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.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Best in the West - More pictures

Hobson's Bay Rogue's gallery!

Steve Hogan

Dean Hogg

Chris Mullin

Tony Davis

Start on round 4 Canfell-Dragicevic and Puccini-Dale (nearest)

Last gasp post: I won't be here much longer but I can say this. Hobson's Bay Chess Club have put on a good weekender which again goes to prove how many good players there are in the Melbourne area. A number of the young kids have proved competitive, taking points and draws from higher rated players. Even some of the giant killers have been slayed by a new breed. In the final round, Jack Puccini is playing his friend Ari Dale on board 2, knowing full well that Ari plays the Caro Kann as black. I don't know if Jack prepared this, but he played the 3.f3 fantasy variation and is currently an exchange up. Greg Canfell looks to be in control against Domagoj Dragicevic as the centre is just about to explode open.

Another giant-killer, Max Phillips
After beating Ari Dale, Jack Puccini sits on the top of the ladder with one game to go above him. The board 1 game between Canfell and Dragicevic is still going on and it looks as Greg is going good. He is one pawn ahead, with all bishops and rooks still on, though Domagoj does have more active pieces for now. Personally, I wouldn't bet against the material.

Best in the West Day 2

It's a bit darker in the playing room today so the photo's will have to wait until later. Round 3 saw more upsets as the new generation of young players look for scalps to take. Perhaps the biggest result in this respect in the whole tournament was Max Phillips win over Kyle Gibson. However, Haran Salasan's (661) draw with Roland Brockman (1559) was a pretty good effort too. The swiss draw has produced a few draws in the past few rounds, which has left just 4 players at the top, Canfell, Tan, Matheson and Dragicevic. With only 2 rounds to go, there is no fear of quick draws happening on the top boards, and the game Tan-Canfell is an opposite side castling English Attack in a Scheveningen Sicilian while Matheson-Dragicevic is a Spanish where white has played an early d3 and no pieces have been taken leading to a complicated strategic game. Anyway, these players know that if they don't win, the group behind are ready to take their places at the top.

I must admit, I am really enjoying sitting and watching the progress of this tournament. It is giving me the desire to play chess again, and I think I will resurface at the MCC Open and Noble Park Open. I am analysing games of kids and kibitzing with players and it's great fun. I'm having to remember all those Open Games tricks for the benefit of the kids and then look at strategic considerations in complex middlegame positions that the top players are contesting. And, I'm actually getting to see the games, and the body language of the players, something I usually miss out on when I'm playing as I stay so focussed on my own game.

The top boards are reaching crescendo point. Tan-Canfell is a classic with thrust and parry, and when it is uploaded to tornelo it will be a game not to miss. Last I looked Justin had all the play, but Greg was a pawn (at least 1) up. Justin seemed unhappy, but the position is so complicated I cn't begin to fathom who will win. On board 2 Domagoj is a pawn up, but Laurence has some compensation in better piece placement, though maybe not full compensation.

We have a clear leader now. Domagoj converted his material advantage against Laurence, and unless I'm fully off the mark, it will be an all Noble Park leaderboard, as it looks to me as if Justin Tan is beating Greg Canfell. I for one will not be wanting to play the black side of the Sicilian against Justin in the near future as this game shows just how awesome he has become....Ok, so what do I know. As great an attack as Justin built up, Canfell is up to the defence. Lesser players would have crumbled, but what makes the top players so good is how they can defend. Greg Canfell is now winning a game that most of us would have lost earlier. With both players in time trouble, Canfell held his nerve and defended all that needed defending. This is a must see game!

It's interesting talking to these 2 players after the game. Both were happy with their positions. Justin was looking at lots of breakthroughs and missed a bishop move that lost him the game. Greg, on the other hand felt that he could always defend, and was happy with Qf8 that he felt held his position together. With both players down to about 5 minutes each at that point I guess that adrenalin and time become factors in the final result as well....Greg Canfell is uploading the game now, so we should be able to see it in full in the next minute or 2!

Here it is. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Views of Best in the West

 FM Domagoj Dragicevic. Angelo Tsagarakis chats with Ari Dale in the background

 Justin Penrose faces Roland Brockman. FM Dusan Stojic stands while Justin Tan sits

Visiting FM Greg Canfell 

Young Talent William Maligin 

 Junior battle: Ryan Kam versus Amelia Mendes

Sleeping on the job? Phillip Drew 

Evergreen Richard Voon

Best in the West

The Hobson's Bay Chess Club annual weekender is currently at the end of round 1 with a record entry of 49 players. This is the 30th edition of this event that started in 1982. The majority of these are young players but there are some very strong players at the top headed by the 3 FM's Canfell, Stojic and Dragicevic. The tournament is a 5 round swiss event which might make it difficult to find a clear winner. All the results and games can be found on tornelo, the tournament management software that is being used.

It's perfect weather for playing chess, cold and windy with some pretty heavy showers. The venue is near the seafront in Altona and walks in between rounds certainly blow the cobwebs away!. The only casualty of the first round was Max Chew Lee who lost to local junior Edwin Zou. Max has been a great giant killer recently, but found himself on the other side of the coin in the first round. So the second round started with Voon-Canfell on the top board, still a sizable difference in the ratings but getting closer than the 1000+ point difference from the first round.

Second round is complete and the third is now underway. Local man Steve Hogan was the hero of the round drawing with Ari Dale. Playing black, Steve chose a Benko Gambit which was declined by Ari. The resulting positions were very unbalanced which always gives the lower rated player chances. The final position is a typical hypermodern victory, with white's central pawns drawn forward to a position where they seem very vulnerable.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Midweek Look at Chess

Before taking stock of what is happening in the chess world, I was sad to see that Yugoslav chess legend Svetozar Gligoric passed away. As with many players of my generation, I grew up with the King's Indian Defence a major system in chess and part of my own repertoire, and therefore had plenty of chance to study games of Gligoric. Perhaps one of his most famous is his win against Najdorf from the 1953 Mar del Plata tournament. Of course, this game was partly responsible for the opening being called the Mar del Plata Variation!

Loading embedded chess game...

The Russian Championship finished with  rapid play off which was won by young (22 I think?) Andreikin. Hot on the heels of this comes the French Championship, another round robin elite event with another youngster, Maxime Vachier-Legrave one of the favourites. All this talk of young players comes in the midst of the World Junior Championships which have just one round left. Richard Rapport of Hungary and Alexander Ipatov of Turkey lead by half a point going into this final round, but they've already played so a tense finale awaits.

In Melbourne another young player, Dusan Stojic, has taken the lead from Guy West in the MCC Club Championship play off. Currently game number 3 is in progress but I would imagine this endgame of queen and opposite bishops will end in a draw. If this is the case, then Dusan needs only a draw in the final game to clinch the title.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Melbourne Chess Calendar

I said yesterday that there is no end of chess in Melbourne at the moment. But soon after posting I thought to myself, where could I find out about this if I wanted to know where to play? At the moment the state governing body Chess Victoria has some information though it is hardly easy to follow, and nowhere near comprehensive. So I guess you would have to follow the links to the clubs themselves, or even non affiliated chess organisations which still run events. Wouldn't it be great for all these events to be linked together, and advertised in one place? Potential clashes could be avoided, or if events had to scheduled simultaneously, players would be able to make a choice.

I'm happy to give it a go here if anyone wants a place where all club events appear in one place. Would anyone find it useful? I tell you what, I'll even include the Australian and Oceania GP circuit and some international events. Of course, if anyone else wants to do it, then I'll be more than willing to let them!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tournament Formats

I touched on this subject when talking about the British Championship, and I have just been invited to voice my opinions on this subject for the benefit of my club, the MCC. Of course, the format of a tournament depends on the type of tournament, the venue, the participants or likely field, the fees and prizes, and the cost to the organisers.

Currently, the MCC run a variety of events, though not many formats. On Monday evenings, FIDE rated tournaments are held. These are mainly 9 round swiss tournaments, though there is also a 7 round swiss, and the final tournament is broken down into round robin groups. The MCC runs 15 minute 7 round swiss tournaments on Saturdays, and these happen virtually every Saturday of the year. There are some weekend tournaments, again run on a swiss system and always FIDE rated and there are some special events such as blitz marathons (twice a year I think) and the Skittles (an elimination blitz where you are given points at the start of the tournament dependent on your rating, the higher rated getting the least points. As soon as you lose your points, you're out).

These tournaments run on the whole pretty successfully. However, the MCC is open 7 days a week which means there is a lot of time the club could be offering more. But what? Events that I would certainly like to see would be:

- more round robin tournaments
- matchplay events (possibly a yearlong tournament based on the mini match knockout format)
- team events (a couple of weekend jamborees could prove popular)
- tournaments with adjournments (yes, I miss this, and with everything in one venue, it is no hassle getting back to play at a later date)
- problem solving (another weekend event!)
- thematic tournaments
- quads (possibly 3 30 minute games in an evening)

One thing I would caution, however, is offering too much chess. In Melbourne, there is only so many chess players and we already have a number of clubs offering events. I am of the opinion that we are nearing saturation point for tournaments in Melbourne. As an example, I ran a free endgame group every Wednesday for about 2 years. The group was designed to help players to improve this part of their game through discussion, practice and playing from preset positions. The group was ardently followed by a small group, but never really caught on by many. The question is 'how much can you expect an amateur player to commit to the game per week?' From my own perspective I can really only give one night a week, and a few weekends. I have directed my work commitments so that the main Monday night tournament chess is free for me. Could, or would I do the same for other times of the week? Perhaps, but not often and I guess that many others with heavy work commitments and family commitments (let alone other interests besides chess!) would be in a similar position to me.

I think it is a great thing that the MCC is canvassing its members to see what they want. I also hope we get some exciting initiatives. How about a Scheveningen tournament between our club and another club? How about email matches with clubs from around the world? How about a club blitz ladder based on time handicaps?

Good luck guys :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Opening Diversity vs Specific Knowledge

I have recently been showing some of my students some positions that come from very different openings, and am encouraging them to try out different systems. We've discussed various typical pawn structures, and central formations with typical plans surrounding them as well as natural development. The point is to play and study different openings so as to see and work through different sorts of positions.

The students I'm talking about have graduated from 1.e4 e5 systems and are looking at some Sicilian structures and some semi open games. Here are some typical positions to consider:

These are all typical opening positions that most experienced players will know of, but to kids, these positions are new and interesting. They have to consider strengths and weaknesses in the positions that they would not have considered during their play and study of 1.e4 e5 openings.

However, a question that arises to me is whether it is more important to play and study a diverse series of openings, or whether it is more important to deeply study a few openings. From a repertoire point of view, top players have tried both methods successfully, but for lesser players it is usually easier to play or learn a small repertoire which may expand over time. For kids, it is surely important to get them to examine as many types of position as possible, but at what stage should we be directing them to deeply study a repertoire?

Of course, getting the kids to work on their tactical, technical and positional understanding is vitally important, but opening choices are a fundamental question for all of us.

So I put the question to all readers of this blog: do you think opening diversification of specific opening knowledge is more important for an improving young player? And when, or if, does it change from one to one to the other?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Local Chess News

I haven't played at my local club for a few weeks and I feel a bit out of the loop as to what has been happening around Melbourne in chess terms. So it's time to have a look! The best place for general news is the forums Chesschat and Ozchess which both act as places where clubs can publicise and report on their events. Of course, most of the clubs and organisations have their own websites, but the forums have all conveniently blocked in one place. As an aside, I have to admit that I used to spend far too much time looking at these sites which can become addictive, but I've overcome it and hardly go to the forums at all.

MCC. This is my chess club, and there is currently a couple of interesting events happening (actually, the reason I thought about local news was a call to arms yesterday for people wanting to learn to operate DGT boards at our club, which I put my hand up to). The regular Monday night FIDE rated event is the Malitis Memorial, a seven round swiss tournement. Time flies, because this event has just crossed the half way mark and is being led by Gary Lycett on a perfect 4/4. However he will have a tough game against Sylvester Urban in the next round. Sylvester is half a point behind along with David Beaumont, Richard Voon and David Lacey (who again is having a big tournament). Top seed is Ari Dale who is a further half point back along with 4 other players. There is good coverage of this event on Kerry Stead's blog.

But perhaps the biggest event is the play off match for the Club Championship between IM Guy West and FM Dusan Stojic. These 2 dominated the MCC Championship earlier this year scoring 8/9. It is a 4 game match that has already started with a draw. The next game is tomorrow night and there will be games on the following 2 Wednesdays. I might have to make an effort to get along to one of these sessions, and I encourage anyone else to do so, both to support these 2 great players, and to learn from the first hand experience of watching and kibitzing.

Other clubs. While all the clubs in Melbourne seem active, there are some events that really stick out in my mind. Box Hill Chess Club are holding a 15 minute tournament this Sunday to raise funds for some talented juniors who are going to the Youth Olympiad. The tournament has attracted a number of strong players including GM Darryl Johansen and much corporate sponsorship, including from clubs and coaching organisations. Anyway, the tournament will be rated in FIDE's rapid rating list and all proceeds go to the players, so great work by Box Hill Chess Club! (ps, I like the new look website as well).

A couple of weekend tournaments are coming up, with Hobson's Bay Chess Club hosting the 'Best in the West' in Altona. This tournament seems to be getting bigger each year, and with Sydney's FM Greg Canfell a starter, the big names from Melbourne are likely to show up. In fact FM's Stojic and Dragicevic have already entered. These 2 young FM's are part of the success story behind Noble Park Chess Club, a club I have a great fondness for as I was a member around the time of it's inception. I remember the hard work of Mehmedalija Dizdarevic and Domagoj Dragicevic in creating a venue for 'serious' chess events. Well, a few years have passed and Noble Park Chess Club are holding their first weekend event in September and I intend to show my support to this great club by playing (and no doubt passing a few rating points on to their talented juniors!).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I can honestly say that chess in Melbourne is flourishing and it is an exciting time to be involved in the game.

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Yesterday's answers:

 1.Rd8+! [a typical distraction] 1..Nf8 [1..Rxd8 loses the queen] 2.Qxc5 Rxc5 3.Rxb8 winning a rook
 1.Qf8 [1.Qd8 leads to the same thing] 1..Ng8 2.Qxg8+! [a typical sacrifice removing the defender] 2..Kxg8 3.Rd8#
 1..Qe5! [threatening mate on b2 and e1, and the queen cannot be taken as then Rd1 would be mate]
1.Qxd8+! Nxd8 [1..Kh7 2.Qh8#] 2.Re8+ Kh7 3.Rh8# This mate with a bishop on the long diagonal is important to understand and adds another theme to the back rank mate

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back Rank

Teaching by repetition is a great way to work with kids. Find a theme, explain the issue, and then start with some easy examples and it is quite surprising just how advanced kids can get in a short space of time. Of course, to ensure maximum retention the subject can be repeated in further sessions, or homework can be given out and the answers worked through (otherwise it can be a case of in one ear and out the other). This week at some of the Primary Schools I am working at with Chesskids, I am talking about the back rank. The classes have kids of mixed ability so some definitions are needed, and then some very basic examples of checkmates on the back rank. However, once the pattern has been established all the kids are looking for a check on the back rank, and even assessing moves to see whether they are safe or not.

Without knowing it, the kids are introduced to concepts such as exploiting a battery on a file, distraction, intermediate checks, sacrificing for mate (surprisingly difficult for a lot of kids to give up material) and guarding possible escape squares for the enemy king. Here is the homework I'm giving out this week, all taken from recent examples.

 White to play and win
 White to play and win
 Black to play and win
 White to play and win

Answers in the next post :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

No chance for a breather

Following chess tournaments is now an ongoing experience. There is no shortage of events and as soon as one finishes another starts. The super GM event in Biel finished with Wang Hao taking first prize thanks to the 3 points for a win, soccer style scoring system. Under the more traditional 1 point for a win the winner would have been World number 1 Magnus Carlsen. But Magnus can be content with his performance, and the fact that his rating has moved closer to Kasparov's peak of 2851, and further from his rivals.

Rather than taking a breath and working out when the next big event will take place, there is no break as the Russian Championship starts today. Both the men's and women's sections boast excellent fields and National Championships often bring interesting results as the players know each other well. It seems to be a time for national championships with the British about to conclude and the Ukrainian entering the second half. These Championships are run on different levels, with the British being a medium sized swiss and the Ukrainian being an elite round robin.

The British has one round to go and is being led by GM Stephen Gordon who is half a point ahead of ratings favourite GM Gawain Jones, who is himself half a point clear of GM David Howell. But for me the swiss system event is all about players getting a chance to move up and in the British Marcus Osborne has taken his chance. I can't say I know him, but the 2245 rated player has scored 6.5 against a field that includes 3 GM's (and he has to face another in the final round!) and 2 IM's. His performance rating after the first 10 rounds is a whopping 2433 so a big congratulations to him.

Another interesting event that has just started is the World Junior Championship in Turkey. The tournament has a rich history dating back to 1951 when Yugoslav Boris Ivkov took the title. Ivkov went on to become a World Championship Candidate and other famous winners of the World Junior include Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, Anand, Miles and Aronian. The current event has over 10 GM's, 4 of which are over 2600. again, you'll have to excuse my national pride as I cheer on the Australians (Andrew Brown and Fedja Zulfic, but sadly no players in the girls event) and English (Zhou Yang-Fan, Callum KilPatrick, William Jones, Ravi Haria, Henryk Stepanyan are all in the boys section while the girls section has Lateefah Messam-Sparks and Anna York-Andersen). The tournament started yesterday and hopefully we'll get some first hand experiences. Already in the first round, one of the Australians performed well above his rating. Fedja Zulfic (2135) scored a draw with IM Bajarani (2446) of Azerbaijan. Fedja found a nice resource in his endgame.

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