Wednesday, May 23, 2012

City of Melbourne Open Round 4

The City of Melbourne Open reached the stage where all the games were competitive. As an example of this, my game went for over 3 hours and there were still games in progress as I left. Before the round started there were 3 players on a perfect score. None of these players were able to maintain their all conquering record. My game against Ari Dale was fascinating, far from error free, but a great contest which eventually finished in a draw. I won't say more than that now, as I intend to annotate this game in depth soon. The other player who started on 3/3 was David Beaumont, but he lost to the talented French player Laurent Michaille. These results leave myself, Dale and Michaille leading on 3.5/4. However, things are still closely packed after that with a group of 5 players on 3/4 just half a point behind, and a further 3 players another half point back. So with over 10 players within a point of the lead a lot can change, and I expect the tournament to start sorting itself out over the next couple of rounds.

Victorian Championship:

During Monday night a postponed game from the Victorian Championship was played with Domagoj Dragicevic defeating Tristan Stevens. This brings Domagoj back to 2/4 after a poor start. However, he is still a way off the pace as the Victorian Championship has been dominated this year by the IM's. IM James Morris has started with a perfect 4/4. He is closely followed by IM's Goldenberg and Sandler on 3.5 and IM West on 3. The tournament hasn't reached half way yet, so much can change though the 4 above named players will be tough to catch.

World Championship:

I'm currently writing this blog post while game 9 of the World Championship is being played. I have to admit to not being fully charged by this match. The first half of the match was not particularly exciting with 6 dour draws (ok, there were some interesting moments but they were few and far between). Then both players exchange blunders in consecutive games to lose rather than win games. Of course, both Anand and Gelfand are great players, but neither of them seem to be performing to their best in this match. If this is the case, or if one of the players is not on top form, then a match can be a poor spectator event. In this respect I would be more than happy to see the format for the event changed to a tournament, possibly a match tournament such as the Mexico City event of 2007 (coincidentally Anand won that and Gelfand had a good result finishing third). This was an 8-player double round robin and with 4 games each round, there is almost always at least 1 game of interest every day. It also seems strange to me that virtually all events in the World of chess are conducted by tournaments, but the World Championship in played under a different format, the match format.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

City of Melbourne Open Round 3

I wonder how many chess players have pre game rituals? Personally I don't. I don't play warm up games, or solve puzzles. I don't arrive at the same time each week, go to dinner beforehand every week....I don't have a mascot, lucky pen or any clothing that makes me feel better or worse. Likewise, I believe that there is no luck in chess. I take a very simplistic view that the player who plays the better chess over the whole game wins. This means that when I win I can accept that I was the better player, but when I lose I can't make excuses.

I say this for a couple of reasons. I have heard a few players talking about how lucky they were (or unlucky). And last night I played Jim Papadinis, who had a game I guess he would rather forget, but when we finished the game, we had a look through the opening and both seemed to get stuff from the post mortem. Jim made no excuses for his play, which was below his usual standard, and even admitted to missing some moves and threats that he would normally have spotted immediately.

It was as if Jim wasn't really focussed for the game and this seems to be a major difference between those stronger players and the rest of us. It is something that I've tried to remedy in my own game. After looking at players such as Johansen, Goldenberg, and younger starts such as Stojic and Wallis, you realise that it's important to play your best and your hardest from move 1 for as long as you can. And you have to do it every game....that's the hard thing, doing it week in week out at the same high level.

I've been training hard at chess, studying opening lines and analysing positions and tactical puzzles and it seems as if the hard work is beginning to pay off. I can start the game at a high level of intensity and maintain focus throughout the session and I seem to be doing it for every game. It's been tough going, but I'm finally happy with my play and my work ethic at the board and in study.

It seems I'm not the only player who is improving in this respect. While I moved on to 3/3, I was joined by Ari Dale and David Beaumont. All 3 of us are decent enough players, but all lack a consistency in our play to really break into the top echelon of players in the state. Yet looking at Ari's play, I'm seeing a new level of high intensity and focus at the board (he is less fidgety, and sits at the board longer through a game). And David has speeded his game up taking a more pragmatic approach and avoiding time pressure. We find ourselves half a point clear of Malcolm Pyke and Laurent Michaille with the rest of the field packed closely behind. Next Monday is round 4 and hopefully the high level of intensity will continue. If it does and we are all focussed from the start, there should be some truly great games next week.

Friday, May 11, 2012

10 minutes until the World Championship

It's 10 minutes before the 2012 World Chess Championship between Anand and Gelfand. I've just finished dinner, and have settled into my front room waiting for it to start. What am I expecting? Actually, I have few expectations, though I do believe it will be an interesting match. I'm not sure either player will try to "fly out the stalls" today, but I certainly want to be watching it at the start. Anand has the white pieces and the first question is what will he be playing? Will he try 1.d4 or 1.e4? And what will Gelfand try to do with black? Will he stodge with a Petroff or Queen's Gambit, or take it to his opponent with a Sicilian or Semi Slav? We will find out in about 5 minutes now!!

For me, the most important thing is not necessarily the sporting aspect of the match, but the interest it generates. At the moment I am thoroughly into chess, both study and play. I have a new aim, to try to push my rating up to 2300 and FIDE Master standard and am currently training quite seriously. However, as essentially a middle aged hobby player (non professional) I need things to maintain my interest in chess as more than just a sport. I'll admit that I find it a real grind to work on tactical exercises, or plough through opening variations. I do it, but I can't say I really enjoy it. I just bought a load of chess materials that I'm going to be going through over the next few months. From a purely analytical point of view, I've just bought the latest Informator, number 113 which looks as if there is a ton of great material...


Anand opens with 1.d4 and the Internet Chess Club relay says that Gelfand replied 1..f6! It's been changed to 1..Nf6 and after 2.c4 g6......Grunfeld!!!

...I have also bought a Chessbase Magazine which arrived in the post today, of all days! This also has a lot of material, but the main thing I have these products for is the analysed games. With the top analysed games from Wijk aan Zee and Gibralter, this should prove to be a very good issue.

These 2 heavy tomes need some lighter material, so I have bought a book on Rubinstein, the Doeberl history, and Averbakh's "Centre Stage and behind the Scenes". I have read through this book briefly already, and it is a great read. Averbakh was both a prominent Grandmaster and a prominent chess politician and journalist. He rubbed shoulders with the greats of the game from Botvinnik through to the present day, and his nostalgic, anecdotal style is very readable. I found the book getting a bit heavy going as Averbakh moved his commentary into the 1980's, but there were still some nice touches. One thing I found very interesting was when Averbakh talked about psychological types who play chess. He identifies:

Killers: players who look for a KO against their opponents - Alekhine, Botvinnik, Fischer and Korchnoi
Fighters: players inspired by the battle itself - Lasker, Bronstein, Reshevsky, Tal
Sportsmen: Chess is a sport - Capablanca, Euwe, Keres, Smyslov, Spassky
Players: Good at all games - Karpov, Janowsky, Najdorf, Geller, Petrosian
Artists: Winning in style and creative approach - Simagin, Rossolimo
Explorers: those who try to understand the deeper meanings in the game - Rubinstein, Nimzovich, Fine

Averbakh admits there is some overlap, but this is an interesting subject  and I wonder where each player would put themselves. I can definitely rule out myself as being a killer or player and I am probably not in the fighter mode either. I think I'm less of a sportsman than an artist or explorer but this is only my own subjective self analysis! I look forward to re-reading this book and going into a bit more detail

World Champioship Update

30 minutes into the game, and things have already taken an interesting turn. An Exchange Grunfeld took an odd direction after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Bb5+ Nc6 when Anand played 9.d5. Is this home preparation? I guess we will find out after the game, although the continuation may lead us to make some conclusions.

Time to go and follow the game. I've never seen the position above before, so I'm going to be learning some new things from both the play and the analysis. And it fulfils my need to keep working, with the necessity to keep things interesting. I hope you all enjoy the World Championship and that it inspires you to bigger and better things!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Big chess time in Melbourne

There is never a shortage of chess in Melbourne, but at the moment, there is an unbelievable amount going on. The Victorian Championships have moved forward in the year and started last week, as did the Victorian Teams Championship while the clubs move into their second tournaments of the year. On top of this there are the regular 15 minute tournaments that run at various venues. Melbourne certainly has a bumper autumn chess season, which should culminate in the Victorian Open over the Queen's Birthday weekend in june, and finally the Victorian Junior Championships which take place in early July.

But for now the cream of Victorian chess are playing in the Victorian Championships. It's a pretty strong field, though GM Darryl Johansen isn't playing. However, without the number 1 player in the state, the tournament still boasts IM Goldenberg, FM Cheng, IM Morris and IM West at the top of a 12 player round robin. One thing to look out for is the performance of young Karl Zelesco who is stepping up a notch into this field, as he will have no easy games. I must admit that I would really have liked to have played in this event, but work prevented it. There is also a Reserves tournament run alongside the Championship, with the winner getting an automatic spot in the following year's championship (David Garner won last year's Reserves). This year's Reserves tournament is a 22 player swiss with nearly half the field rated above 2000 which makes for an interesting tournament. Pano Skiotis is the top seed, but there are a number of players who could win the event.

The Victorian Teams Championship started last Sunday at the Melbourne Chess Club and will run through the year at the rate of roughly one game per month. It is separated into 2 divisions with 6 teams in the top division and 12 in the second, representing clubs from around the state. For me team chess should be an integral part of the chess calendar. In England as I moved from town to town, I always joined a club, and each club played in a league. So I grew up playing in leagues and have missed them since my move to Australia where there is more emphasis placed on individual events. I am playing for Melbourne Chess Club in the first division and the team is the defending champions. We have one of the strongest players in the state, IM James Morris, as our top board and will hopefully win the league again.

Club chess is also going strong in Melbourne. Probably the strongest club tournament this autumn is the weekly event at Noble Park Chess Club which meets on a Saturday afternoon. With FM's D. Stojic and D. Dragicevic heading the field the tournament, the Noble Park Chess Club Open, will be a tough one to win. My club, the Melbourne chess club is currently in the City of Melbourne Open which just completed round 2 on Monday. I'm the top seed and managed to go to 2/2 with a win against Richard Voon. Richard blundered a pawn in the opening, but then I got complacent offering 2 pieces for a rook and 2 pawns. I thought that with a space advantage and fast advancing pawns, the win would be straightforward, but perhaps I overestimated my position a bit. Still, in essence, I won in exactly the way I thought I would, though my opponent could definitely have made my job harder. Also moving to 2/2 are David Beaumont, Justin Penrose, Ari Dale and Jim Papadinis so it will not be an easy game in the next round for me whoever I end up playing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Being the top seed....

Last Monday, a new tournament started at the Melbourne Chess Club. The weekly FIDE rated events which happen on a Monday moved into the second event of the year with the start of the City of Melbourne Open. The tournament has attracted about 30 players which is a big drop off from the Championship. Much of this was lost from the top of the field. In the Championship I was rated 6th whereas I am the top seed here and a number of other strong players have opted out. This is no doubt influenced by the Victorian Championship and Reserves events which also started this week and which see a decent MCC turnout.

I have to admit that I haven't been the top seed in a tournament very often, and I don't think I've ever been top seed of an open swiss event. I'll tell you all at the end of what it felt like, though my plan is to take things one game at a time. One of my own personal reasons for competing is to test myself against the very best of players, so it is a disappointment that there aren't some big guns to aim at. But saying that, there are a lot of strong players in the tournament and every game will be tough as the field is fairly closely packed, at least in rating terms.

The first round already saw 2 draws, though the average difference in strength between players was lower than usual. So, for instance, John Dowling was only rated 200 points above his opponent Felix Wyss and with the white pieces Felix held John to a draw. My opponent, Paul Kovacevic, is rated 1860 FIDE, and he found himself in the second half of the draw! So all told, it's a fairly level field with no outstanding players to pick a winner from.

The first round started typically late as late entries were being processed and some who said they might be playing didn't end up showing, though the organisers tried to contact then to give them every chance to play. n fact, there are late entries accepted up to round 3 so we might see a few players join in. It was a strange feeling when the arbiter offered the choosing of colours to me, I think it's the first time it's happened to me. Anyway, I managed to choose the black pieces and settled in for a tough night. My opponent played  a strange Catalan with an early Nc3 and I think that it was fairly easy to equalise. I then managed to win a pawn and go on to hold the game.

The second round coming up this Monday already sees some fine contests. I have Richard Voon who is never an easy opponent, though the board 2 game seems to be the one to watch with unrated (though obviously strong) Laurent Michaille playing against former club champion Malcolm Pyke.