Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Chess Free Week

Earlier this year, my wife and I worked out a plan to go away for a week around the time of our anniversary. So for the past week I have been spending time on a houseboat in Mildura, travelling a few miles down the Murray river, eating, drinking and generally forgetting what living in a city is like. It was a great chance to relax and recharge. I came back to Melbourne on Saturday (via a side trip to the Grampians) and found it really hard to get going again. But of course all good things come to an end and work eventually returned. Luckily I love my work of teaching chess and was eased into it a little with a game at the Melbourne Chess Club last night.

Relaxation on the Murray River

It was the last round of the MCC Open and with 2 players on 7/8 and unable to be caught, a grandstand finish was in order. The tension in the back room of the MCC where the top 5 games of the tournament was being held was palpable. On board 1, IM Guy West was facing a well known foe in IM Mirko Rujevic, while on board 2, FM Dusan Stojic was playing David Beaumont. I didn't get to see too much of these games as I was being put under the pump by giant killer Jason Chew. Jason, however got a bit passive at some critical moments and I managed to pull through. The excitement was on the top boards, though. Guy looked to be building some pressure against a vulnerable c6 pawn in a Semi Slav/Meran type structure. And in the meantime a big crowd was building around board 2 as David Beaumont went a piece up. So it looked like Guy West was taking the tournament outright but in a huge turn around, Guy dropped a piece and Dusan  managed to work miracles in an endgame where David blundered and Dusan actually took the full point. A remarkable finish leaving Dusan first on 8/9, Guy second on 7/9 and a group of players equal third on 6.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Keeping your feet on the ground

Last night I lost my game of chess. This statement would undoubtedly bring a different intensity of emotions to different chess players. I don't expect anyone feels good after losing a game, but I've seen a range of emotions that stretch from magnanimous through to anger, tears, excuse making and ignorantly rude and I'd like to remind people that its just a game we play. Take a look at disasters such as which has just happened on the Eastern coast of North America if you want to get upset about something!

If you give everything of yourself in your game, try your hardest, and just get beaten by the better player on the day that is nothing to be upset about. Luckily I can say that this year all the games I've lost have fallen within this scenario. So, I repeat, last night I lost my game of chess. I was playing IM Guy West and took him out of any preparation on move 1 by playing 1.c4 for the first time in my life! My idea was that Guy is incredibly difficult to prepare for as he can play almost anything. So I decided to just develop, get a fairly level position and then play the game from the middlegame. I wanted to fight for space in the centre and not allow myself to get over run. I was also prepared to take risks to open lines and directly attack his king if the position arose. Well, the game went pretty much to plan, then I gave up a pawn for not quite enough. Guy defended excellently and took the full point in a nervous finale where we played the last 20 moves with less than 5 minutes each, and the final 15 moves using our 30 second increment.
After the game we had a laugh about our lack of preparation for each other, but didn't really analyse much as it was already late when we finished. Guy had been visibly nervous during the game and was visibly relieved after winning the game. It keeps his tournament alive, and he shares first place in the MCC Open with FM Dusan Stojic who beat Richard McCart. Ari Dale moved into third place outright with a win over Jim Papadinis. I didn't see much of this game, which was a bit surprising as they were playing right next to me. However, I thought Jim was an exchange up early on while Ari had a ton of play for it. Jim's body language seemed to indicate he was getting himself untangled, and then the room heard an "Oh God!" which signaled that Jim had miscalculated an exchange and had lost a piece. So Ari is a point behind the 2 leaders and I'm a further point behind in 4th place where I'm joined by Jason Chew, Peter Fry, Richard McCart, David Beaumont and IM Mirko Rujevic.

This was the end of the game between Dusan Stojic and Richard McCart (though I couldn't testify to the exact position). Dusan here played 1.f4 and Richard played 1..e5 looking to create a passed pawn in the centre. Dusan quickly shot out with 2.g5! creating an outside passed h-pawn and winning the game.

The next round is not for 2 weeks as the tournament takes a break for the Cup Weekender. In the meantime I hope Malcolm Pyke recovers as he has had to withdraw from the tournament due to illness (it seems to be that time of the year for illnesses) and that whether you win, lose or draw your next game, you give your all and enjoy your game. :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Game Preparation

So what is game preparation all about then? I've had a whole free day to prepare for my game against IM Guy West tomorrow. What should I have done? Should I have played through loads of his games? Should I have some opening systems worked out for what he will most likely will play against me?

Actually, I don't know if I'm from the wrong era when it comes to preparation, but for me chess preparation tends to be a bit hit and miss. There are times when I get into some very specific opening preparation for particular opponent's. At other times, however, I hardly prepare at all and just play it by ear. To be honest, I haven't really got round to much specific preparation for this tournament. I have found it difficult to stay focused on the matter in hand. There are just so many interesting things to look at...

...and is it really that bad to work on things on a more general level? Wasn't it Botvinnik who said that chess is the art of analysis? I've seen some really nice chess things today, that I'll share them now.

It's always important to spot tactical threats. Here, it's white to move and his next move won material.

This is, of course, an easy one, but nice nevertheless. White played Ned5 and black resigned. The moral of the story is never forget about the centre of the board. Pieces can often make surprising moves into the centre, pawns can often be taken surprisingly...just look at this next one.
This was the game Naumann-Rapport Bundesleague 2011/2. Black here played 25..Bd4, tempting his opponent to trap his queen with 26.Rf3
So did black resign? Nope, he played 26..Nxc4!!
What a stunning position. White can't take the queen, the knight or the bishop. So what can white do? 27.Nxd6!! A stunning rejoinder looking to lure the Nc4 away from defending it's queen. Resignation time for black again?
27..Rxf4!! OMG, what the hell is going on in this game??
Pretty much everything of black is en prise, including the queen!! The game concluded, 28.Nxf4 Nxf4+ 29.Rxf4 Qxf4 30.Nxc4 Qg4+
and it ended in a perpetual draw 31.Kh2 Qh4 32.Kg2 Qg4+ 33.Kh2 Qh4+

An amazing sequence of moves, but the position which most impressed me today was a classic pawn ending (ok, I was looking at some pretty random stuff today :D).

This position occurred in the game Fischer-Bisguier US Championship 1959. It seems like a straightforward win for white who has an outside passed pawn that he just has to use to decoy the enemy king. 1.Kf3! [The immediate 1.g5 would only draw after 1..Kf5 2.Kd4 Kxg5 3.Kxc4 Kf6 and black's king gets back in time] 1..a5 2.Ke3 a4 and now that black has created a second weakness on the queen side, 3.g5! decoying black's king 3..Kf5 4.Kd4 Kxg5 5.Kxc4 Kf4 6.Kb4 Ke3 7.Kxa4 Kd2 8.Kb3 Kd3 9.c4 Kd2 10.Ka4 Kc2 11. Ka3 Kd3 12.Kb3 b6 13.Kb4 Kc2
And so it seems that white has it easy with an extra pawn and black's king on the wrong side of the pawns. However, that would be the worst thing you could think, and Fischer was up to the task with some accurate play. 14.Ka3! [The obvious 14.Kb5 fails to 14..Kb3, while 14.b3 also only draws after 14..Kb2 15.Ka4 Kc3 16.Ka3 Kd3!] 14..Kd3 15.Kb3 Kd2
16.Ka4! finally clearing the way for the b-pawn to run 16..Kc2 [16..Kd3 17.Kb5] 17.b4 and black finally resigned as there is no stopping white from promoting on the c-file.

So, I feel fully prepared for my game tomorrow night. I've seen some amazing games, some great tactics and fabulous endgames. As for specific preparation....who was it I'm playing? ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


It's an exciting time of year at my chess club, the Melbourne Chess Club. The current Monday night tournament is reaching it's climax, a big weekender is coming up, the next tournament is on the horizon and the state body is holding its AGM at the MCC soon.

The MCC Cup Weekender is a 9-round swiss held over the long weekend at the start of November. With just under 2 weeks to the start there are already a fair number of entries including 3 IM's and it promises to be a high class event.

The current Monday night event, the MCC Open has now had 7 of the 9 rounds and still the same 2 players dominate the field, as they have done all year at the club. FM Dusan Stojic had a potentially dangerous match up with Ari Dale who has already beaten Guy West this tournament. But Dusan held it together to notch up another victory to take him to 6/7. The only game he has lost was to IM Guy West who also won his 7th round game against Dizdarevic. These 2 are a point clear of myself, Ari Dale, Richard McCart and Jason Chew. I guess we can assume that one of these players will take the title, but it seems hard to see who will stop Guy and Dusan from their winning streaks. I won a hard game against David Beaumont to keep me just a point behind the leaders. The position was highly unbalanced for a while in the middle game before David got short on time and lost the thread. It was interesting as the game seemed to revolve around my light squared bishop and I had to use some imaginative methods to prevent it being trapped.

When this tournament ends, the most unusual tournament of the Monday night calendar starts. The last tournament of the year on Mondays is a series of 6 player round robins. Players are assigned into groups based on their ratings, with the highest rated 6 players in the first group, then the next 6 in the second group and so on. As all other Monday night events are run on the swiss system, this can be a refreshing change. These tournaments start on Monday 19th November and run through till just before Christmas.

Chess Victoria, the state administrative body for chess will be holding their AGM at the MCC on Sunday 11th November, and this will be preceded by the Victorian Blitz Championship. The AGM is mainly for electing or re-electing members of CV's committee, and rumour has it that some of the current members are ready to stand aside, though I have heard of no one new on the horizon to fill any positions. The current President of CV, IM Leonid Sandler is also one of the strongest blitz players in the state, though I guess he will have his hands full if some of our young players decide to try their luck.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chess in the Future?

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be involved in a chess tournament with a massive amount of technology. Chesskids organised a Victorian Youth Championship which was held at Swinburne University's new KIOSC building, a state of the art technology centre. The tournament was for kids below 15, but it was envisaged as an elite junior event as chesskids already runs a number of tournaments for players who are new to tournament chess, or have little experience.

Interactive Touch Screens
While the kids were playing in near by classrooms (large laboratory style spaces, with lots of natural light) the main hub area of the event was a room with amazing facilities, including touch screen monitors, and computer  to wall display projectors. Thus we were able to link the touch screens to interactive chess sites, such as chesstempo, promoting self improvement plans to kids and parents.

Projected Wall Displays

Live Commentary with IM Robert Jamieson
Projecting computer screens on to the wall allowed us to commentate on games, give lessons to kids and parents, and follow the action live as it was happening. Yes, I do mean live, and this was because of another innovation. Chesskids have developed their own tournament management software, tornelo. Tornelo is more than just a pairings program. It processes tournament entries, acts as a pairing program and allows for games to be entered and stored. This last facility was the big one for me this weekend. With the support of Swinburne University, we had the use of a number of Ipads which the kids used as score sheets to record their games. This meant that we saw the moves as they were being made (and some parents with their own laptops/Ipads were following their own kid's game).

Scoresheet of the Future

"Where's my Ipad?"

Some still preferred pen and paper
The significance of this technology has never been apparent to me. I guess I'm just too old to see the way these things work. Well, my eyes were opened this weekend. As I was commentating on some games it suddenly struck me that we were able to see games by players, some of whom are pre-school and who probably wouldn't be able to write their moves down. Wouldn't it have been amazing if this would have been  around to record the games of an infant Fischer, or Kasparov, and on the other hand, I also wondered whether we were recording the games of future Grand Masters?

Technology aside, this was still a kids chess tournament and all I saw was kids having fun, playing chess, socialising with friends and generally enjoying their competitive weekend. The results can all be found on the tornelo page, along with a database of over 200 games (check out the link at the top of the page). The winners of each section won $150 but more importantly, they each won a trophy!
Joint Winners of under 7's admiring their prizes!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In the Town Where I was born...

At the moment the chess world is seeing an absolute glut of top class chess. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana starred at the Grand Prix final split between the cities of Sao Paulo and Bilbao, while World Champion Anand disappointed. Finishing just before that was the London GP event where Boris Gelfand showed that his World Championship was no fluke as he came equal first with Mamdyarov and a resurgent Topalov. Going on at the same time was the Karpov tournament in Poikovsky, won by Russian Jakovenko, who is now playing board 1 for his team Ugra in the European Club Cup in Israel. This is an unbelievably strong team event, reminiscent of the big soccer leagues of Europe where home town allegiance is not a prerequisite.

So it is with this in mind that I noticed my birth town of Basingstoke is holding an international event in a couple of weeks time. The Basingstoke International is being organised by e2e4chess and it might just be the strongest event ever to be held in the vicinity of Basingstoke. So far there are already 4 Grandmasters entered and with live coverage and extensive pgn downloads, this is one event I will be following closely.

For those who don't play chess, the area is lovely. Hook is a village to the east of Basingstoke just on the far side of Old Basing which is itself an ancient village mentioned in the Domesday Book and the site of a battle in 871AD! There are Roman remains throughout the area and an abundance of excellent country pubs!
Coach and Horses, Rotherwick

The Fox Inn at Ellisfield

The Mill House, North Warnborough

History Repeats Itself

The MCC Open is following a familiar pattern. First FM Dusan Stojic steams ahead. Then he is paired against IM Guy West who needs to win to catch up, and duly does just that. The rest of us are spectators hanging on to the tails of these 2 comets. With the board 2 game between juniors Ari Dale and Jason Chew postponed, Guy and Dusan currently sit on 5/6 half a point ahead of Mehmedalija Dizdarevic, who is continuing his good start to this event with a 6th round victory over IM Mirko Rujevic. I am part of the chasing group on 4/6 along with Malcolm Pyke, David Beaumont and Richard McCart. As both Dale and Chew are already on 4 points before their game, this makes up the leading pack with 3 rounds to go.

I didn't see much of the other games. The top board game was a tough one to assess. I looked at the position after perhaps an hour or 2, and it seemed to me Guy had grabbed a pawn, but Dusan had comensation in the form of piece activity. I think Mirko mixed it with Dizdarevic then grabbed some material which led to his own king being violently attacked. I stodged a playable position with black against Peter fry's 1.b3 which turned into an odd Exchange French where white had fianchettoed his queen side bishop. I probably missed some chances earlier in the game to improve my position, but I was fairly happy with the way I played.

Further down the field, Andrew Louis should be pleased with his first win the tournament.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mistakes can happen...

Today, I faced one of the biggest challenges in my role as a chess coach. Over the past 8 years of teaching chess for chesskids in Melbourne, I have experienced all sorts of problems, some caused by myself and some incidental. Over time I have arrived at classes without a demo board (minor inconvenience), with a demo board but no pieces (minor inconvenience), with a demo board and some pieces (frustrating), with a demo board and pieces but no normal playing boards (panic!!). I have been sent to the wrong school, the right school, but wrong campus, a school with no rooms to teach in, and best of all was a outdoors simul given in what can only be described as a blizzard!

Today the new challenge came through a lack of voice. I think that I caught a chill when running a few days ago. I had started out in sunshine, and then the temperature dropped and it started raining heavily. I was probably under dressed for the conditions, and caught a chill on my chest. The upshot is that I now have no voice and the making of a cough. Well, at least I got through it, and I now know that I can control a class without raising my voice :)

I wasn't feeling too great on Monday, but it was no excuse for my play against Ari Dale. I had intended to continue our theoretical duel in the main line of the Caro Kann. However, on Monday I didn't have the energy to finally prepare, so I decided to just play 1.d4 and stodge it. But a blood of rush to the head saw me throw in an early g4 in a Queen's Gambit Declined. To be honest, it was quite an interesting game up to a point, but I lost the plot and Ari put me away relatively easily. The tournament remains in the hands of Dusan Stojic who won against Mehmedalija Dizdarevic to go to 5/5. The board 2 game between Guy West and Malcolm Pyke was postponed due to Malcolm being ill, but the big sensation was young Jason Chew beating MCC stalwart IM Mirko Rujevic. Mirko castled queenside riskily on the white side of a French and was punished in no uncertain terms. These results mean that Dusan is followed by Ari and Jason who are a point behind (of course, Guy or Malcolm could join the leaders), with the rest of us trailing behind.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Endgame Epiphany

There comes a time in every players chess development when you suddenly realise that you don't know enough about the endgame. Most players fall into the trap of working on opening variations, and getting good positions, only to go wrong sometime later in the game. It is usually a combination of a painful result such as an easy win that turned into a loss, some jovial ribbing from our opponent who can't believe his luck, and one of the chess club's elder statesman shaking his head in an "I told you so" sort of way that finally leads us to the fact that we need to work on this part of our game. Remember the old adage, "the hardest part of chess is winning a won game"? That's why we have to work on our endgames.

Of course, the problem with studying endgames is that it is very theoretical and starts from the wrong end of the game! This makes it difficult to apply to our games. As an example, my first book on the endgame was "Practical Chess Endings" by Paul Keres. I was attracted by the title, and knew that Keres was one of the greatest players in chess history. However, I just couldn't get into the book which was laid out in a text book type fashion. Funnily enough, since working on the endgame, I have looked at this book again and realised how good it is. It is an excellent one book compendium taking a player to a competent level of endgame play, but it is not didactic. In fact, I would go as far to say that unless you had some previous knowledge of endgames, the book can be downright boring! And of course, it is not the only endgame book like this.

To learn how to play endgames, most players need to learn theory after general principles. To apply endgame knowledge we must know things such as using a king, restricting our opponent's king, creating passed pawns, defending material, how pieces work together and against other pieces, strong and weak pawns, space and how to create plans. The best set of general principles I've seen are listed on Exeter Chess Club's website. These are pearls of wisdom taken from a number of sources and conveniently placed together.

Another important aspect in teaching endgames is inspiring players. If the subject matter comes across as boring, then it will be harder to focus, and may even prevent a player from trying (that's what Keres book did for me). Somehow endgames need to be made interesting, and some books have certainly achieved this. The book that first made an impression on me was Chernev's "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings". In this book, Chernev not only explained the endgames, but made it a personal tribute to Capablanca, who he obviously admired. There is a similarly inspirational book about another world champion, "Vassily Smyslov, Endgame Virtuoso". These books which single out a player and take the way they play a certain aspect of the game are great introductions. They are relatively lightweight giving us an introduction into endgames which would then make a textbook such as Keres' more accessible. Another great book to introduce oneself to endgames is van Perlo's award winning "Endgame Tactics".

Once inspiration has sunk in, players can go about improving their knowledge of specific endgames. Again, I think that books that go from a-z, that is king and pawn versus king through pawn endgames onto queen endgames, rook endgames minor pieces and so forth are not the books to go for. These sorts of books are in my opinion more like reference works. They have their place on a bookshelf, so they can be referred to after an endgame has been played. Actually, I prefer books which jump around a bit and "Silman's Complete Endgame Course" is an excellent example of this.

As you get more and more into endgames, you start to look at more and more types and more theoretical endgames. You also start to see in your games plans early on which have reference to possible endgames which might arise. I have been using 2 resources regularly for quite a while now, that analyse contemporary endgames. In the daily chess newspaper, "Chess Today" GM annotators (especially Alexander Baburin) look at practical endgames regularly. Here the emphasis is most definitely practical as the examples come from real, recent games. However, there is often a theme put to an article (eg recent rook endgames, minor piece endgames from the Olympiad etc) and often the examples are put into their theoretical context. The other great resource is GM Karsten Muller's articles on chess cafe, and chessbase. Again, these are varied and based on practical examples, but placed into a theoretical setting. So you get the best of both worlds, some interesting examples explained in general terms with more concrete theory to back this up. In fact, it would be well worth looking through the archives of chess cafe and going through Muller's old articles. He has written so many that compiled they would become an excellent book on chess endgames.

So, once the epiphany has come about and you realise you have to do something about the endgame, get inspired about the work you are about to undertake. Believe me, once you get into endgames, they are great fun to work on. But you have to get in to them in the first place. So start with a book like van Peerlo's, then move on to something like Silman's, and all the while check through the stuff on chess cafe, and subscribe to a resource like chess today. And best of all, get someone to work with, because it's easier to have a study companion or to work in a group than it is to plough through these on your own....at least to start with. I'll be adding some endgame material on this blog in the future (basically, rehashing my old MCC Endgame Group), which will hopefully be inspirational :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Melbourne Chess Club Open

I've been playing in this tournament, though as I'm on holiday it doesn't really seem that much has been happening. In fact, the tournament has settled into a pattern resembling the Club Championship. Dusan Stojic has raced to 4/4 and leads a pack of players of which Guy West is the top seed. Guy and Dusan are yet to play, and that may once again be the clincher for this tournament, though as we've only had 4 rounds it is a bit early to be predicting things like that.

Dusan has beaten myself and IM Mirko Rujevic in consecutive rounds to lead the field. In my game, I thought the position was dead level, and then realised I was virtually in zugzwang after about 15 moves, took about 30 minutes to come up with a bad move and was slaughtered about 10 moves later.

Here, Dusan as black coolly played 15..b6, reinforcing his queen side and I spent 30 minutes realising that my position was bad. I had many ways to lose material, but I decided to maintain a material balance and give my opponent a quick win on the dark squares. I have to admit, his knights in this game were absolutely awesome.

I bounced back this week with a long, hard, struggle against Paul Kovacevic on the black side of a Queen's Gambit Exchange. Paul made the same mistake as I did against Dusan, playing a little passively at the end of the opening. But it puts me on 3/4 which I'm pretty happy with. I'm alongside some very good players, IM's West and Rujevic, Malcolm Pyke, Ari Dale and surprise package Jason Chew who had a great victory last week against David Beaumont.

Dusan is one point clear of all of us, but in the middle is M. Dizdarevic on 3.5. It's good to see Mehmedalija at the club, as this is his first tournament here this year. The tournament is getting good coverage on Kerry Stead's blog, and Kerry is as ever doing a great job as arbiter!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Day Off in Sao Paulo

I also had a day off which I spent with my lovely wife, Caroline.It isn't often that we get days off together, and chess tournaments seem to be the same. Because as Sao Paulo had a day off, the men's Grand Prix in London and the women's Grand Prix in Ankara were in full swing. The London Grand Prix is struggling through mid tournament and has seen a lot of draws so far. It's a big shame that 2 of the tournament's young stars, Nakamura and Giri,  seem to be in terrible form. However, the tournament leader, Boris Gelfand is only at +2 so a lot could happen yet with 5 rounds still to go.

The women's tournament has created far more exciting chess, with top seeds Muzychuk and Koneru leading the way on 7.5 from 10 games. With just one round to go these 2 lead by half a point from Xue Zhao, and one of these 3 will be the winner. They have all played each other so it is anyone's tournament. In the last round, the most fascinating game to my mind was the continuation of the theoretical duel between Tatiana Kosintseva and Wenjun Ju in the main line of the Sicilian Najdorf. This was an opening that was all the rage when I was young. I remember buying a book on the Najdorf by John Nunn in about 1982 and being enthralled with it. Nunn then revised his book and updated it and when it was published I became disillusioned with the Najdorf and opening theory in general due to the increase in size of the book and the knowledge needed to play this sharp opening.

Before looking at this game, yesterday I set this puzzle:
This was from the game Nedezhda Kosintseva-Vojinovic Gaziantep 2012. What move did black miss here? If black had found the amazing 30..Qe4! white could have resigned. Black threatens 31..Qxg2 mate and if 31.Qxe4, then 31..Rxf1+ leading to mate as well. The Kosintseva twin was lucky that her opponent missed 30..Qe4 and after an eventful rest of the game, it ended in a draw.

After the move1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3
Qc7 9. O-O-O Nbd7 10. g4 b5 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5 a critical position in the Najdorf has arisen.
I remember looking at this position in some detail in my teens and thinking deeply about the options 13..Bxg5, 13..Ne5 and 13..Nc5, the last of which was always seen as the mainline. A couple of years ago, the move 13..O-O appeared, and has proved a favourite of Chinese player Wenjun Ju. She has played it a number of times, including games against both Kosintseva sisters at the Nalchik women's Grand Prix in 2011 and Russian women's legend Alexandra Kosteniuk in a rapid event in 2011.

Nedezhda Kosintseva played very conservatively with 14.fxe6 fxe6 15.Qe3 when confronted with this move and lost. Two days later, Tatiana played more aggressively with 14.Rg1, though black proved to have adequate counterplay and the game ended in a hard fought draw. Kosteniuk followed the same plan as Tatiana, and again the game ended in a hard fought draw. The soundness of the move 13..O-O was given a big boost by its employment by 2700 super GM David Navara earlier this year.

Obviously this line was expected by Tatiana Kosintseva as she came out with the novelty 14.Qh5. The idea seems very simple, trying to prove that 13..O-O is too risky to play and going straight for the black king. The Russian seemed to be in charge of the tactics, and 10 moves later was completely won, with black resigning on move 30. A great attacking game, and perhaps the last time the Chinese player will venture the risky 13..O-O for a while.

I can't remember who said chess is 99% tactics but openings like the Najdorf certainly bring out the truth of this statement. Another opening that does is the King's Gambit which is where the other position from yesterday originated. You see, I had a look at Marin's book, "Beating The Open Games" and after reading the introduction and first chapter on the King's Gambit, decided to look at some games in the King's Gambit. I had just downloaded the latest TWIC, and the only game starting with 1.e4 e5 2.f4, was between 2 club players. However, just because games aren't between top players, it doesn't mean that interesting positions can't be reached and analysed, like the one from yesterday.
White has so many tempting moves, and sometimes when there are a number of choices, it makes it difficult to find the right choice. White here played 16.Neg5, no doubt heading for f7, but perhaps would have struggled if black had taken on g5. The first move which tempted me was 16.Ne5 heading for g6 instead. After 16..Nxe5 17.dxe5 Qe7 I really would have liked to have opened the h-file but I can't see how to do it. White's position looks promising, but no more. So, how about opening the h-file straight away? Black has real problems after 16.Bg5!! as 16..hxg5 loses to 17.h4!, and 16..Ne7 and 16..Qd7 lose to 17.Ne5. So I guess that leaves 16..Nf6, but white can just take 17.Nxf6 leaving black in a hopeless position.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chess, chess and more chess. But I'm on holiday!

Today I'm suffering from a well known malaise. I finished work yesterday, and have a week's holiday. So today I've felt woolly headed and lethargic. A shame really, as there is so much top class chess going on. I took a brief look at the games from Sao Paulo, and I want to look a little more deeply into the ending between Caruana and Anand. It was a rook ending where Caruana finished with rook and 2 unconnected pawns against Anand's rook, yet the game finished in a draw.

The lead up to this had been fascinating, but here, Anand as black played 69..Kg7. I first thought, why not 69..Kf7? I then thought that white might have a win after 69..Kf7 70.Rf8+ Kxe7 71.Rf2 where black's king is cut off. However, black has 71..Rh1+ 72.Kg3 Rh8 switching to a frontal attack which will work as white's pawn hasn't crossed to the fifth rank. If now 73.g5, then 73..Rf8 when white either has to exchange rooks leading to a drawn pawn ending, or allow black's king in front of the pawn. After Anand's 69..Kg7 Caruana played 70.Kh4 and the game was agreed a draw.Black will play 70..Rh1+ and then return to e1, and there isn't much white can do as his rook can't leave e8, and his king can't cross the e-file.

Apart from Sao Paulo, there is a Grand Prix tournament in London where defeated World Champion challenger, Boris Gelfand is currently leading. Gelfand was gifted a win from Chinese player Wang Hao in another rook ending.
In this position, the Chinese GM played 55..Kh7? and after 56.Kf7 forcing mate, resigned and burst into laughter!

There is also a women's Grand Prix in Ankara which is being a bit overshadowed in news terms by the men's events. Perhaps organisers could bring themselves to not clash top women's with men's events so that the women get a fair go in the press. A strong field is being led by top seed Anna Muzychuk.

Ok, that's it because I'm on holiday! I will be getting back to blogging very soon (tomorrow!) but I leave 2 testing positions:

 What killing move did black miss in this position?

What move would you choose as white here? (There are loads of interesting lines here!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Melburnian in Moscow

(first published on my other blog)

I work with Michael Pahoff who is one of the millions of hobby chess players worldwide. Michael told me he was off on holiday to Moscow, so I suggested a chess related visit. Michael followed up on that, and sent me this story! Thanks Michael.

Hi Carl,

In early September, I visited Moscow for the primary purpose of witnessing Russia's 200th anniversary celebrations and reenactment of the Battle of Borodino 1812 / 2012. With 3,000 participants and over 100,000 spectators the reenactment was marvellous. Whilst in Moscow, on your suggestion, I visited the Moscow Central Chess Club, near the city centre, which was also a very worthwhile experience.

The building that houses the Moscow Central Chess Club was built around 1820, coincidentally, as part of Moscow's restoration after Napoleon's 1812 Invasion of Russia, where the Muscovites burnt down their own city, rather than giving it up wholly. It is two stories high, with a third currently being constructed as a further restoration to the entire building. The second floor has a central plaza, where the parents wait for their children, with wings / rooms on both sides for tournament play. There are lots of old photographs on the walls of Moscow Central Club Members who have been National and World Champions. While I was there, one of the wings was being used for junior Chess lessons.

I was given a very warm welcome by the Manager, Anton Kuzin, and would recommend the Moscow Central Chess Club to anyone visiting that wonderful city.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thinking Processes again

If you're playing someone much higher rated than you, or much lower rated than you, do you change your style of play? And should you? I have to admit, that my policy has been to play more solidly against lower rated players, while trying to mix things tactically against higher rated players. As a result I usually grind down players much lower rated than me, although I do sometimes end up drawing (or even losing the odd game), and against higher rated players I sometimes have big wins but not that often. So is this general plan desirable or should I be playing true to myself each game irrespective of my opposition?

So far in the Monday night tournament at the MCC, I have played 2 games against players quite a bit lower rated than myself. In both games I followed a similar pattern. I sought as much space as I could get, tried to consolidate my gains and then brought my pieces to their most effective positions behind my pawn cover before breaking through. My opponents both defended quite passively and allowed me the time to fulfil my goals. Against Bill Reid last week, I questioned my calculation skill in the following position:

One line I looked at here was 19.Nd5 Nxd5 20.Bxd8 Nf4 21.Bc4 Qg6 and I asked in my last blog post what did I miss in this line? Well, quite a bit actually. After 19.Nd5 Nxd5 (I think black must take because of the threat to c7) 20.Bxd8 (This is not an obligatory capture. White has a comfortable edge after 20.Bc4, but forcing moves like 20.Bxd8 are easier to calculate) 20..Nf4 (Black should play 20..Rxd8 which will leave him with 2 pieces for a rook after 21.Bxe6 Ne2+ 22.Kf2 Nxd4) 21.Bc4 Qg6 (and now 22.Qd2 would win material for white, though this line is pointless because of 20..Rxd8).

My trouble in these lines was seeing opportunities for my opponent, and alternatives (especially non forcing moves) in variations. In my game last night against Tanya Kolak, I worked hard on these aspects and was pretty happy with the way I was thinking. I noticed once again that I looked for forcing lines at one point, ignoring another possibility, though it may have another cause other than calculation problems. I reached the following position for black.
Black has a wide range of moves and plans to choose from. I chose 11..d4 creating extra tension in the centre. One move that I merely glimpsed at, and then ignored was 11..e4. But this move has a lot going for it. It opens the h2-b8 diagonal, displaces white Nf3, vacates e5 for a black minor piece, and holds back white's e-pawn which currently blocks the dark squared bishop.

So why didn't I choose such an obviously good looking move? I think the reason is one of familiarity. I have played pawn advances such as 11..d4 often and I'm usually comfortable with an opening of the centre. In the above position, I judged that my better development would put me in good stead if lines opened. Partially closing the centre with 11..e4 is something that I tend to do rarely in my games, and I tend to feel less comfortable in positions with a closed centre. Looking at more positions like those above and comparing them can only help a player to understand the game better, and perhaps the style that suits his natural game the most.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chess Thinking Processes

When you play games it's a good idea to analyse your thinking processes afterwards. I mean, it's easy to get a computer to check the moves for blunders, but the 3000+ rated silicon tactic master can't correct the way we think about our moves. I played a game on Monday in the MCC Open, and have analysed some of my thinking processes. Take the following position:

White to move

As white in this position, I had 3 candidate moves:

I analysed the most forcing 19.Bxf6 first seeing 19..gxf6 [19..Qxf6 20.Qxf6 gxf6 21.Nd5 seemed good for white] 20.Nd5 winning a pawn by force.

19.Nd5 tries to exploit black's pinned knight, but I looked at 19..Nxd5 20.Bxd8 Nf4 21.Bc4 Qg6.

19.Bc4 Qe5 then seemed to me similar to the first line.

So based on this artificial analysis, I chose 19.Bxf6, winning a pawn in the most forcing way and I went on to win the game. But really, my thinking processes were flawed in a number of ways:

1. I was overly attracted to the most forcing lines which clouded my judgement.

2. After 19.Nd5, I analysed lazily, again taking the forcing line to be gospel.

3. I made assumptions not based on analysis, such as 19.Bc4 being essentially the same as 19.Bxf6.

How can I correct these problems in my games?

Well, identifying problems is the first step. Secondly, I must not make assumptions about positions without doing the work. And finally I must put in the work. Analysing some difficult tactical positions and analysing games generally needs to be something which I undertake more often. And I need to make myself work harder during the games, and not be blinded by the most forcing lines of play.

If any of my thinking problems resonate with you, then try to work out what was wrong with my analysis of the line starting with 19.Nd5? (from the diagram above: 19.Nd5 Nxd5 20.Bxd8 Nf4 21.Bc4 Qg6). What did I miss?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Playing Again

I've had a bit of a break from playing chess (a couple of months) and feel fully refreshed and ready to give it my all in the latest Monday night event at the Melbourne Chess Club. The MCC Open is a 9 round swiss event which started last night and runs until 12th November. So far 30 players have entered with the favourites being IM Guy West, FM Dusan Stojic and IM Mirko Rujevic. I'm sat at number 5 seed, which meant that I started in the top half which usually means an easy point. However, it seems to me that easy first round points are getting harder to come by, and in fact, a few games went against the odds. Thai Ly was the highest rated player to drop points, Alex Kaplan again scoring a good draw. But Finley Dale probably caused the biggest upset of the night beating Gary Lycett. Gary had been in excellent form in the recently finished Malitis Memorial, which made young Finley's win even more impressive. Tanya Kolak and Abraham Widjaja were the other upset winners beating Anthony Hain and Paul Kovacevic respectively.

While I'll be taking a personal view of this tournament, arbiter Kerry Stead is reporting on the event on his blog, while another MCC member, Paul Cavezza (who is largely responsible for the reconstruction of the MCC website) will also be blogging about the tournament.

From my point of view, I have had to build my playing schedule around my work as a chess coach. I now don't work on Mondays, so I have an easy run in to the tournament. But that is where the fun ends. Tuesday is my busiest day, starting at 8am and finishing at 7.30pm (I leave my house about 7am, and get home about 8pm!). So while I give my all in my games, I apologise now to players if I rush off without analysing our game. And though I will look at the games in some depth at some stage, it probably won't be until later in the week. What I will say about this game is that I played very safe at the start of the game and felt I had no tangible advantage for the first 15 moves. I didn't like Bill's 16th move pinning himself and was able to win a pawn, though I'm not sure I managed to do this in the best way. I was worried about possible opposite coloured bishop endings, and if Bill had played 28..Bd6 instead of 28..Ra8, we may have been in for a late night.

Olympiad round up

Well that was an amazing event! Both the men's and women's tournaments went to the wire, with Armenia edging out Russia in the Open section, while Russia beat China in the Women's section. Man of the tournament was Armenian number 1, Levon Aronian who led his team from the front, posting a 2848 rating performance and 70% on the top board against all the strongest opposition. Women's world champion, Yifan Hou starred in the women's section with a 2645 performance and 72%. One thing worth noting is the bi-polar tournament of the Netherlands. Obviously disturbed by the absence of board 1 Anish Giri, the 9th seeded team found themselves in lowly 74th place after 4 rounds. In round 5 Giri played his first game, arriving in Istanbul after visa problems, and from then Netherlands started their move, finishing eventually in 6th.

The tournament wrapped up with the closing ceremony, and almost as soon as the event closed, the tweets started about Tromso 2014. The big question regarding the next Olympiad is whether the host nation will be able to get their star player, World number 1 Magnus Carlsen, to play. Even with Carlsen Norway are unlikely to place near the medals, but they would probably do better than their 54th place starting from a ranking of 45. The venue for the 2016 Olympiad was decided at the FIDE council, and disappointingly, it was given to Baku in Azerbaijan. Personally I have no problem with Azerbaijan but the fact that Armenian's will not travel there means that we are likely to have a tournament without one of the big favourites. Really FIDE should insist on host nations who are not in conflict with others, so while I am not happy with Azerbaijan, I would be equally dissatisfied, for example, with Armenia.

Australians should be proud of the performance of their teams, who suffered at the start of the event from illnesses, but who pulled through. The Open team had a remarkable event, with young stars Moulton Ly and Max Illingworth having particularly notable tournaments. Moulton scored 70% on board 2 for a 2541 rating performance which shows that he is capable of playing at GM standard. Max also scored 70% as board 5, scoring an IM norm which means he will be an IM as soon as he reaches 2400 which surely cannot be too far away. Max also finished in the top 20 for his board. Australia's women had an indifferent start to the event but came through to finish in 50th, which is where they were originally ranked. All the women chipped in with performances, and Ariane's last round victory against Peng Zhaoqin rated 2411 was a real highlight.

Istanbul 2012 was a great media event, and a competitive success. There is a huge amount of material with thousands of games ready to download or view online. There are also pdf bulletins which can be downloaded with games and information about the event. There is enough raw material to keep most of us busy until the next Olympiad in 2014. One game that may have escaped your notice was from the round 1 match between Mozambique and Bangladesh. It isn't often you see 4 queens on the board by move 10.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Olympiad heating up

It's just my luck that on such a dramatic day at the Olympiad as yesterday, I should feel ill and not be able to follow any of the action. Saying that, with the time difference here in Australia, I'd have been in bed before all the main action really would have happened. While it's frustrating to have to go to bed half way through a game that you've become engrossed in, I suppose if I was still living in England, then I'd be working while the games were happening.

Australia at the Olympiad:

The Australian men's team have done us proud. Their starting position was 61, but they are currently in 47th place having had a string of good results. In round 8 they beat Ireland with nice wins from Solomon and Illingworth, while they drew with the team from Tajikistan in round 9, though this could have been an even better result had David Smerdon not lost on time in a good position. David's Facebook post says it all:

"Losing on time on move forty when your 2600+ opponent is about to resign...

Wine. Lots of wine." - D. Smerdon

The men should be pretty happy with the way things have gone though. Max Illingworth has been a star on board 4, while the rest of the team (except Alex Wohl who has been having a forgettable tournament and sounds as if he is feeling guilty about it to the team) have been playing respectably well. 

In my opinion, the women have had a tough time of it. They have had some tough pairings for their position, and have done well to stay around the 50th position in which they started. Tonight is another example where the women have a really tough draw against Argentina who are the second highest seeded team in that score group, while Australia are also in the top half of that score group according to seeding. Likewise they got a very tough draw against number 10 seeds Romania earlier in the tournament. Saying that, the women are doing ok, and have all had their moments.

The under 16's will be a little disappointed, though they shouldn't be. Our top team finished in 8th place from a starting rank of 5th. However, in the last round Australia lost to India by 2.5-1.5, while if they would have won 3-1 they would have gained the bronze medals, which shows how close the event was. Australia fielded 3 teams, the other 2 finishing 25th and 30th. It will have been great experience for these kids, and especially working with a Grandmaster coach like David Arutinian.

This amazing video from Chessvibes captures the drama at the end of the big match USA-Russia.

Of course, the main news of the Olympiad was Russia's loss to the American team. With the Russian's seemingly coasting they came up against a team that can be unpredictable. Obviously the USA are strong but they can sometimes disappoint and they can sometimes amaze. Yesterday they amazed, and all the talk on the social networks is of Nakamura's underpromotion. I've felt so ill today that I haven't actually checked it out yet! So USA pull level with Russia, and they are both joined by China and Armenia. The match up of USA-China is an intriguing one where I expect little compromise. These teams play to win, and if they lose it's usually because they push too hard! Meanwhile Russia drop down to play Argentina while Armenia face a resurgent Netherlands. Since Anish Giri arrived the Dutch have turned their Olympiad around and are on the verge on a great result. Giri-Aronian on board 1 is a mouth watering encounter!

In the women's tournament, China hold a 1 point lead from Russia, with a chasing pack a further point down. Having played many of their closest rivals already China face 22 seeds Kazakhstan, while the Russians have a much harder task against Armenia.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Visitors to the Olympiad

The past couple of days some notable chess celebrities have attended the Olympiad in Istanbul. Former World Champion Garry Kasparov turned up in Istanbul to cheer on the Russian team. In fact, I guess having Kasparov in the building probably turned up the pressure on the Russians to actually win the event this time. Kasparov's presence has certainly done the trick, as the Russian number 1 Kramnik, beat his arch rival Armenian Aronian on top board with a nice piece sacrifice.

Here, Kramnik as white played 23.Nxb7 sacrificing his knight for both black's queen side pawns. After 23..Rxb7 24.Qxa6 Rbc7 25.b4 Qd7 26.Qb6 black's pieces are in a terrible tangle and white went on to win.

Unfortunately for Kasparov, Kramnik's victory was not enough for a match win. The Armenians managed to draw with the Russians, but since then Armenia lost to China while Russia beat Hungary and stand in first place a match point ahead of China and Ukraine. Tonight sees the big match up of Russia against defending champions Ukraine!

While Kasparov witnessed Russian victories, former women's World Champion Susan Polgar was in town, while her sister Judit is playing for the Hungarian team. Judit did her part in the match against the Russians drawing with World number 7, Karjakin, though the Hungarians narrowly lost. Good news for Judit was not just that Susan was in town, but her other sister Sofia also showed up.

Judit, Sofia and Susan Polgar (courtesy of @Arman Karakhanyan on the Olympiad site)

Of course, there could be other reasons for the appearance of people at the Olympiad. Those with political ambitions (such as Kasparov) will not have a better chance of meeting such an amount of national chess dignitaries, and FIDE itself has its congress at the Olympiad. I'm sure that Kasparov, among others, will be checking out some of these activities, as well as spectating the Olympiad. Susan Polgar will no doubt be supporting her sister, but may also be in Istanbul as a coach and a journalist. One person who is not there as a journalist is Evgeny Surov, the editor in chief of the Russian chess news website. He has been denied accreditation as a journalist by the organisers (actually it seems Turkish chess President Ali Nihat Yazici is behind the action) which has caused quite a storm. A number of grandmasters and officials have signed an open letter protesting the treatment of Mr Surov. With only a few rounds to go this won't help Mr Surov at this Olympiad, but if it does anything to stop the political ambitions of Yazici, then it will be a good thing.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chess Numbers

There are loads of numerical theories (eg) that pertain to chess. Whole sets of maths puzzles are based around chess, and I wouldn't be surprised if some numerologists have tried to put together some greater meaning behind some chess related number patterns. This post has got nothing to do with that but is just a random post about some numbers that I have found interesting.

2693 This is the FIDE rating of Pavel Eljanov and Gabriel Sargissian who are playing each other in round 5 of the Olympiad. What I found particularly interesting  about this is that 2 players with such whopping ratings should find themsleves on the bottom board for their respective teams. The Olympiad is now going through a tough phase (especially as they are using match points as the first determining factor of rank) where the top teams will all have to play each other. Hungary against Russia is another mouth watering pairing, where a repeat of the 2004 World Championship match between Kramnik and Leko is being played out on board 1.

46 (No, not the age I'll be turning next birthday!!) Australia's men's team rank before round 5, 15 places above their starting rank. I'm not sure what the team will consider a good final placing but it is an interesting subject. If Australia finish in the top 50 this may be considered a good result for a team starting from 61st place. Maybe top 40? Will it depend on the opposition. So far, the Australian team have done ok beating the teams ranked below them, and drawing with one of the teams above while only narrowly losing to the other. I also wonder if there is a team perspective on this subject or whether the players themselves are left to set their own targets? The women's team are performing a little below par. They have won 2 and lost 2, but one of their losses was to a team ranked below them, so they will not be happy with that. From a starting position of 50th, I guess the women will be looking to finish above that and perhaps challenge the top 30.

33 Of all players born in 1999, Melbourne youngster Karl Zelesco is ranked 33 in the new FIDE rating list published today. His 2116 rating is still a far cry from the top player of that year group, Yi Wei (2453) of China. However, it only seems like yesterday that Karl was coming through Junior rapid tournaments and we considered him a talented Primary School kid. I will be interested to see just how close he is to representing Australia at the next Olympiad in Norway as the improvement of our youngsters seems to know no bounds. Even Karl's international placing is eclipsed by Sydney's Anton Smirnov who currently sits at number 2 for players born in 2001, his 2139 rating just 15 points shy of the 2154 of Iranian youngster Tabatabaei in first place. So with Karl in Melbourne and Anton in Sydney Australian chess playing adults have a long suffering future ahead of us :(

Karl Zelesco

30 The number of moves in the Olympiad before a draw can be agreed. Also, coincidentally, roughly the amount of time in minutes taken for 30 moves to be made in the game Nguyen-Gagunashvili before it was agreed a draw. I guess if 2 players want to make a draw, then its going to happen! Was there any prearrangement here? Of course not!.....Riiiiiiiiiiiigghhhhtt!!!

21 The record number of Olympiad appearances, made by GM Eugenio Torre of the Philippines. Torre moves clear of Hungary's Lajos Portisch who played in 20, while Finnish GM Westerinen played in 19. The top English participants are Nigel Short and John Speelman who have played in 14 a piece, while the top Aussie is Ian Rogers who has played in 14!

The last number I lost count of, which was the number of tweets I ignored about the Melbourne Storm's win against the West Sydeny Tigers while I was trying to find out why Anish Giri hadn't been playing for Holland at the Olympiad. While obviously happy to see the Storm win, I was even happier to notice a tweet from chessvibes not saying why Giri hasn't been playing, but at least saying that he has finally arrived in Istanbul and will hopefully start helping the Dutch pull themselves up to a respectable position. I'll now go back to Twitter to see if I can find out any more info about this and other chess news matters while sifting through the hundreds of tweets about my other favourite team, West Ham who are currently beating Fulham in the Premiership!

Friday, August 31, 2012


I am currently sat in my beanbag, writing this while waiting for the live coverage of round 4 of the Olympiad to begin. Tonight I have my English head on, as the classic battle between England and France is being played. Both these teams are outside chances for medals in this Olympiad with France ranked 8th and England ranked 11th at the start of the tournament. Both teams have won all their games, and both have had to overcome some pretty tough opposition. In the previous round, France played Bulgaria who were ranked 10th before the tournament and who fielded the dangerous duo of Topalov and Cheparinov on the top 2 boards. However, Topalov was beaten by French board 1 Maxime Vachier-Legrave and the rest of the games were drawn. England also had an impressive victory in the 3rd round against Cuba (ranked 15th) with 2700+ players Dominguez and Bruzon on the top 2 boards. England's board 1 Adams won against Dominguez, while England also won on board 3 where they have the hugely experienced Nigel Short. With the other games drawn, this was a decisive 3-1 victory. The match has just started, and if either side can pull out a victory, then they will put themselves in great position at the head of the field.

Most of the top teams are near the top, but the big exception is Holland. I'm not sure what is going on here. The Dutch team seem to be missing Anish Giri, but still have 4 players rated above 2600 with the hugely experienced van Wely and Ivan Sokolov on top boards. However, none of their team is currently performing and from a starting rank of 9th they have currently won only 1 of their 3 matches including losing to Venezuela who are ranked a lowly 58th.

However, besides Holland, the top nations are there or thereabouts and this is shown in the 4th round pairings. USA(5)-India(13), Russia(1)-China(6), Azerbaijan(7)-Germany(14), and of course France(8)-England(11). The rest of the top teams are just behind these.

Australia narrowly lost out to Mongolia yesterday and find themselves down the field playing Pakistan, where hopefully they will bounce back up the field. In the 2.5-1.5 loss there was a good win for Max Illingworth on board 4 against a higher rated opponent. Max grabbed some material early on, and held on. There were some nervous moments through the middle of the game, but I get the feeling that Max felt comfortable, and he finished the game off in style.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Evans Gambit

I've never played the Evans Gambit with the white pieces. I really don't know why, as white seems to get excellent piece play for a minimal investment. And the resulting positions allow white an initiative while black has the difficult task of defending for a long time, not something that many players below GM standard really enjoy doing. And I suppose that when I was growing up the Evans was not a frequently played opening, even at club level (the King's Gambit was always more popular).

Then came the 1990's, and Kasparov started playing 1.e4 and among other strange, old forgotten systems he bashed out the Evans. Of course, Kasparov was not the only top player to try it out, but there couldn't have been anyone more high profile. Anyway, the children of Kasparov's revolution are far more comfortable with the Evans than my generation. But then again, it still has to be a certain style of player who gives the Evans a go, especially at the Grandmaster level.

One such player is Australian board 1 at the 40th chess Olympiad, David Smerdon. I'm never particularly surprised by what Smerdon plays anymore, I just expect the unexpected. I remember walking into the State Library of Victoria a few years back to browse through some of the books, and there was David Smerdon, checking out some theory on the Scotch Gambit....or was it the Max Lange?

Yesterday, Smerdon played board 1 for Australia in the Olympiad against a very solid Norwegian team amd with the white pieces went all out for activity, putting his 2498 rated opponent onto the back foot. After prolonged pressure, black finally broke and David was rewarded with the full point. For what it's worth, I think that Smerdon's plan of 13.Rd1 and 14.c4 has not been played before, though the idea has been suggested, eg by Costa in Opening Encyclopedia 2011.

Another solid performance by the men's team, with a 2-2 draw with 2014 hosts Norway (without Magnus Carlsen), while our women came on the wrong end of a very strong Indian team who beat us 3.5-0.5. This means the men have a pretty tough assignment in round 3 against Mongolia, while the women take on Macedonia. Good luck to all our players!

ps. this includes the youth players, who have started their tournament with a 4-0 win and followed it up with another win 2.5-1.5, but I'll get to the Junior event in another post :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 40th Chess Olympiad Starts

Yesterday, the first round of the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul took place. There were the usual glitches in transmission, which meant that I didn't get to see any of the games live before I had to sleep. The live site is full of clerical errors, but taking that aside, it seems pretty good coverage. There's a good photo gallery, video coverage from chessTV (who covered the Anand-Gelfand World Championship match), and a great live games display (though the pgn download seems a bit dodgy at the moment....actually, I take that back, the pgn has just downloaded!). To be honest, I'm pretty happy with the coverage so far. It isn't perfect, but it's definitely better than before!

Anyway, the Australian teams started well. The men's team got off to a winning start with a 3-1 victory over Namibia while the Women beat Malta 4-0.  For me the most pleasing thing about these matches were the team compositions as both teams rested their top player. This meant that the men's team had young IM Moulton Ly on board 1, while the women had young WIM Emma Guo on top board. It is a huge responsibility being board 1 for your country (not that I would know about that, but I'm guessing) so I applaud the team captain's, Manual Weeks and Ian Rogers for throwing these youngsters in at the deep end. Apparently, Moulton was in trouble in his game but came through which will do wonders for his confidence.

My country of birth, England were a little unlucky with their first round opponents. Andorra are a team with 1 strong player and a bunch of not so strong player. GM de la Riva on top board may just find himself with a few easy games later in the tournament as the rest of the Andorra team try to help him score some points. Likewise, in round 2 the top pairing sees a potentially awkward pairing for Ukraine who face Qatar with 2 2500+ GM's on the top 2 boards. While this shouldn't really put any problems for the mighty Ukraine team, it is still tough to beat GM's to order. And if all games went to seeding we wouldn't have had the upsets which make the Olympiad so great...such as Russia's Tomashevsky (2730) being held to a draw by William Puntier (2312) of the Dominican Republic. Of course, this wasn't the only upset, but it is always good to see the favourites humbled.

Anyway, congratulations to the Australian teams and good luck today. The men have a tough fight against Norway (who are without Magnus Carlsen, but still pretty solid), while the women have a huge battle against one of the tournament favourites India. And good luck tot he under 16 teams who start their campaigns today. Here are the Australian games from round 1.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Olympiad 2012 Good luck to Australian Teams!

The opening ceremony of the 2012 Chess Olympiad is hours away, with games due to start tomorrow. It promises to be a close fought event with a number of teams who could battle for the medals. I will, of course, be supporting the Aussies (Smerdon, Ly, Wohl, Solomon, Illingworth; women. Caoilli, Guo, Yu, Nguyen, Dekic) though keeping an eye on the English team. Australia has also sent teams to the Youth Olympiad, and I will be following that closely as well, especially as I know many of the kids playing.

For a personal glimpse of the Olympiad, it will be well worth following the blogs of David Smerdon and  Alex Wohl though it may just be just as good to follow the twitter account of the top rated player in the event, Armenia's Levon Aronian!

World number 2 with Australian board 1 (Courtesy of Levon Aronian's Twitter account)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Following the Olympiad

In this age of the internet it is easy to follow events in a variety of ways. The London Olympics was covered excellently on social media sites like twitter and facebook with pictures and video uploaded, results posted regularly and promptly, and even reactions from the athletes themselves posted soon after their competitions (or sometimes before!).

The 40th chess Olympiad, to be held in Istanbul is scheduled to start on 27th August with the first round the following day. The tournament is an 11 round swiss with the last round on the 9th September. There is an open section and a women's Olympiad (as well as numerous side events), and while each of us has our favourites, I will be hoping for good performances from the Australians and English. There is also a youth Olympiad taking place at the same time in Istanbul though earlier in the day, so the young players can watch the superstars playing!

So how to follow the action online? Well, there are a host of great news sites that will cover the event. As I'm interested in the English team, my first stop will be Mark Crowther's The Week In Chess. I also expect excellent personal coverage with photos and video from Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog. And full round up's and commentary can usually be found on the chessbase news site. There are plenty more, but these are the 3 that I regularly use to keep abreast of news.

Probably the best thing about the internet is following the games live (or with a slight time delay). But where can the games be viewed? The Official site should have a live games page though I don't see one set up yet. But probably the best place to watch the games is on the playing sites ICC or Playchess. These are both premium sites which require paid registration, but a 1 week free trial for new members is available. I'm a member of ICC and will watch some games broadcast there. As well as the games, there is radio commentary from Grandmasters and discussion of the games as they are happening (though this can become a bit annoying and distracting from the games themselves).  There are other live sites including TWIC and Chessdom.

A recent discovery for me has been Twitter. To be honest, I never really understood what it was about but I made a big effort to work it out and have found it to be very useful in finding new information. For instance, I follow certain posters who write about subjects that I find interesting, such as History, Photography, and of course, Chess. A lot of the top players use social network sites, and I currently follow Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin and Maguns Carlsen (apparently he was playing basketball in New York earlier today!) though I will start following some of the top English and Aussie players. There are also some great commentators who use Twitter, of which Mig Greengard is among the best (plenty of Kasparov news).

I think it promises to be a great event with a number of strong teams fighting for the top places. But it will be a great experience for all the players. There's likely to be about 160 countries represented with the minnows from Nepal being the latest to be announced!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chess Fillm, 8k Radius

At the local cinema in Elsternwick, director Clayton Jacobson (director of "Kenny") has put together some excellent short films called 8K radius dealing with people who live within an 8 kilometre radius of Elsternwick. Luckily for us chess fans, one of the people he filmed was local young talent Charlotte Dilnutt. I have had the pleasure of working with Charlotte at chess, and count myself a close friend to all the family. Anyway, here's the film, which is beautifully shot. Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2012


About 6 months ago I split my blog in 2. This part remained dedicated to chess whereas material regarding coffee and other things in my life moved to a personal blog here. I have been able to post to both blogs, though this one stays updated more regularly, probably because chess is such a big part of my life. And I'm not the only one who splits their blogs. One of my favourite chess bloggers, Alexandra Kosteniuk has 2 sites, one of which is more personal to her, while the other deals with more general issues.

Well, I've decided to go one better (or should that be worse) and I'm splitting my blogosphere into 3! Besides this blog which will continue to deal with chess generally, and my own personal chess experiences, and my non chess blog, I am starting a blog to deal with chess in my city, Melbourne.

This third blog comes about because of a need for this thing in my area. To be honest, the state association's website is woeful. I went to look for some information about chess club's the other day, and couldn't find any. Chess Victoria is an organisation made up of a group of affiliated clubs and those clubs aren't even listed on their website! This didn't use to be the case, so I'm not sure what is happening. Chess Victoria used to link to their affiliate clubs, or at least acknowledge those clubs existed, although they never went further and mentioned non affiliated places where people could play chess, such as the State Library of Victoria.

Now if I was new to chess and wanted to play, or a chess player who was new to the area, one of the first things I'd do was visit some prominent chess sites, and there should be none more prominent than the state association's site. And from it, I would find out very little. The reason I know this information is that I know people who have done exactly that. They have visited Chess Victoria's website and come away with nothing. These same people then contact the chess shop I work at asking for information about chess in their area, although I guess many more don't bother and the chess community loses a group of possible new members.

Anyway, rant over. Just to say that much of the local chess content that this site has been covering will now cross to the Melbourne Chess News site, where I hope to compile a comprehensive list of links, a database of games, and a set of news stories about chess in Victoria and Melbourne.