss Weekender this coming weekend, so I might pop in to see how this is going as well.

Leonid Sandler (right) with outgoing CV member David Hacche

Melbourne Chess Club had their AGM over the weekend and I couldn't attend because I was in Tasmania. I don't have the details of the meeting, but the main thing is the election of the office bearers. There has been some continuity and some change:

President: Grant Szuveges

Vice President: Elizabeth Warren

Treasurer: Andrew Saint

Secretary: Anthony Hain

Registrar:Justin Penrose

Assistant Treasurer: Jesse Jager

Committee Member: John Beckman

Anthony Hain and Justin Penrose are the new members on the committee, and there don't seem to be as many members as in the past couple of years. Hopefully this will not put too much strain on their efforts, especially seeing the MCC is organising the Australian Junior Championships in 2012.

Chess Victoria also held their AGM a few weeks ago at the MCC and from my club's point of view the news is that our President, Grant Szuveges has joined the CV committee. Good luck to all these officebearers in their positions for the next year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Weekend in Tassie

This weekend I have been in Tasmania teaching chess at a chess camp. Each year, The Tasmanian Chess Association and Hobart International Junior Chess Club organised the camp, although as always, what makes these things happen is the vitality and energy of a few very special people. This camp was organised by Melissa Harvey with the help of Ross George and Owen Short, and Nigel Frame who came along to help with some coaching. There were about 25 kids at the camp, varying in ages from about 7 through to about 14, and varying in abilities. However, there was much enthusiasm, some amazing raw talent, and a few pretty strong young players.

My weekend started with a flight from Melbourne on Friday night where I was seated next to a woman with a baby, so by the time I arrived in Tasmania I wasn't particularly disposed to children! But then things started going good. I was picked up by a parent of one of the kids who drove me from the airport. Thanks Dave! We went to the camp where I met up with Melissa, Ross and Owen and a chat before bed. The following day was pretty much full on coaching, though there was some time to enjoy the scenery.

A 1 minute walk to this beach brought spectacular views of Mt. Wellington

I've done these camps before, and always enjoy them. This time the kids were averagely younger than in years gone by, so I chose my material to be a little less advanced than I have when I've been before. However, the material was quite interesting and challenged the kids. They rose to the challenge, and came up with some great ideas as I extended their thinking processes, and they learnt some technical and tactical ideas which they can work on from now. On the Saturday evening, we played a thematic blitz tournament in the Four Knights Opening. I had done some preparation with the kids on this opening and they had a chance to play 7 games in the tournament. The adults who were there also played and I played, though I gave everyone odds of 5minutes to 1 minute. The kids played unbelievably well on the whole, and I felt lucky to come through the tournament with just one loss, to one of the local adult players.
A great thematic opening for kids. Our games started from this position.

The Four Knights Opening proved popular with the kids. It is simple to learn, follows basic opening principles, but allows for some interesting lines as well. The tournament went well, but special mention should  go to Will Warlaw-Kelly, a young player with great talent, who came equal first on 6/7 points!

Working out their strategies on the balcony...danger man Will is second from the right.

We also had a barbecue on the Saturday night (a Tassie chess camp tradition) and a great thing about these camps is that the kids do virtually all the cooking and cleaning up, with a bit of adult supervision.

A Tassie chess camp is not complete without the Saturday night barbie

On the Sunday we had more chess through the morning session followed by a simul. The kids had been pining for a transfer tournament, but the simul went down pretty well. I managed to go through unbeaten, but had a couple of scares along the way. Twice I blundered queens, but managed to get some compensation which later I used to gain material, but I was very lucky indeed. The last man standing in the simul was Bradley Vince who is quite an experienced player in the Primary School division. Saying that, I think he'll be a bit disappointed he didn't do better after winning my queen for 2 minor pieces and a pawn.
Yuvini won a queen against me by using a variation of a trick that I'd showed the kids the day before!

Then there was a big clean up before everyone headed off. I have to say that I was pretty exhausted by the end of the weekend, and I hope the kids took some ideas from this, but even more, I hope I gave them some inspiration to go away and continue the game.

Young Oliver has great talent for the game, and plays better with his teddy near him.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chess Symmetry

It's getting near the end of the school year in Australia, so I've been showing my students a light hearted idea this week. A casual game by Capablanca, had the great World Champion being copied for most of the game. In the end Capablanca broke the copying with a deadly check which lead to either winning his opponent's queen or checkmate.

Funnily enough, this "absurd" line has some theory about it. Capablanca's 11.Qd2 was a novelty, and in fact the game Forgacs-Teichmann San Sebastian 1912 saw 11.Kh1 Kh8 to retain the symmetry. This game ended a draw a bit later, after white had spoiled the fun by attacking one of black's minor pieces which was moved. However, they "transposed" to the symmetrical line, a little later and the game finished in a completely symmetrical position!

Final position of Forgacs-Teichmann San Sebastian 1912. Perfect symmetry!

This got me thinking about various symmetrical systems, and generally about openings.  And I've come to a conclusion based on my own personal feelings. And that is that the opening which I dislike the most is....

Actually, before answering the above statement, this is something that pretty much all chess players go through. I have had fun times with openings that I've grown to distrust. I've had serious misgivings about some openings which I now play. There are certain variations which make me laugh or make me cringe but there may be others in the same opening which have a complete opposite effect (how can Karpov's Be2/Be3 and Polugaevsky's ..b5 in the Najdorf be compared?). There are even major opening systems that I've had to just take my hat off to and say that I have little clue about what is going on, and little feel for the positions (the Grunfeld is one such opening for me, and watching the Tal Memorial recently did nothing to build my confidence about understanding this opening).

So, the opening which I dislike the most and I would love to see refuted and taken off the tournament shelves? The Petroff! I am not playing 1.e4 at the moment, and will not play the Petroff as black, so I won't be encountering it anytime soon over the board. So watch out for some subjective commentary against the Petroff in posts to come. :D

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Running Diary 7/12/2011

Today I was scheduled to run, but it was one of the hottest days of the summer so far. Even now, at 9.30pm it is 22C, but earlier it reached 33C. Now I'm not saying that it was 33C when I went out to run, but it was still pretty warm, and I'm not really used to it.

So I took it pretty steady. Even so, my legs felt heavy to begin with. I dropped into a nice rhythm, but knew fairly early on that 10km was going to be a tall order today. I ran 5km in about 29.30 and then stopped for a couple of minutes to just enjoy the view of the bay. I then took a slower run back home, about 3.5 km. So all in all, I managed about 8.5km, which is more than I thought I would reach.

This means I'm definitely getting stronger and fitter. However, this is just the start of the summer, so I guess I'm going to have to prepare for the conditions. One thing I didn't realise is that one runs slower at hotter temperatures. I knew that running in heat was harder, but didn't realise that it actually slowed you down. I also didn't realise just how cool it needs to be for better running conditions. Apparently, if the temperature is 13C or above, you are likely to run slower through heat build up. There are plenty of interesting articles on this subject.

I am now having a bit of a break from running as I am going away this weekend, so my next run is not scheduled until Monday. That should give my body plenty of recovery time :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Running Diary 5/12/2011

My reward at 6 km!

I wasn't supposed to run today, but I came in from work, it was a beautiful day outside, and I felt good so I thought I'll have an easy run. It has been nearly 36 hours since my last run, so I'm more or less sticking to the recovery program. And after this I will not run for 48 hours. I put myself under no pressure and ran a different route to the normal ones I take. One of the good things about running longer distances, is that it gives you a wider choice of places to go! I still ran to the bay, but took a more round about trip to get there.

 Elwood Beach with the West Gate Bridge in the distance. My 6 km point today

And I still have to go round the bay to Brighton, about half way on the far prom.

After running this evening, and the other morning, it suddenly dawned on me that there might be better times for me to run. Amazingly, there are, and these have something to do with circadian rhythms....ok, I haven't really got any idea what these are about, but basically the body has natural rhythms which make it function at certain activities better at certain times of the day. There is a great article that explains it better than I can :)

And last, there was a bit of excitement on the run home from the bay, when I was diverted by a policeman from going down my usual road. I ran round the block and there were dozens on police, armed and with protective gear on. Don't know what was going on, and I didn't hang around to find out. I'll check the news later like everyone else!
Armed Police block the road off, but even that doesn't stop me running!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chess professional and amateur

There are 2 news stories about chess that have grabbed my attention that couldn't be more different. One involves the Super Grandmaster tournament being held in London at the moment, the other a story about 2 primary school boys being asked to leave their school for travelling to Brazil to represent Australia in the World Youth Chess Championships.

The London Chess Classic has the top 4 players in the World playing, along with World number 10 Nakamura and 4 top English players. The Tournament started with a match between the Grandmasters and anyone via Twitter and there is an odd number of players in the tournament so that the player with the bye can provide commentary on the other games. There is something for everyone at the tournament, with the GM tournament great for chess spectators, a FIDE open with 10 Grandmasters and a host of International Masters and other strong players, shorter events, fast chess events, a women's invitational and junior events. There are simultaneous displays, and film screenings and free coaching to schools.

This festival of chess brings professional chess players and amateurs together, and creates great press coverage. When the top players go to battle every chess player takes notice of their games and results. At London this year, ex tennis Champion Boris Becker made an appearance to make the first move against the Grandmasters in the Twitter game.

Unfortunately, chess in Australia is anything but professional. This doesn't mean that there aren't good players, or that it isn't run to the best of the ability of the organisers. However, there are limitations when a game which is considered a profession in some countries, is not considered a profession in others. In Australia, funding for chess has been non existent (at least in the 7 years I've been here). Our top players have to find their own way to the events, even when they are representing their country. Chess players in Australia do the right thing and donate from their own pocket to help our top players travel to Olympiads and World Championships, but mostly the players themselves have to fork out, or do some fundraising themselves.

The funding issue follows on with tournaments. Without decent government funding (chess isn't a sport or an art according to government, so they don't have to fund it via either of those avenues) chess tournaments seek private sponsorship which has created some great events (Doeberl, Sydney International Open, to name just 2) but these are few and far between. And more often than not, tournaments will be funded by the entry fees of the competitors, or may even just accept a small loss.

Of course, when an activity like chess isn't recognised by the authorities as anything other than a pastime, then incidents will occur like the one in Sydney last week. There should be no greater honour for a school than to say that one of their students has represented their country, but alas this was not the case. And things will continue to be marginalised for Australian chess players as long as they are seen as happy go lucky amateurs. If there is one thing that chess players and administrators should be doing in this country, it is working towards getting chess accepted as a sport and then applying for funding from the government. Getting recognition is the first step towards greater professionalism of chess in Australia, and until that is done, tournaments such as the London Chess Classic will sadly not be happening on Australian soil.

Running Diary 4/12/2011

After running a fairly quick 10 km last time (quick for me, anyway) I decided to take it easy with a free run of whatever distance felt good to me at the time and whatever speed felt comfortable. I didn't want to push myself at all. I still managed a bit over 6 km and ran at various speeds, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. I tried to concentrate on a regular breathing rhythm, and running with looser arms than I usually do.

The more I run, and the more I read about it, the more I realise that exercising is as much about recovery and looking after your body when you're not training. Cooling down after exercising can help to reduce, or even avoid sore muscles. A few weeks back, I was getting some pains in my lower back and backside after exercising, but I now ensure that my run finishes short of home, so I have to do a cooling down walk. Since then, I've started feeling better after running.

Today when I started to run, my legs felt a bit heavy which was one reason that I didn't push things too much. Recovery training is an important part of an exercise regime and my last run had come just 36 hours before this run, so I took it easy. As it was, my run today felt pretty good once I'd shaken the cobwebs from my legs. And, of course, if the views are good when you're running, then it is an extra incentive to get out!

Melbourne CBD in the distance on the left. This was taken from the end of North Road near Brighton, with Elwood the nearest beach.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Running Diary 2/12/2011

My first run of December was a good one. I felt really good and was able to keep a steady pace for 10 km. My aim for December is to run 100 km and I've joined the same challenge on Endomondo that I tried in November. Last month I only just made it, running about 103 km. This time I'd like to add a few more kilometres to the tally.

Today I also reached a personal goal running 10 km in less than an hour. However, one end is only another beginning and my next goal will be to run under 55 minutes for 10 km. This will be a stern test as I will have to run at a pace that is quite quick for me for a long period of time. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it's not as if I have to do it tomorrow!

Exercise has been for me a combination of fitness gain and weight loss. Besides building my fitness level, I was overweight when I started running, but I'm coming down to my correct level. I have a little bit more to lose, but feel great and am confident that it will happen sooner than later.....of course, Christmas goodies might have something to say about that, but my running will not stop through the holiday period. Reading about disease risk associated with being overweight is enough to make anyone think about their body. When, like me, 50 is not that far away, and diabetes has been in both sides of your family, it is even more important to make sure that your body is healthy and your weight is correct.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Running Diary 30/11/2011

I had set myself the challenge of running 100 km's in November and I achieved that today. Using endomondo I was able to track the distances I ran, and I came out at about 102 km's total. I'm pretty happy with this, and I'm going to set the same challenge in December and gradually build my strength until the next step up is possible, where I might go for 150 km's in a month. I'm not sure I'm ready for that quite yet, though.

Today's run was a bit of a shock though. I decided to go out for a short sharp burst, but surprised myself with the speed I went. I ran 5 km and I have set myself the aim of running this distance in 25 minutes. So far, my best time has been just under 28 minutes, and an interim goal was to get down to under 26 minutes, beating the world record for double this distance, 10 km! My run today was recorded at 25.40 for 5km, which is a lot quicker than I'd run before. I suspect that my GPS was being a bit generous to me, but even so I was running faster than I had ever run before, and even if the GPS was a minute off, I still ran 5 km in under 27 minutes.

I had 2 worries as I was running today. Firstly, there was the natural phenomenon of being short of breath. I sometimes wear a heart monitor with the idea of staying within a zone. I am usually trying to stay within 60-70% of my maximum heart rate. There are many good sites to learn about this king of thing. Obviously, I was pushing a little harder today. The second worry was what we commonly know as a stitch. For most of the last kilometre I was running with a stitch, though it wasn't too bad. After reading about the causes, I guess the most likely explanation for me developing a stitch is lack of fluids. I try to drink before running, but don't drink much on the run itself. Still, it is just a little discomfort that I endure during my fitness program which is helping me lose weight, and get fit! It could be worse

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chesskids National Interschool Championships

The last 2 days have been quite a manic affair for me. I have been getting up in the middle of the night (well, quite early) to drive to the finals of the Chesskids National Interschool Championships, provide lectures and post game analysis, and then driving back. The finals were held in Kyneton which is about an hour and a half from Melbourne by car, and most of the teams (if not all) stayed on site over the couple of days. The Interschool tournament was preceded on the Sunday by our last RJ Shield of the year. These one day tournaments are 7 round 15 minute tournaments for kids divided into age groups. They are a great introduction for young chess players to tournament chess, though there are quite a few experienced players who still love competing in them.

The beautiful countryside around the Campaspe resort provided open air facilities for the kids when they weren't playing

The Interschool tournament started on the next day, Monday 28th November, and was played at a slower rate of 25/10. Players were required to record moves until the final 5 minutes of their game. Although this may not strictly be required by International Chess Laws, this tournament is still an educational event for the players. So the emphasis is on improving a players ability through imitating proper tournament standards, and then analysing games after they've been played. The players could consult a host of coaches who were on hand to look at games and give post mortem analysis. The tip of the iceberg of the coaching staff was Mr. RJ himself, ex Australian Champion, and Olympiad player, International Master Robert Jamieson, but the rest of us are pretty good players as well :)

Mr. RJ, IM Robert Jamieson giving a well attended advanced lecture.

There were 2 tournaments, a Primary Schools event and a Secondary Schools event, and teams from new Zealand also competed. In fact the teams from New Zealand walked away with both titles this year. The Secondary division was won easily by Auckland Grammar School who came over fielding a remarkably strong team: Daniel Shen (FIDE 2182), Luke Li (FIDE 2105), Alex Huang (FIDE 2060), Hans Gao (FIDE 1898). It is no surprise that this team won their division comfortably! The Victorian Champions, Glen Waverley Secondary College finished in the runners up spot.

The playing venue

The Primary section was much closer and with 2 rounds to go, any one of about 5 teams could have won first. But the strongest finishing team was the New Zealand Takapuna Normal Intermediate School who ended up one and a half points ahead of Melbourne team, Doncaster Primary.

The smallest sometimes have to stand on their chairs to reach the far end of the board!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running Diary 28/11/2011

Today was a tough run. It was very humid and I didn't sleep well last night. However, I came home from work (which involved a 300km round trip today!) and was determined to rum. I had missed out on a work out at the weekend and was itching to get out.

So I started off at a reasonable pace with every intention of getting to 10km. Then the first issue was that my GPS didn't kick in and I ran for about 1.2km without endomondo registering it. So my goal of reaching 100km for the month of November would take that little bit longer (in fact this is the second kilometre I lost this month!). But although it's a bit annoying, it still didn't stop me from running, so I carried on and just tried to stick to a pace. At about 5 and a bit kilometres, I had to stop for a drink at a water fountain, and was more tired than I really should have been for the time I'd run.

A much needed refreshment on this run.

So I had a drink and then ran for about another kilometre and a half and found my legs just turn to jelly, and I felt a little light headed. So I stopped and walked a bit, then took off again for a final kilometre and a bit before I had to just give up and walk home. I stopped at a shop and picked up a Gatorade, but I was pretty peeved with having to quit short of my goal, but was very happy that I take a small amount of money with me just in case of this happening.

It's getting dark as I run by the bay. In the distance the Spirit of Tasmania ferries out of the bay.

Since coming in, showering, and cooling off I've had time to think about things. In reality, instead of regretting not making 10km, I should really be congratulating myself on running about 9km, which is no mean feat. A month ago, this would have been well beyond me, so I've come a long way. :) And another positive is that I forced myself to run when the easy thing was to cry off claiming tiredness. Running is a fun pastime, so I'm going to try to take the positives from it whenever I go out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I actually played some real chess!!

It's been quite a while since I had a real game of over the board chess, and I was a bit rusty. I played slower than I normally would have, which tends to be an indication that I'm not in great form. Saying that, I played ok until I got into time pressure. I had a formidable opponent, Australian IM Igor Goldenberg, and was black as well. I chose a defensive policy which worked well to a point, but in the end Igor's constant pressure told.

I was playing on board 1 for my team in the Victorian Teams Championship, so a draw would have been a great result. Unfortunately, I was unable to hold the position, and eventually lost the plot after playing the last 7 or 8 moves with only a minute on my clock. Check out Igor's technique at maintaining an edge. He didn't really do very much, but really stopped me from getting any counterplay.

There were a couple of interesting moments from my point of view. After move 23, I thought I was beginning to make some headway, but then played 24..b4 when I think 24..a4 with ..b4 to follow would have made more sense. The whole idea of this plan was to clear some of the queen side and all my b4 move did was block it up and give me weaknesses to worry about.

And of course the final move by Igor was a very nice way to finish the game. I had quickly made my last move while he had gone to get a drink, and immediately saw my blunder. Instead of 32..Nf6, 32..Rd6 was more stubborn, but I've probably let things slip by then anyway.

White played 33.Nge6+ and I resigned straight away as I'm losing a heap of material after 33..fxe6 34.Nxe6+ Kg8 35.Nxc7+

Friday, November 25, 2011

Running Diary 25/11/2011

Today I did a shorter run, a bit under 6 km, as I'm planning to run a long way next. I wanted to exercise, but in an easy sort of way, so I ran for 30 minutes, and even had a little break by the bay after about 3 km. I ran at a decent sort of pace, under 29 minutes for 5 km but nothing special. It was more of a relaxing sort of run.

Elwood Pier overlooking Port Philip Bay, a beautiful running spot.

I have set myself some goals, besides the challenges on Endomondo. These are long term goals, but there are markers along the way. For instance, I'd like to be able to run 5km in 25 minutes, that's even 5 minutes per kilometre. This would also bring me below the World record for 10km which stands at 26 minutes and 17.53 seconds. I find it quite amazing that there are people who can run twice as fast as I can for such long distances!

As for 10 km, I would like to do it in under 55 minutes which is an average of 5.30 minutes per kilometre. That would enable me to finish before the fastest runners in the world finish 20km, the World record currently standing at 56 minutes 26 seconds.

Other goals that I have set myself are basically to do with distance. I think I would now like to be able to run a half marathon. That is 21km, and seeing the furthest I've run so far is about 10km, I'm going to have to start building up. But before doing this, I want to see how hot it gets in our Australian summer. I might consolidate where I am before I start extending myself, and wait for the autumn.

Goal setting is a skill that most of us are not good at. We either set goals that are unrealistic and then lose interest in the activity, or we don't understand what truly motivates us and set goals that are not a challenge, or that we're not really bothered about. I hope the goals I've set myself are attainable. My fastest 5km so far has been about 27.30, so to reach my goal I need to cut 2 and a half minutes off my time. For 10 km, I have run just over an hour, so need to drop this by 5 minutes. As for extra distance, I am breaking new ground all the time, so I don't know where it will end.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Running diary 23/11/2011

Running every second day is working out great for me at the moment. I can put a lot into each run, and recover fully before the next one. I am sometimes a little stiff, or heavy legged, but that usually disappears once the run starts. I try to make sure I don't run 2 long runs (for me) back to back. Tonight I got home from work, changed into my running gear and just went straight out after a stretch. The last run I did was about 8km at a pretty slow pace, and before that I did 10km at an even pace. So I decided to try for 8km at a fairly decent pace. I am lucky with where I live as it is only 2.5km to the bay in Melbourne, so I am able to run along the sea for a part of the time. It's really pleasant to run in a beautiful environment, and sometimes, I just stop and admire the view around the bay. Today my run was broken up after 5km, when I stopped for about a minute to just look at the bay. The Spirit of Tasmania was turning around, presumably on it's way out of Port Melbourne, and I even saw a Rakali (water rat) scuttling about around some rocks and scrub near the waterfront.

The Rakali, a native of Melbourne

More rakali info can be found out at this website.

So I have been looking at running about 6 minutes per kilometre as a basic benchmark. Sometimes I might try to go quicker, and if I'm running a longer distance, I might try to hold back a bit. Today, like most of the time, I went with what felt comfortable and that was a bit under 6 minutes per kilometre. In fact, when I stopped at the 5km mark, I'd been running for just under 29 minutes. The last 3 kilometre's were run at a decent pace as well, and my 8km took about 46 minutes to run, compared with the 48 minutes which would have been even 6 minute kilometre's. You can check out my run for yourself, including a map of the route I took.

I know lots of runners listen to music while they run, and I would love to know what they are listening to. I am currently listening to some old punk stuff that I used to listen to when I was a bit younger. I have just over an hour's worth on my playlist, good enough for my 10km run. See if you know any of these old classics:

Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself), The Stranglers
Here Comes The Summer, The Undertones
Hanging Around, The Stranglers
Promises, The Buzzcocks
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)?, The Buzzcocks
I Wanna Be Your Dog, The Stooges
My Perfect Cousin, The Undertones
No More Heroes, The Stranglers
Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
London Calling, The Clash
I Don't Mind, The Buzzcocks
What Do I Get, The Buzzcocks
Wednesday Week, The Undertones
Peaches, The Stranglers
Teenage Kicks, The Undertones

I must admit, there are times I feel like singing along, but then remember I'm running, and other times I just feel like sprinting when certain tracks come on. It's difficult to hold on to a pace when Iggy Pop is belting out Lust For Life!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tal Memorial - some strange impressions

I hope I'm not the only chess player baffled by some of the strange manouvres that are being played in this tournament. I mean, the field is great, and they are putting together some excellent combative chess, but some of the opening play is way beyond me.

Round 1

Ivanchuk plays around with his queen. The opening moves of the game between Ivanchuk and Svidler were:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. Qb3 e6 6. Qa3 a5 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. Bd2 Nb4 9. Qa4+ Bd7 10. Qb3 leaving this position

Now Ivanchuk has moved his queen 4 times in the first 10 moves but isn't worse?

Round 2

The 2010 Russian Champion Nepomniachtchi was playing against Ivanchuk and decided he could outdo his illustrious opponent.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 Be7 8.Nc4 b5 9. Ne3

The beautiful knight on e3 has had an amazing start to this game, 6 times it's moved in the first 9 moves. Saying that, it does seem to have found a good square for itself. The same theme was used by Magnus Carlsen in the following round.

Round 3

It seems the world number 1 ranked player can get away with anything. Here he is playing no rabbit, but ex world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who has had a recent burst of form.
1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 h6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. e4 Nc6 6. Nge2 Bc5 7. d3 d6 8. h3

Nh7 9. a3 a6 10. O-O Ng5 11. Kh2 Ne6
Magnus has an amazing knight on e6, much the same as Nepomniachtchi's in the previous round, and he has only moved it 4 times in the first 11 moves Nf6-h7-g5-e6, so has been economical compared to the ex Russian Champ. However, Magnus has had the grace to throw in the moves a6 and h6 and lose a tempo with his dark squared bishop on the manouvre Bf8-b4-c5, and this bishop is heading back to a7 in a couple of moves as well!

Round 4

Nepomniachtchi is at it again, this time against Nakamura.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8.
Re1 Nc6

Hold on I hear you say, that looks like a fairly regular Sicilian, doesn't it? Yes, it is. Look at the next few moves 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1 a5 11. Nd2 a4 12. Ndb1 Ra5 13. Na3

The only difference in white's position is that his bishop has retreated to f1 and his centrally placed knight has moved to the edge of the board via the cumbersome manouvre Nd4-b3-d2-b1-a3.

Round 5

Nakamura decided to get in the act himself. The American number 1 decided that the best way to play against world number 3, Aronian was to move as few pieces as possible and shuffle his pawns a bit!

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6 6. e3 Bf5 7. g4 Be6 8. h4
Nd7 9. Bg3 Nb6 10. f3

Nakamura as white has played 7 pawn moves in his first 10 moves.

Strange opening choices, throwing conventional wisdom out the window:

- don't move the same piece twice in the opening until you are fully developed.
- don't waste time bringing your queen out early.
- develop your pieces quickly making as few pawn moves as possible.

The morals of the story?

Don't be dogmatic in chess. None of the players breaking these opening moves rules lost their games!

BUT!!! Don't try these things at home without some serious thought!!

Get Fit, Get Running

There are loads of ways to get fit, but the hardest part of any of these is actually getting started. About 7 months ago, I hadn't taken part in any meaningful regular exercise for quite some time, so I decided to plunge into the deep end and started running. Running is a cheap and effective means of getting fit. It's cheap as you don't need special equipment or a designated space to do it. I literally open my front door and start running, and the only expense I've had is a new pair of running shoes. It is an effective means of raising your fitness levels and burning off excess calories, as it is incredibly demanding. It can also increase your confidence and relieve stress or decrease depression! Check out some benefits of running!

Of course, the difficulty with any fitness or weight loss program is motivation. It is all too easy to miss a turn, or not put in a full effort. There are plans to help you out, though. I started with one that would get me to 5km. I liked the discipline of following a plan that had been designed for people like me, that is completely unfit slobs. But by the time the course is over, which is just 9 weeks, these slobs are running non stop for 3 miles/5km. I didn't actually follow the program religiously. I was ill for a couple of weeks and did no running at all, then eased back by repeating a level I'd already done, but in the end I got through the plan.

It felt absolutely great, a huge achievement, a personal goal conquered. In fact, it felt so good I started looking for another plan that could take me further. I found a plan that takes people from 5km up to an hour, or 10km of running. Again, I didn't religiously stick to the plan, but found that I wanted to run and was happy to step up the distance. Last week I completed the the one hour runner course, and I ran my second 10km run at the weekend.

Setting goals and staying focussed.

Once you get to a comfort level, it's pretty easy to set your own goals. How hard you push yourself to achieve these is a different matter. With running, the obvious goals are going further or faster, so for instance, I've set myself targets to reach for both 5km and 10km, and I also have a target for how far to run in 1 hour. These at least keep me constantly going out to run. I, like many others run alone, and to test myself against others, I have joined a running community. There are a number of good apps that you can get for your phone based on tracking you via GPS as you are training. I belong to Endomondo but there are heaps to choose from. In this community I can join challenges such as distance or speed tests (I am currently running 100km in November) and track your performances to see how (or if) you are progressing. There are forums, and blogs as well but part of the idea of exercise is to get out and away from the computer.

You can also plan to run a race, or a charity run. I am going to run the 2012 de Castella run for mental Health. I started a little late to enter the 2011 event. But who knows, the future might bring half marathons or full marathons?


Anyone who exercises encounters some problems. Firstly, there is a great risk of doing too much too soon. This can lead to injury and it is the best reason for following a fairly easy training plan. I am currently running every second day so as to give my aging bones and muscles some recovery time. Today I ran about 8km, but felt pretty heavy legged as I had run 10km in a fairly fast time just 2 days ago. It's a good idea to get to know your body and its limits.
Then there may be times that you can't keep up with the plan. Well don't worry, life goes on. It is not imperative to fulfil a running program in a given time to have a rewarding and meaningful life. Again, knowing your limits, including when you might need to take breaks, are important.
Tonight I had a technical problem with my GPS system. It didn't start for the first kilometre, and the app on my phone, and the home page online disagreed as to how far I actually ran today. Am I bothered? No, I ran about 8km after work and felt great :)
I'm in my 40's and soon after the program started on the build up to 5km, I had some aches in my knees and ankles. So I laid off for a bit, and started taking an omega 3 supplement. I initially started with wild krill oil tablets, but I'm currently on plain fish oil tablets. About a week after starting the supplements I had no problems with my joints. I have subsequently discovered that the supplements I'm taking are good for many other things as well.