Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Millenium

Yes, I know it's New Year's Eve 2013, but that's not what I'm talking about here. For the past....actually, I can't remember how many years....for a long time, I have religiously gone to Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess site once a week to download the files of chess games he compiles. Actually, I go there a lot more, as his coverage of chess news is excellent, and the site even allows one to follow live games.

Well, today I made my weekly visit to TWIC and noticed that we're on issue number 999. If you're a chess player, and you've never used The Week in Chess, then make a resolution for 2014 and start. If you do start with the first edition of 2014 (due out in a week's time) then you will be starting with issue 1000!

Congratulations to Mark Crowther on creating, and maintaining this phenomena, and on reaching this truly amazing landmark. And remarkably, these games have been on the internet for free all this time. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would happily pay for this fantastic chess resource.

So, here's a game from the latest TWIC, number 999. We all love a king hunt, and when it happens between top Grand Masters it's even better. Here, the loser of this game has the modest rating of 2622! He was, however, playing someone rated 2705 who was prepared to sacrifice to expose an uncastled king, and then drag it to open area of the board. Enjoy :)

Monday, December 30, 2013


Around the Christmas and New Year time, the thoughts of most British chess players turn towards the traditional Hastings event. In the past Hastings has produced some memorable tournaments, and a who's who list of winners from the greats of chess. Like many other chess festivals the tournament has a number of sections with the top section having been traditionally a round robin event. Things have changed a bit, and the top section is now a swiss event, but a pretty strong one nevertheless. There have only been 2 rounds so far, which means that the top players haven't really come into contact yet. That doesn't mean there haven't been some interesting moments.

Harvey-Gordon from round 1 where black is definitely in the driving seat. However, I'm guessing most of us below master strength would be thinking of how to attack white's weak pawns and a plan of 1..Nc5 2.Kc2 Rf1 might come to mind. GM Stephen Gordon preferred to create a mating net in the endgame. 1..Nb4! 2.Kc3 Kc5! [with the threat of Rd1-d3] 3.Bxe6? Rd1 and now mate is unstoppable.

Apparently all the World Champions from Steinitz to Karpov (except Fischer) played at Hastings over the years. I seem to remember Bent Larsen as a star attraction one year I was playing back in the 1980's. It was great as the main tournament was held in the afternoon while the other events (like the one I was playing in) happened in the morning. That meant players like me could play and then watch the top players and follow the commentary. It was a great inspiration, and I hope that one day Hastings returns to its former glory. Still, there are a fair number of Grand Masters and strong players in the tournament, and plenty of interesting games, and upsets, like Martin Schuster's (2209) first round victory over IM Joerg Wegerle (2431) in a rook ending that looked drawish to me. I'll talk about this ending, and a couple of others in a future blog post (see, I haven't lost my procrastinating skills).
But how about this first round effort? In a wild game, Jens Kipper as white saw a way to mate against Francis Rayner. White played the stunning 1.Rb1!! and won after 1..Qxb1 [allowing mate, but nothing else is good anyway] 2.Bxf6+ gxf6 3.Qxf6+ Ke8 4.Nd6+ and black resigned before getting mated on f7.

This position (Burnett-Halfhide) arose from a Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange Variation. I personally like playing the black side of this opening as often black gets the chance to attack on the king side which suits the way I play. Here, Black has sacrificed a piece and hasn't got nearly enough for it. Black has just played..f5 and the question is, should white take the pawn? Unfortunately Burnett saw nothing wrong with the capture: 1.gxf5? [1.Rc3 holds things together, but maybe white had little time] 1..Rg3+ [This must have come as a shock, though we should be on the lookout for checks] 2.Kh2 [2.Rxg3 is obviously met by 2..Qg3#, while 2.Kxh4 is mate in 2 after 2..Qf4+, so white's move was the best except now a discovered check picks up the queen]
2..Re3+ [with an amazing turn around. Black is winning and won after] 3.Kh1 Rxe2+ 4.Rxe2 e3 5.Nf3 Qd1+ picking up more material.

I haven't looked at much of the second round yet, but a 300 point upset victory caught my eye. White just gains a bit of space, develops quickly, letting his higher rated opponent take a poisoned pawn, and then goes for it. Enjoy :)

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Having not written on this blog for about 6 weeks, I guess I could be accused of procrastinating. Procrastination refers to the state of putting off more important tasks for less important and possibly more pleasurable ones. So I guess I could respond by saying that this blog, which is after all a bit of fun, is a form of procrastination in itself! Whatever, the fact is that I enjoy writing, but have been either too busy, or too involved with other things to put much effort into this blog. That is about to change.

I expect 2014 to be another eventful year for me. I intend to start playing chess again, and writing about it here. I'll be at the Australian Championship in the role of a coach from the 2nd of January and will be blogging about the event here. One of the things I've been doing over the past weeks is work on my own game in preparation for my resumption of play, but I've also been working on preparation for my classes next year, and found some interesting ideas that I will be sharing here. Do I have plans and aims for my chess? Indeed I do, but these will have to wait for another post (more procrastination!).

I also have some trips planned, both chess related and not. I very much enjoyed turning this into a travel blog, and my future excursions will be documented here. For instance, just before Christmas I traveled down to Hobart to help coach at a chess camp organised by the Hobart Junior Chess Club and the Tasmanian Chess Association. It was a great success, the kids working throughout the weekend, and progressing even during the weekend. This is the 4th or 5th time I've been to Tasmania to help run one of these camps, and what makes the camps so special is the amazing scenery.

Mount Wellington from the Hobart Chess Camp

The view towards Bruny Island
I'll also be writing about other things that interest me (I have tried to get others to write on this blog, but it looks like it's going to be just me, so I'll write about whatever I feel like) and that includes running (yes, I've set some goals for that too), reading and drinking good coffee around my home town of Melbourne. This isn't procrastinating, but rather diversifying. Chess players who come to this blog for chess content will have to accept that sometimes I feel like writing about other things, and those who come for other subjects will have to accept that this blog has a lot to do with chess.

Expect 2 to 3 posts a week from now on, the next one coming tomorrow, possibly the day after. Now that's procrastination!