Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sleepy Sunday

I've had a really tough time getting myself going today. It's been a stereotypical sleepy Sunday. I woke up, and dropped off back to sleep, then got up a lot later than I normally do, and later than I wanted to. I'd planned to start running again today, but that never happened. Instead I just thought about it a lot. I took myself to South Melbourne and walked around the market, but couldn't get inspired. I had a coffee in Port Melbourne (smooth with a slightly sweet flavour and holding the crema perfectly, from Third Wave Cafe) and took a little walk but nothing special. I then came home and have pottered around for the day. Not particularly productive, I must say!

But then again, we all need times to recharge. We need days, or even weeks, when we relax, de-stress, and replenish our energy stock. I usually find that on days like this, I tend to do little, but start to plan for what I want to do. It is a time of organising my near future. So these are the plans that I have.

Firstly I have felt really guilty about not running recently so exercise is a high priority. I have set myself a goal which is to run 20 km before I go on holiday to the USA in mid September. I have created a program and will try to stick to it. When I am running I really love it, and it's great for keeping my weight down which is something I need to keep check of as I get nearer to 50 years old as there is a history  of diabetes in my family. So the good news is that my back is feeling better and I think I'll be able to start running this week. The bad news is that I haven't run for the past 3 weeks and will not be able to compete in the Puffing Billy Run which I signed up for. The race is next week and I will go to watch, but I won't be able to make the 13.2 km distance which is a shame.

Beautiful autumn colours
Of course, when I'm running I'm out and looking around at the beautiful scenery around Melbourne. Currently the autumn foliage is bringing a new vibrancy to many Melbourne suburbs. I've decided I need to explore more and so will be trying out different places, looking for new coffees, new experiences and seeing new things. Melbourne has so much to offer, let alone Victoria and Australia. I've only just scratched the surface.

Besides chess I suppose my 2 fondest pastimes are reading and cooking. I have no shortage of books in the house that I need to read but earlier this year I said that I intended to only read books that I've never read before this year. That has been difficult as I pass the bookcase and see some old favourites there. However, I am enjoying (mostly) the books that I'm reading this year. And I have also discovered that I prefer paper to kindle. Kindle may be more compact, but I guess the tactile nature of a book, the actual turning of the pages is something that I value. I also like to share books and that is something that is annoying about the whole kindle thing. I have read books on the kindle that I know Caroline would love to read, but I can't then pass the book to her and say "You have to read that!" So books are back on the agenda for me, which means browsing bookshops, another favourite pastime and one that I'll share here from time to time.

Homemade mango chutney
I absolutely love cooking. I don't know why, but I do. I find it relaxing and constantly amaze myself that I can actually produce things which aren't only edible, but which taste pretty good too. I've never really got the hang of breads and cakes, but I can see me giving it a go soon. My latest fad has been chutney. I'd have made it long before if I'd known how easy it was to make. I've even started following food sites to get ideas of things to try out. My absolute favourite is this blog but I also follow this one as I had the pleasure of tasting the food that is made.

Of course, I've also thought about chess today....but not for long as I didn't want to think about work.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Glen Eira Chess Club

Friday 26th April was the official start date for Glen Eira Chess Club. The doors opened shortly before 6 pm  and the junior club started soon after. Both David Cordover and I were unsure of who we would get coming along to our new initiative. While Friday evening is great for kids, there are already chess clubs running to the north (Canterbury) and south (Frankston) of us and our opening night coincided with a weekend event at the Melbourne Chess Club, their annual ANZAC Day Weekender. Nevertheless, David and I know loads of people in this area interested in chess. There are ex-players, up and coming juniors, and keen adults who have never played club chess before as well as current tournament players who live in this area but travel to chess clubs around the city. There are also a number of people around who are interested in playing chess, but who aren't that bothered about playing in a tournament environment. These are things that we want to cater for.
Good turn out at the junior chess club
So all in all I was pretty impressed to see over 30 people show up on the first night. There was a blitz tournament which was played in a fun spirit, and juniors were encouraged to participate with the adults. The junior club saw the kids encouraged to write their moves down and to play games with a time control of 25 minutes and 10 second increment. The idea is to graduate the kids through to adult chess as quickly as possible. It is not their standard of play that we are so interested in as their level of focus. Most kids are used to 15 minute games at the most, so throwing them into a 60 minute longplay game can be a culture shock. So our junior club hopes to engender the spirit of the club within the kids, and to prepare them for adult chess.

David Cordover and the future of chess
A successful junior club, and young membership is the hope for the future of any institution, and David and I do have high hopes for the future. A first night of 34 players was more than we expected and we are hoping to build the club to well over 100 members. To do this we have one simple idea. We want to make our club a place where people want to come to. That is not a place where people just come to play chess, but a place where they want to come to, and where they also play chess. A social environment for players, their families and friends.

I'm getting beaten by IM Robert Jamieson with Sam Low making a welcome return to chess next to Robert and juniors showing they can focus as well as their elders
Saying that, we are all turning up to play chess, and it was great to see some parents stepping up and joining in the games. We ran a blitz event which was won by IM Robert Jamieson. It was great of Robert to join in and his participation may prove a magnet for other players. Of course it is amazing to be able to play someone of that calibre at your local club. And I always find it heartening to see players of all ages and standards sitting alongside one another united by this amazing game. If you have time, and are in the area, then feel free to come down to our friendly club next Friday. I believe we are planning a time handicap tournament as well as plenty of social chess. This week we had home made cookies as an incentive, thanks very much to Kate and David and their children for this fantastic gesture :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The worst king side of the year prize goes to....

...Liren Ding for his fantastic effort against Maxime Vachier-Legrave from round 2 of the Alekhine Memorial. It gives the average club player hope when a 2700+ super GM can get a king side like this. Black's dark squared bishop can't move, his rook on h7 has one square, h8, and it will be taken by white's knight. Even black's light squared bishop is horrible. The best it can hope to achieve is to trade for the g6 knight, after which black's Bf8 and Rh8 will be entombed for life.

In the post game press conference. Vachier Legrave said

"Effectively black is a rook and a bishop down. It's a matter of technique. All I have to do is manage a way to penetrate on the queenside."

And that is precisely what happened! Of course, almost all chess players have suffered this sort of shambles, and I'm sure it's not the first horrible game Ding has had in his career. The difference between him and the rest of us mere mortals is that he beat world number 2, Levon Aronian, the day before, when it was Aronian's pieces that looked out of play!

Liren Ding is white and can win back his exchange with Nxd7. However, instead he finished the game off brilliantly with 36.Nxd5! exd5 37.Bxg7! Kxg7 38.Qg5+ Kf8 39.Qf6 [Threatening 40.Qh8#] 39..Kg8
Aronian has an extra rook, but it won't help him. Black's king side is cut off from the other side of the board, and Ding infiltrated with his rook in a mating attack.

There is an absolute abundance of top class chess at the moment, and it is being played in great style. The Grand Prix in Zug has seen combative chess, and the draw count is more due to brilliant resourceful defence (and possibly some missed opportunities!). I am a very content chess fan at the moment :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

A New Chess Club

Will the internet, lower FIDE rating levels leading to more internationally rated events, added costs etc, lead to the death of the good old fashioned chess club? I remember when the 4NCL was being introduced into the UK, there were doom mongers moaning of the end of club, league and county chess. Well, there may have been a drop off in numbers playing these events, but that may have happened anyway, without the help of a new professional (semi at least) chess league and a big weekend circuit.

To be honest, I'm not sure. I think there will always be players who want to go out and play against other people, to meet other players, to exchange ideas face to face, and to participate in a social environment. Since my drop out from FIDE rated chess, I've had times when I've missed the buzz of playing in a tournament, of going to the club and hanging out with like minded people. And my location in Melbourne doesn't help as I live in an area a fair way from any chess club.

So I got my head together with Chess kids owner David Cordover who lives not too far from me, and we decided to start a new chess club in this area. Glen Eira Chess Club will open to the public this Friday with a junior club starting at 6 pm and an adult club at 7 pm. Actually, we've been talking about it for about a year, but we (David mainly) finally got our act together and have taken the plunge to start it.

So what do we want our chess club to be like? Well first and foremost we want it to be a social venue, a place where people are happy to come along and play some games of chess. We want to offer a combination of fun and friendly chess, rated chess and social evenings (an end of year prize giving sounds like a great excuse for a get together). We want to take the chess club back to its roots. I can imagine seeing a couple of stalwarts playing Kriegspiel on one side, some blitz games happening with a notice board of events in the background and, eventually, an honour's board. We'd like to see our club challenge other clubs to matches, and to take part in any leagues in the Melbourne area. We don't want to offer coaching (that's our job and we're going to the club for relaxation and to enjoy ourselves!) but we are encouraging players to "share their chess wisdom"!

View Larger Map

We have a temporary venue at a nearby school (Tucker Road Primary), but we're looking to move up in the world to a nicer home eventually and maybe even build the club to a membership size where we could contemplate applying for a permanent home. Yes, we have big ideas for this club in the long term, but we still want it to remain a local club with the social aspect at its core. As such we are minimising fees and costs to the membership but offering no cash prizes, or we may run one open a year with some cash prizes but that would be it. We are setting up with the old fashioned notions that the majority of players want to play in a friendly environment and are not motivated by cash prizes. If that deters some people from coming along, then fair enough, we can live with that :D

Feel free to check us out any Friday and we'll do our best to make you feel welcome. Once we have an established membership we will be looking at what our players want from the chess club, more tournaments, more social chess, faster time controls, matches, variants etc and trying to give as many people as possible what they want. But the social aspect will be at the forefront of club. Come along this Friday and check out the free homemade ANZAC cookies!

The sort of venue we'd like to play in, Carnegie Library

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Whoops, there goes the Queen :(

When you teach primary school kids chess, you realise that there are successes in a chess game other than checkmate. I'm convinced that most under 10's get more of a buzz from capturing a queen, or promoting a pawn, than they do from checkmate. Partly, I guess, this is because the queen has a large material value and, as Madonna said, we're living in the material world. Also, capturing the queen is an obvious coup, when for some of these kids, checkmate is not obvious, even when they have played it. In fact, checkmate can sometimes be an anti-climax as it can sometimes take a while to sink in that they actually have delivered checkmate!

Anyway, it always keeps kids entertained when you ask them questions about trapping queens. Here's the few I showed today.

 Black here played the unfortunate 1..Nc7?? White won himself a queen with 2.Na4 Qa5+ 3.Bd2

 Again a blunder from black. I asked my kids how black should get out of check. Of course, they all saw that they had to move their king and the king could take the knight right in front of it for free! But 1..Kxe6 costs black a queen after either 2.Nb6+, or even better 2.Nf6+.

And finally a classic. This is Fischer-Reshevsky USA ch 1958. Reshevsky had just blundered, dropping his knight back to e8 when he should have exchanged the Na5 for white's light squared bishop on b3 Perhaps the experienced Reshevsky wasn't taking his young opponent totally seriously, as he allowed the spectacular 1.Bxf7+!! and every line sees the black queen in trouble:

1..Kh8 2.Ne6! winning the queen
1..Rxf7 2.Ne6! winning the queen
1..Kxf7 (played by Reshevsky) 2.Ne6! wins the queen as 2..Kxe6 3.Qd5+ leads to mate 3..Kf5 4.g4! Kxg4 5.Rg1+ Kh4 6.Qe4+ Kh3 7.Qg2+ Kh4 8.Qg4# Reshevsky played 2..dxe6, lost his queen and later the game. How good was Fischer?! He was only 15 years old when he beat USA no 1 in this game!

The moral to the story is always keep an eye out for your opponent's queen especially if it has few squares left to go to!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Congratulations Guy West on victory number 11

Before saying anything else, my thoughts today have been overwhelmed by the events that happened in Boston. I was at work early this morning, came home and Caroline asked if I'd heard about the Boston Marathon. I said no, thinking perhaps the 2 hour barrier had been broken or some other amazing feat. When she said about bombs and deaths, my heart sank and I turned to the online news sites to see the shocking truth. I can't begin to understand how those who were in proximity to the blasts must be feeling. Life is often a hard enough act to get through without people doing things like this. I don't even want to believe that 8 year old was killed in this disgusting manner. It's a tragedy that hasn't affected me personally, but which I can feel empathy for. My thoughts are with the runners and their families and I hope those injured recover quickly.

Events like the Boston Marathon bombings put our lives into perspective somewhat, but ordinary things do happen. Here in Melbourne the MCC Championship concluded with IM Guy West finishing in first place for a record 11th time. On winning the event Guy said that he would need to take some time out of chess, possibly a year, to work on strengthening his opening repertoire if he wants to compete with the rising crop of young players coming through. He may have a point, with Ari Dale coming an excellent second, and Justin Tan equal third. Perhaps we will see a 2014 Guy West playing solid mainlines looking for minor advantages to be converted later in the game. Or perhaps he just needs that long to devise a new bunch of sidelines that no one expects. Either way, it will be great to see Guy going for a dozen MCC Championships the next time he plays. I wonder if anyone will come near that number in the future?

Coming equal third with Justin Tan was Laurent Michaille who also had an excellent tournament. Jack Puccini won a last round upset to finish just half a point behind third, but in doing so he took the U-2000 prize. James Cameron took out the U-1800 prize in his first MCC Championship. While this does seem rather a high rating class for the lowest rating group prize, it does show that the standard of the players were high. The rating prizes were based on dividing the field into roughly equal groups below 2000 so it shows that the majority of players in the field were certainly above 1800. The fact that it was a small field is another issue and one that I'll leave for another time.

On a last note, I have to say that Paul Cavezza has done marvelous work with the MCC website. There are educational and promotional video's, pgn databases, history, information, a calendar of events. It has just about everything you would want of a chess website in an attractive format. Check out this page of the 2013 Club Championship.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Amazing Move

Yesterday I posted this position:

It is an analysis position from a game I was looking at. It is black to move who has both knights currently attacked. Amazingly, he can throw one even further into danger by 1..Nc3!! The resulting positions are difficult to follow and would be a nightmare to work out over the board in a game. Here's some analysis which I would love people to add to, improve upon, or disagree with :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chess Position of the Day

I was looking at some games and in the analysis of one I came across the following position.

It's black to move. Black is a pawn up, but both of his knights are attacked and the white knight on c4 is waiting to launch itself somewhere discovering an attack from f1 on the black queen. However, white's position is hardly a bed of roses, underdeveloped, with a central king and a miserable looking queen on b1.

I'll post my analysis of this position tomorrow when I finish work. It's well worth having a look at and trying to find some moves.

Getting On With It

There's nothing else to do really, is there? Today was a beautiful autumn day in Melbourne, about 22C high with clear blue skies for most of the day. What a glorious day for me to have a day off...but an awful day for a very sore back. I'm not sure what I've done, but it is quite painful to walk, let alone run so my exercise program is out the window for the moment. Still, I couldn't stay at home all day while the sun basked outside. I headed off for a coffee and the healing power of the sunshine. I have to admit, I'm a creature of habit when it comes down to coffee. I like certain cafes and keep going back to them. Don't get me wrong, I like to try new places once in a while, but they have to have the right feel, the right look, the right name even!

Do you have to be 18 to catch a Dose at this cafe?
I must be getting old, or getting soft. The death of Margaret Thatcher didn't really bring out any emotion in me. I have been vehemently anti-Thatcherite and anti-Conservative throughout my adult life, but rather than jumping on the bandwagon praising her death, the most I can bring myself to do is not think too much about it. Much like anyone that I didn't personally know, I feel nothing regarding her death. The only thought I really have about the legacy of a post Thatcher UK is that I'm glad I now live in Melbourne, Australia!

Bob Hope making wisdom funny

"No one party can fool all of the people all of the time; that's why we have two parties" - Bob Hope

I don't often review books on this blog, (and never chess books) and I don't intend to start now, but I have to say that I've read some amazing novels recently. I'm currently reading Cloud Atlas which I've only just started, but it is absolutely intriguing. I have absolutely no idea where this book is going! I love that in a novel. Predictability is so tedious.

Perks of Being a Wallflower - a great film
I have always enjoyed reading Booker Man nominated literature. At least I enjoy reading them in between the vast quantites of fantasy, crime fiction and chess literature that I get through. Actually, someone once asked me why I read so much banal fiction and hardly any non-fiction. I told them that I usually read a number of books and articles about history regularly, and chess is hardly non-fiction in most of it's presentations. I read, like most people, to escape. I watch very little TV or film (although The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are both beautiful films) so I lose myself in written fiction. Anyway, going back to the Man Booker nominees, my favourite novel is probably "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have to say that "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" was certainly a close call for me. In fact Rachel Joyce's novel was in my opinion so good that I decided to read the novel that beat it to the Booker Prize, Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up The Bodies".

My current reading

I'm also trying to downsize my library. I don't think that I need to keep more than 20 books, so they will be my absolute favourites, books that I could read again and again. It's pretty tricky picking your favourite novels, and it should be something totally personal to you. So far, my shelf has the following:

Remains of the Day - Ishiguro
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Joyce
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - de Bernieres
The Alchemist - Coelho
Birdsong -Faulks
The Magus - Fowles
The Bonfire of the Vanities - Wolfe
Lord of the Rings - Tolkien

So there's room for some more, but I will only keep 20. Thankfully I own a Kindle now!

One last thing today. This is for both chess and non chess friends. There is an excellent remembrance of an English chess player, Adrian Hollis, at chesscafe. Tim Harding's article is among his best (and I've been reading his column for I can't remember how long), including at the end some information about Hollis's father who was accused of espionage during the 1970's and 1980's, when the spycatcher furore was at its peak.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I have had a strange week. I have felt lethargic which has no doubt been somewhat to do with the horrific car accident that involved friends of mine. This is probably why I haven't posted for a week. I just haven't felt like saying anything. Thankfully for the survivors of the crash it appears that they are all on the mend. It will probably be a long, and at times painful, process to full recovery but that process seems to have begun with some success.

This week saw the penultimate round of the Melbourne Chess Club Championship. Guy West was leading the event and he won his game this week against Domagoj Dragicevic. This puts Guy a point clear of his nearest rival, Laurent Michaille who had a good win against Chris Wallis. The game between Justin Tan and Ari Dale has been postponed probably because both players were in the Sydney International Open. The result of this game will be crucial for the final results. If Justin wins, then he will join Laurent a point behind Guy, while if Ari wins, he will be just a half point behind Guy. This group of players will form the top places of the event.

However, in my opinion the "oomph" seems to have been knocked out of the event by the tragic events of last week. The MCC may be attempting to get back to normal, but it may take a while before things are truly functioning as they should. Besides the Tan-Dale game, there were 3 other postponements, there were 2 games won on forfeit, and 3 players who took 0 point byes. I can't say I blame any of these players for not wanting to play, whatever their reasons. I certainly haven't felt like doing very much the past week.

I would like to say well done to Anthony Hain for playing this week. Anthony was involved in the car accident last week and still managed to play his game in the club championship. This fighting spirit is typical of the young men who survived the accident which reinforces my belief that they will eventually come through this. The final round of the tournament will take place next Monday when we will see if anyone can stop Guy West winning another title (is this going to be his 12th?).

While I haven't felt like doing much, I've had to start work this week running a holiday program. We give lessons at these programs and the theme has been about sacrificial attacks. So I've shown a few queen sac's, a few crazy gambits, and the Evergreen Game between Anderssen and Dufresne, one of my favourites. If you have never seen it, then you really should, the final attack against the king in the centre is fantastic, especially seeing white is facing mate in one himself.

I notice that the MCC is offering a brilliancy prize for a game played in an MCC event in 2013. I wonder how brilliant it will be compared to this classic!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chess again...

After the shock of the past few days, I'm bringing this blog back to it's chess and coffee content. I'm still a little dazed as I'm sure most of the Melbourne chess community are, and so this blog might not move too fast for a while yet. Hopefully you'll understand and be patient with me.

I did leave some tactics and endgames on Monday and never got back with the answers. Well, the endgames are going to be serialized here, but I can look at the tactics now.

It was white to play and win here. Ukrainian GM Gennadi Kuzmin played 22.Nxd6! pinning his own knight and after 22..Ne8 he unpinned with the amazing 23.Nxf7!! leaving the following position
The point is that 23..Rxd4 loses to the double check 24.Nh6+ Kh8 25.Rxf8# Ftacnik tried to close the f-file with 23..Bf6 but resigned after 24.Ne5+!! when the bishop on f6 becomes pinned so after 24..Kh8 white can take the exchange 25.Nxd7 as 25..Bxd4 loses immediately to 26.Rxf8#

The other position led to a classic tactical shot.

Kuzmin-Sveshnikov USSR ch 1973 it is white to play and win. Kuzmin came out with the double bishop sacrifice 17.Bxh7+!! Kxh7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Bxg7!! [threatening 20.Qh8#] 19..Kxg7
White has sacrificed both bishops to destroy black's king cover. After 20.Qg4+ Kh7 21.Rf3 black resigned as he will have to give up his queen to avoid immediate mate.

This is, of course, an excellent tactic to bring off in a tournament game, but Kuzmin would have been fully aware of the double bishop sacrifice, as should all chess players. The famous Lasker-Bauer game is the classic early version of this great attack:

Here's the famous position after black's 14th move, and it is probably easy to spot what the second World Champion did as white in this position now that you already know the theme. Here's the game:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Doeberl 2013: An MCC Perpsective

The 51st annual Easter long weekend tournament in Canberra, the Doeberl Cup, will be long remembered by members of Victorian club, the Melbourne Chess Club. A large group of players traveled north to compete in the country's premier event, some hoping for norms, some for victory, and some just for the experience. Those of us that didn't go followed the fortunes of our friends as well as the action on the top boards which were broadcast live. The tournament was split into 4 sections, a Premier (9 round swiss with norm possibilities), a Major (under 2000 ratings), a Minor (under 1600 ratings) and an under 1200 event. There was some MCC interest in all these sections, but that is not what will be remembered most by the MCC membership about this year's tournament.

The Premier was probably the strongest event in Doeberl history. Pre tournament favourites were GM Li Chao (2686) and GM van Wely (2684). These 2 satisfied their high seeding by finishing first (Li Chao 7.5/9) and equal second (van Wely 7/9 tied with GM Stocek). The top Aussie was Queensland IM Moulthun Ly 6.5 while the top Victorian's were GM Daryl Johansen, FM Bobby Cheng, FM Chris Wallis, FM Dusan Stojic, and David Garner all on 5.5. These are all members of the MCC showing just how strong the club is. Luckily for Victorian chess, these players don't limit themselves to just one club and are also members of other Melbourne based clubs such as Box Hill and Noble Park. Other members of the MCC represented us in the Premier event: FM Domagoj Dragicevic (was going very well early with a win against GM Varga followed by a draw with GM Laxman), Ari Dale, IM James Morris, Karl Zelesco all scoring 5, Justin Tan, David Beaumont 4.5, Laurent Michaille 4, Svetozar Stojic (ex member), Jack Puccini 3.5, Tony Davis (non member, but regular at the club) 3, Felix Wyss 1.5. All in all it was a great turnout for the MCC and some highlights for me were Domagoj's win against GM Varga, Bobby Cheng's excellent effort against top seed Li Chao ending in a draw, Justin Tan's brilliant victory against GM Czebe and watching the game between Li Chao and James Morris live while messaging to James Mum who was desperately willing her son to hold on to the draw against the super GM.

The limited rated tournaments also saw MCC interest. The under 1200 saw Sophie Davis, Tony's daughter playing. While she is not an MCC member, Tony is often seen in the club. Young Sophie scored 2/7. The Minor was a toughly competitive event, which saw Victorian Junior David Cannon take first alongside talented NSW junior Kashish Christian. MCC's Daniel Dobos scored 4.5, Hannibal Swartz 3, and Paul Cavezza 2 (though he withdrew before the last day so it was from just 5 games). But the main triumph for the MCC was the Major under 2000 section. The tournament was won by MCC Treasurer Andrew Saint on 6.5/7. In the last round he had to play another MCC member, Dmitry Partsi with the winner of that game being the tournament winner. Andrew won the game, and took out the tournament. Other MCC participants were Gary Bekker 4.5, Richard Voon, Jason Chew, Anthny Hain, Sarah Anton 4, Finley Dale 3.5, Rad Chmiel 3, Angelo Tsagarakis 2.5 and Ray Yang 2.

Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. Driving back from  Canberra to Melbourne, a group of MCC members were involved in a car crash which claimed the life of Andrew Saint so soon after his joy of winning the prestigious Doeberl Major. Stunned members of the Australian chess community have reflected on how great a guy Andrew was, and I can confirm from my own brief time of knowing him, that Andrew always had a smile on his face, a positive outlook, and a will and energy to make things happen. The car crash cruelly also saw another fatality. Hannibal Swartz is a relatively new member to the MCC, and I hadn't met him before, but again by all accounts he was a positive, and genial member of the club. Both these young men will be sorely missed, and their fate will be long remembered by those of us who knew them.

The car was travelling on the Hume Highway, the main freeway between Melbourne and Sydney with 110 KPH speed limits. A tyre blew out and at those sort of speeds it would have been difficult to maintain control of the vehicle. Apparently the car turned over and no one in the car avoided injuries. The least injured were MCC committee members, Paul Cavezza and Anthony Hain though how minor their injuries are remains to be seen. Two others were in the car, and both were in critical condition and had to be taken by helicopter to major Melbourne hospitals. Dimitry Partsi, who had played the final game against Andrew Saint, is apparently conscious but sore, and awaiting surgery at the Royal Melbourne hospital. The biggest worry was 18 year old IM James Morris who was flown to the Albert with head and body injuries and was induced into a coma. Apparently, James has recently woken according to IA Gary Bekker, who reports that he has multiple bodily injuries, but has escaped without any serious head injuries. James is still in a critical condition according to his mother, and the next 48 hours will be crucial.

I am sure I speak for the whole of the MCC, and the Australian (and international) chess community when I pass on my condolences to the families of Andrew and Hannibal and wish those injured in the accident a fast and full recovery.

The accident made both local and national news.

Here is that final round game from board 1 of the Doeberl Cup. Both players were seeking glory, while  soon after they would both be sharing a part in a terrible tragedy.

edit: as I was writing this post, the MCC President Grant Szuveges was writing his own piece on the facebook page of the Melbourne Chess Club. I asked him if I could post it here, and he agreed.


I first met Andrew when he moved to Melbourne for work. He came along to the MCC and after a short time we found out that he had been involved in chess administration in South Australia. He quickly accepted an offer to join the MCC committee and put in some great service to our club.

He was a very generous person and would always offer others a coffee when he went to buy one - even if he didnt know them that well. He was also generous with his time, putting a huge amount of effort into the very difficult job of being the Melbourne Chess Club treasurer, despite working long hours in his day job. Andrew was a shining light as a very generous and giving person amongst a chess scene of "individuals". He gave more to chess than he took out of it - both at MCC and back in Adelaide.

Andrew was also a wonderful person away from chess. He liked fine food and dining out. At a Bunnings sausage sizzle to raise funds for MCC, he bought all of us some Wagu beef steaks just to share the gourmet experience with all of us. After the sizzle he showed myself, Pano Skiotis and Paul Cavezza one of his favourite restaurants "Laksa King", a Malaysian restaurant in Flemington. It was so good that I went back there the next night too! Andrew was also the brains behind the free lunch at Cup Weekender and wouldve enjoyed cooking good food for all of the players in the event. As well as food and cooking, I also enjoyed talking to Andrew about travelling, football and his other interests - in fact we really didnt talk very much about chess!

When someone passes away, it is customary to talk about the persons attributes and generosity, however with Andrew its simply so easy to remember countless examples of these things - they are not hard to find with him and even after we all discuss the great things he did, there will still have been another 1000 generous things he has done that have simply gone unnoticed - that was just the sort of person he was.

After hearing that Andrew had won the major at Doeberl, I immediately sent him a rather cheeky email suggesting that he should use his prize money to buy an MCC life membership. Had he read it, Im sure that he wouldve known that I wasnt completely serious, yet it wouldnt have surprised me either if he had actually said "yes ok"! Unfortunately the next thing I heard was that he was gone. He will be looking down now and giggling about that email I think...

In losing Andrew, Australian chess has lost a great great person who did so much for other people and so much for chess itself. Andrew thankyou for the work you have done at MCC and for the friendship, happieness, coffees and restaurant tips you have given all of us - you are already deeply missed! Well done on a magnificent performance in your final tournament - not many people get to go out on top, but you certainly have - in both chess and in life in general!

Rest in peace my friend.

Tragedy Strikes

It should be a time of great exhiliration after the finish of both Australia's top tournament, the Doeberl Cup in Canberra, and the Candidates tournament in London. While I'd like to pass on my congratulations to all participants, especially the winners, I can't focus on chess at the moment because of the tragic news last night of a car crash that involved a group of people from my chess club, some of whom I consider good friends.

The group were driving home from Canberra after playing in Doeberl when their car lost control on the Hume Highway, the main Melbourne-Sydney freeway. Two of the group died at the scene of the accident and my heart goes out to these guys and their families. Two more were airlifted to hospital in Melbourne and are in critical condition and my thoughts are with them and their fmilies. The other two had comparatively minor injuries (I don't know the details here, so they could both be badly injured) and were ambulanced to a nearby hospital.

All of the group were young, in their 20's or 30's and I really don't know what else to say. I am shocked, stunned and deeply saddened by this....

The story has been reported in the news, the details are here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gennadi Kuzmin

This is a kind of "degrees of separation" type post. I was playing a game on and I looked at my opponent's profile. My opponent was an FM called Dirk Paulsen, so I thought I'd have a look at some of his games in my database. I found that among other tournaments he had played in an edition of the prestigious Dortmund event back in 1981. Wow, I have never played in anything so prestigious, and back in 1981 I was  probably about 140BCF strength. Unfortunately Mr Paulsen came in last, but he still scored 2 points against a field that was averagely 200 ratings point higher than him! The winner of the tournament was a Soviet GM called Gennadi Kuzmin, a player that I don't really know much about. So I had a look, and found out some about him.

He was certainly one of the strongest Soviet players for a short time in the 1970's. He was good enough to represent the USSR at an Olympiad in Nice 1974 (more connections as the book on Nice 1974 was my first ever book, won at a tournament) and played in 2 interzonals. He finished equal second in a pretty strong USSR champs in 1973 behind Spassky (who had a point to prove after losing the World title in 1972), and and alongside Karpov, Petrosian, Korchnoi and Polugaevsky. If that isn't good enough, Tal, Keres, Smyslov, Geller and Taimanov (among others) were behind him. In the Dortmund tournament that I was looking at, he showed that he was a strong combinational player in the following positions. See if you can guess white's winning moves

Kuzmin-Ftacnik Dortmund 1981
White played the fantastic distraction 20.Qc4!. There followed 20..Rd7 21.Qd4 Bd8.

White to play and win

But his most famous combination is probably this one:

Kuzmin-Sveshnikov USSR ch 1973
White to play and win

Answers tomorrow :)

More Elementary Endgames

For the past few weeks, this blog has talked about many elementary endgames. This is because no club player, and even few master strength players are free from error in this phase of the game. So I've got some more together. Actually, I'd say this selection aren't all exactly elementary, but knowledge of practical endgames is of great benefit to players. Trying to plough your way through an endgame manual can be pretty tedious, whereas analysing a few endgames that happened in real play will lead to greater endgame understanding, and even greater general chess understanding.

So, here are 10 endgame positions from the London Candidates. Try to work out some plans depending on the questions asked. I'll try to answer these tomorrow!

This was Ivanchuk-Carlsen from the first half of the Candidates tournament in London. Magnus is a pawn down, and trying hard to hold the position. What plans should he be considering?

Aronian-Kramnik London 2013. Part of Kramnik's success is down to him not losing. As black he saved this position with opposite coloured bishops. Would you have a plan as good? In the above position, white played Ba2.

Kramnik-Svidler London 2013. A space advantage is considered an advantage in the opening and middlegame, but it is also important in the endgame, as often the assessment of a position depends on who's pawns are closer to promotion. Here, white has an undeniable space advantage. How can he make use of it?

Ivanchuk-Radjabov London 2013. In rook endings, the initiative is important. Black has tried to make his rook as active as possible. But it is white's move, and a forcing sequence can help him advance his pawns. Can you find it?

Kramnik-Grischuk London 2013. Black has just centralised his knight with Nf5-d4. A crucial part of endgame understanding is whether a player should exchange into a pawn endgame. If white takes on d4 will he be better, even or worse?

Aronian-Kramnik London 2013. White has the choice of 3 pawn moves and 3 king moves. Only one leads to a draw with best play for both sides. Which one?

Radjabov-Grischuk London 2013. Do you know how to draw this for black? Would you have any tricks for white? Grischuk drew with no problems!

Carlsen-Ivanchuk London 2013. How is this different to the last position? How does black go about trying to win this one?

Radjabov-Carlsen London 2013. White is a pawn down but has a much better king as compensation. What candidate moves would you have for white here remembering the plan is to draw?

Kramnik-Gelfand London 2013. White is a pawn ahead, but with both kings cut off, the position is very unclear. What is the best winning plan for white?