Monday, October 27, 2014

Glen Eira Chess Club Championship

It's time to post about the club championship of the new club that I've helped to develop this year, Glen Eira Chess Club. In 2014 we've come a long way having established a regular membership, and in creating a structure for our years calendar which fits in with both the serious idea of chess events while keeping things fairly social. We've run a series of tournaments that were pretty successful this year leading to a Championship run in Round Robin format. Alongside the Championship we are running a swiss tournament called the Reserves.

The Championship looked to be a great tournament, but it has been beset by non attendance, and so far only half the games have been played that were scheduled. This is unfortunate, and is giving the event an unreal feel to it, or at least the feel of a tournament in the old days when club tournaments may have been held over several months. I'm hoping that things get back on track in the near future, and there was always going to be a bit of oddness to the event as we have a odd number of players meaning there is a bye each week. In fact, this coming week there is no round due to the Melbourne Chess Club's big Hjorth Open Weekender which a number of our members are playing in.

So far the Championship has seen FM Domagoj Dragicevic win both his games to take an early lead. Domagoj had a bye in the first round. Saying that, most of us have games to make up, so it is difficult to work out exactly who is ahead at the moment. In the next round, in 2 weeks time, the favourites meet as FM Dragicevic plays IM Morris. This may very well be a tournament decider.

FM Domagoj looking relaxed after winning his second game
The Reserves tournament has been much more regular. In some respects, I decided to help start the club in the area because of a crop of strong juniors who needed a place to play. These juniors are dominating the Reserves, with Max Phillips and Daniel Poberezovsky leading the event. Their game last Friday ended in this position.
With time running down, and it getting late on a Friday night anybody can run out of energy. I think that was what happened to Max Phillips here. As black he had a relatively easy win with 1..Bc2 guarding both b3 and b1. 1..Bc4 would win if white had to take as this would leave black a winning pawn endgame with an outside passed pawn as a decoy. . However, white can just drop his bishop back to b1 to hold the position. Max played a very lazy move, 1..b4, and Daniel immediately took his chance with 2.Bb3. The game ended in a draw and the 2 talented juniors are half a point clear in the tournament.

I was very happy with one move in my latest game. My opponent had played some poor moves and left himself dangerously weak on the back rank.

White's problem is how to get a rook to the back rank. I started by thinking about moves such as c4 and b3, but they just didn't seem to make it. I then found 24.b4! with the variaitons:

24..Nxc3 25.Rdc1 Bxb4 26.Rxc3! winning a piece
24..axb4 25.axb4 Nc3 26.Rdc1 Ra3 27.Rb3 when black will feel the lack of his h8 rook in the position.
24..Bf8 25.Bd2 Kg7 [25..axb4 was probably better] 26.b5 Rb6 27.Nc6 Bc5 28.c4 which will win a pawn ont he queen side for white, which is what happened.

Now all I've got to do is continue this good form through the rest of the event.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chess The Hard Way

I know I only just posted about there being too much chess, but then we have 2 Grand Prix tournaments back to back. And as this event finishes, we'll barely have time to breathe before the World Championship match starts, although it's almost possible for another super-GM event to be thrown in, with the Petrosian Memorial overlapping the first few days of the World Championship match. It's just too much to take in!

So I've decided that besides playing, and keeping half an eye on the chess world, I'm going to step back in time to when chess tournaments were somewhat less frequent. I have borrowed a copy of a book by Canadian legend Yanofsky.

Hard Cover copy of Chess the Hard Way
"Chess the Hard Way" is a short book full of game fragments, games and anecdotes from before the start of World War 2 and Yanofsky's early life, through to 1952. The book was published in 1953 after Yanofsky became British Champion.

The author clearly promoting his newly won title.
The book shows chess at a much slower pace than today. In 1939 Yanofsky was selected to represent Canada at the Buenos Aires Olympiad. He went to New York to catch a ship to Argentina and then "realizing the United States Open Championship was being played in New York...I went ahead of the team to try to enter or, if not accepted, to watch". I find it amazing that Yanofsky should thnk that he might not be accepted into a tournament, but then again, in 1939 he was an unknown. In fact, 1939 was really a breakthrough year for him. In his first game at New York he drew with Reuben Fine who had recently come equal first with Keres at AVRO.

Then in the Buenos Aires Olympiad Yanofsky relates how he won a game against Dulanto of Peru which "created a minor sensation and resulted in Alekhine taking a great interest in me to the extent of watching all of my remaining games in the tournament and analyzing them with me after they were over".

This brilliant attacking game is indicative of Yanofsky's attacking style. Funnily enough, he loved playing the French as black so this game would have been a win against his own favourite opening.

Chess the Hard Way is a short book, being just 149 pages, but it is packed full of information about chess in the post second World War era. Yanofsky was one of only 2 players to beat Botvinnik at the Staunton Memorial tournament in Groningen 1946 (the other was Najdorf). Yanofsky stayed in Europe after Groningen, and his book brings alive just how difficult life must have been in the post war years. Things that we take for granted, such as ease of travel and crossing of borders were not so easy in 1946. For instance, Yanofsky travelled to Barcelona where he finished second to Najdorf in a tournament. Yanofsky received his entry to Barcelona 3 days before the tournament started which to him didn't seem like much time to get there from where he was in Holland. (Nowadays 3 hours may be sufficient) Due to bad weather flights were cancelled in Holland. In the end Yanofsky took a train to Paris, then on to the Spanish border. From the train he had to stay the night in France because the border was closed! Next morning he got a taxi to the border "which presented itself in the form of a chain across the road". He had to wait at the border for about half an hour until the Spanish taxis arrived to take travellers to the Spanish town of Port Bou.

The book is packed full of stories like this, games with analysis like that above, and Yanofsky's insights into the players he met and the times that he lived in. The last line of the book is worth noting.

"If this book serves as a guide and inspiration to the young chess 'hopefuls' of today, it will have well achieved its purpose. Let my example be their encouragement"

Yanofsky did not have it easy, but made the best of what he had which is all any of us can aim for.Perhaps like Purdy here in Australia, he was an inspiration for generations of Canadian chess players. His fighting spirit was not seen better han in his epic win against Golembek at the 1951/2 Hastings tournament. It's not often you see a win in an ending with queen and knight versus queen.

Both sides have just promoted and although the game should probably end in a draw, Yanofsky saw some chances and played on for a few more moves. 96.Qf5+ Kg3 97.Ne4+ Kg2 98.Qg4+

So where should the king go? Although it looks scary, Kf1 is the best move with no clear way that Yanofsky could see to win (Nalimov Tablebase claim 98..Kf1 is a drawn position). However Golembek played 98..Kh2?? and lost after 99.Qh4+ Kg2 100.Qg3+ Kh1 101.Qh3+ Qh2 102.Ng3+ where Golembek resigned.

Black is mated after 102..Kg1 103.Qf1.

Of the many qualities that a successful chess player needs, it is this will to continue fighting. Yanofsky fought on the board, and even fought just to get to the board! To me, his story is inspirational, and I'm going to forget about the Grand Prix series for a while and enjoy some games written in descriptive notation!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chess Thoughts

Student vs International Master at Glen Eira Chess Club

After my birthday a couple of days back, and a head clearing trip to New Zealand, I've been thinking about my life, where it has got to and where I want it to go. As I get nearer to the age of 50, it seems to me more important to be using my time as productively as possible, and so with this in mind, I've tried to make some chess decisions. In this respect I've had to look at my different roles as a player, writer, administrator and coach.

I suppose the main changes that have come about are a shift from a player to other activities within the game. In fact, this year I've had a pretty average year. After a lay off from the long game, I haven't really found form at the 90 - 30 level of chess and as a result, both my results and rating have suffered. Especially bad was my performance at Doeberl at Easter, where I was sick for 2 of the 4 days but played badly even by those standards. I have had the odd good result, but I feel less strong now than I have for about 10 years. So will I do anything about this? Probably not! I intend to keep playing, but I'm currently getting as much enjoyment from seeing the improvement of my students than from my own good results. It was always my ambition to get to 2200 FIDE (back in the 1980's when I had some ambition, getting to 2200 and seeing your name published in the back of an Informator was a little more special than getting to 2200 nowadays!) when I was younger which is something I've done, so I find myself without a driving ambition. I guess I could aim for FM level, and I've thought about it over the years, but it seems like a lot of work which I'm not sure I'm prepared to make at the moment. I think getting back to 2200 will be a big enough task for me, and perhaps one that I might not be prepared to make.

Since coming to Australia, I've found that I've enjoyed helping out with chess administration. I've taken part as a club official, an arbiter, a tournament organiser, a fund raiser and general dogsbody helping clean and set up at various clubs and events. Over the past 12 months my efforts have been directed at a new club in my local area. Glen Eira Chess Club has filled a need for a chess club in the inner south east suburbs of Melbourne since Elwood chess club dwindled and finally ceased to exist a few years ago. To me, club chess is vitally important as a social hub for the game and as a place where young players can develop their game. When I arrived in Australia, I was shocked by the lack of chess clubs, and I'm happy to say that his is the second club I've helped to bring into existence. Glen Eira Chess Club doesn't have a formal structure yet. It has a tournament schedule and a core membership but the only leadership and organisation comes from me and the few people that want to see it succeed. So a big goal of mine this year will be to establish Glen Eira Chess Club as a fully functioning entity with a structure, and personnel to ensure it maintains itself into the future.

Coaching has become the biggest part of my life in chess. Mostly, this has been done at the very basic level, working with very young kids and teaching them how to play the game. Then perhaps introducing them to some basic ideas and patterns and engaging them in chess activities to try to excite them. The result has been that I've worked with thousands of kids, mostly around Melbourne, and that some break through to a level when they can start playing in adult competitions. To some extent, it was a group of these kids that gave me the impetus to start Glen Eira Chess Club. A bunch of relatively strong kids needed a place to play near home, so we started the chess club in the area. My role at my work is changing, and although I will still be coaching I'll be doing considerably less than before. So I want to use the coaching I'm doing to ensure that I strive for the very highest quality of teaching. I want to work with all levels of student, from absolute beginners to strong players, and help develop strategies for working with these different levels.

I've always enjoyed writing, and this blog has helped me to express myself in both chess, and non chess subjects. I have written sporadically for some publications as well. This past year I have written less than previously, and I want to turn this around. I was very surprised to see this blog highly placed on a google search for 'chess blog' when I was looking for some other blogs to read. I've never really tried to reach out with it, it is more something that I enjoy doing and I emphasise a local aspect to it. This year I want to write more, and perhaps even explore some areas that I've been unwilling to look at before, such as chess theory. I intend to write weekly articles about Glen Eira Chess Club, and at least one other chess article per week.

And seeing this is a chess post, I'd better put a chess game into it! Congratulations to Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina for successfully defending her World Junior Girls title with an impressive 11/13, a full 1.5 points clear of the field. I'll be using some positions from her games this week to show to my students and as kids love miniatures, I'll be talking about the shortest win of the event.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another Year Flies By

Yesterday was my birthday. I was born October 18th 1966 which means I turned 48, getting closer to the dreaded 50. As the years pass I notice time moves quicker and quicker, and I suppose it means that I am more concerned with making sure that I fill my time up productively. Saying that, my ideas of what is productive has certainly changed over time. Of course chess is a big part of my life, but it might just be that my view of chess has changed somewhat too. It's time to reflect on the last year, and make some goals for the remaining years in my 40's.

To be honest, there isn't that much that the average person can do in 2 years, but every little thing counts. I mean, some people have some amazing goals. Take a look at this bucket list of Photographer Alon Dande. While there are a few things on that list I'd love to do, let's get real. I have a finite amount of money and time. Much of that bucket list involved travel, and I also want to see new places and experience new things. This year has been good for travel with trips to Hong Kong and New Zealand. Having emigrated from England, these places seem like trips of a lifetime on the other side of the globe, though now I'm an Aussie citizen these places are relatively short hops.

Stunning scenery of Fjordland, New Zealand
Cruising Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, on a junk.
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to top the beauty of New Zealand's south island, or find a city to top Hong Kong's vibrancy in the next two years, but there are certainly some plans that Caroline and I are making. While there's plenty of Australia still to explore, not too far away Singapore, Japan and India are all appealing, while next year we plan to visit relatives in England and spend some time in France. At some stage in the not too distant future, Caroline and I want to revisit North America and spend time in Glacier National Park and up into Canada. Hopefully, there will be scenery to challenge that of New Zealand. This site is seriously whetting my appetite.

Just over a year ago Caroline and I saw Buffalo close up in Yellowstone
While travelling is so important for Caroline and I to plan and do, there are other things that I love to do. Reading is one of those joys. I probably spend too much of time reading fiction, but I can get so absorbed in a book, unlike TV or film which tends to wash over me. A few days ago I finished reading this year's Booker Prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Australian author, Richard Flanagan.

2014 Booker Prize winning novel
Now I've read lots of good novels, as well as a fair amount of mediocre and bad stuff as well. I enjoy books of almost all genres, crime, thrillers, fantasy, dystopian, historical, romance and many other things that I struggle to categorise. If I was pushed to make a choice, which is something I rarely like to do (typical Libran personality, though I have no belief in astrology), I would have said my favourite novel was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, another Booker Prize winning novel. However, as Narrow Road is sinking in more each day, it is gradually replacing Remains of the Day as my favourite novel. It reminds me much of another novel that I loved, Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Flanagan explores a number of basic human emotions, such as love, hate, fear and uses the gruesome story of the building of the Burma railway during World War 2 as his centrepiece in the plot. The writing is amazing, the techniques bring the stories and plots to life in a way that I've rarely read before. If I could read another book anywhere near as good as this by the time I'm 50, I'll be very happy.

One part of my life that has sadly lapsed over the past 12 months has been keeping fit through running. I had managed to get up to about 15 kilometres  and then just let I pulled a back muscle and stopped running for a couple of weeks. I then procrastinated, and let all the good work go to waste. Well, I have now decided to stop procrastinating (not just regarding running) and just to get on with it. Actually, I've been running a few times since coming back from New Zealand a couple of weeks ago and I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't too bad. I can still run 5 kilometres without much problem, though not quickly, and this gives me a base to start building up again. The plan is to get up to half marathon distance, though I'm not concerned with speed. If all goes well, I would like to run the Great Ocean Road half marathon over the weekend of 16th May 2015. That is 6 months to get myself in shape and to get to the distance under me. Having a goal certainly helps to motivate me to get out and run, especially in these early days when it is still a bit painful. I'm not sure whether I'll follow a training plan, of which there are many. However, the main gist of all these plans is to take one long run each week, and back it up with shorter runs or some form of cross training. I think I should be able to manage this, and starting running again has reminded me just how much I enjoy it when I'm out doing it.

I also intend to write this blog more often. I'm coming up to 500 posts, but lately the posts have been few and far between. I like writing and another life goal would be to write a book. I guess I am most qualified to try to write a book about chess, but the inspiration doesn't seem to come. For now, I'll post more on this blog, with some chess posts coming up for the rest of this week. I guess I should do this sort of thing for chess too. Unfortunately, my students have had far better years than I have, which in some respects is good. For now I'll leave it there. Travel, read, and run. Sounds like a plan, as long as there is some good coffee thrown in.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Too Much Chess?

Can there be such a thing? Well it is a bit mind blowing at the moment. The first Grand Prix tournament in Baku is seeing Caruana cement his second place in the ranking list, and make a bid for first. Int he live ratings he is only 12 points behind Carlsen. Caruana's rise is definitely for the good of chess, and his challenge to Carlsen has enlivened the chess world. Whatever the result of the upcoming World Championship in November, what most of us will be thinking is the likelihood of a future match between Caruana and Carlsen.

Beisdes the Grand Prix event, there are other important events happening at the moment. The World Junior, coming hot on the heals of the World Youth Championships, is taking place in India and sees a strong field including 5 players rated above 2600. Unfortunately, there are no Australian players in either the boys or girls tournaments. I'm not sure why this is the case as the tournament would have been a great experience for the young players involved. Chinese superstar Yi Wei will be a tough player to beat and sits on 3/3, though I'm hoping for a good performance from Jan-Krystof Duda from my father's home country of Poland. In the girls event, the favourite is defending champion Aleksandra Goryachkina from Russia. However, Goryachkina has already dropped half a point and is on 2.5/3, the same score as second seed Meri Arabidze from Georgia. Both these talented teenagers will be playing in the women's world championship, if it actually goes ahead!

Another talented young player, Maxime Vachier-Legrave is playing at the PokerStars International on the Isle of Man. This has brought back fond memories for me as the last tournament I played before leaving the UK to emigrate for Australia was in the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, I had a stinking cold for the first few rounds and played very badly, but still had a great time there. This time round, Vachier-Legrave is leading the tournament on 4.5/5, but he has a bunch of very strong players packed behind him. For me personally, it is inspirational seeing players who I have played fighting it out at the top level.

Finally, I have been looking at games from the past again. For some reason, the greats of the past who were so inspirational fascinate me more than the current batch of players. Anyway, I have been looking at some games from the great St Petersburg tournament of 1909 which was jointly won by Rubinstein and Lasker 3.5 points ahead of a world class field. The tournament was run as a memorial to the great Russian player Mikhail Chigorin. After this great first event, there was quite a gap unti the next Chigorin Memorial, which was won by Botvinnik in 1947. The tournament became an annual event only in 1963 and was won by Polugaevsky in Sochi. Since 1993, the Chigorin Memorial has been run as a swiss event back in St Petersburg. This year's event starts on October 18th, an auspicious day in the history of yours truly!

In the Isle of Man, young Melbourne FM Chris Wallis is playing and has scored a draw against American GM James Tarjan who seems to be making a comeback to chess. However, I was really impressed with his finish to the following game against Israeli IM Eylon Nakar. Maybe I'm looking at too many of those old games, but I still enjoy a queen sacrifice to finish the game.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Glen Eira Club Championship

This week sees the start of the Glen Eira Club Championship. I'm hoping that this will become an important event in the Melbourne chess calendar, and as such will be competed for by a number of strong players. However, we want to make it something that the local players can compete for, and that up and coming juniors can aim to qualify for throughout the year. To get in to the Championship, which is a round robin event, you have to participate in a qualifier during the year, and place in the top 3. We've found this to be very successful in both helping to develop a local crowd to the club, and encouraging some stronger players from outside the area to join in.

The nine players who have qualified for the final include 1 International Master, 1 FIDE Master, 2000+ rated players representing England and Iceland, a Women's Candidate Master, and local players who have participated throughout the year. It is a nice eclectic field, and a fitting end to the year. We have avoided cash prizes for our qualifying tournaments which has reduced the cost of entry, but this final tournament will have cash prizes:

1st: $1000
2nd: $600
3rd: $400

Fee: $5 per night

The tournament is to be run on Friday nights starting on the 10th October at 7.15 pm and a 9-round swiss event will be run alongside it, The Reserves Championship. There will be no play on 31st October because of the Melbourne Chess Club's Cup Weekender (and as it's that scary Halloween thingy!!).  We have made the draw for the tournament, and the pairings are as follows:

Round 1 Friday 10th October:

 1 Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]       :     Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]  
 2 Jerzy Krysiak      1355 [0]       :     Smari Teitsson          [0]  
 3 James Morris       2401 [0]       :     Sarah Anton        1640 [0]  
 4 Carl Gorka         2069 [0]       :     Josh Moore              [0]  
 5 Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]       :     BYE                          

Round 2 Friday 17th October:

 1 Sarah Anton        1640 [0]       :     Carl Gorka    2069 [0]  
 2 Smari Teitsson          [0]       :     James Morris  2401 [0]  
 3 Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]       :     Jerzy Krysiak 1355 [0]  
 4 Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]       :     Rad Chmiel    1750 [0]  
 5 Josh Moore              [0]       :     BYE                     

Round 3 Friday 24th October:

 1 Jerzy Krysiak 1355 [0]       :     Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]  
 2 James Morris  2401 [0]       :     Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]  
 3 Carl Gorka    2069 [0]       :     Smari Teitsson          [0]  
 4 Josh Moore         [0]       :     Sarah Anton        1640 [0]  
 5 Rad Chmiel    1750 [0]       :     BYE                          

Round 4 Friday 7th November:

 1 Smari Teitsson          [0]       :     Josh Moore         [0]  
 2 Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]       :     Carl Gorka    2069 [0]  
 3 Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]       :     James Morris  2401 [0]  
 4 Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]       :     Jerzy Krysiak 1355 [0]  
 5 Sarah Anton        1640 [0]       :     BYE                     

Round 5 Friday 14th November:

 1 James Morris  2401 [0]       :     Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]  
 2 Carl Gorka    2069 [0]       :     Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]  
 3 Josh Moore         [0]       :     Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]  
 4 Sarah Anton   1640 [0]       :     Smari Teitsson          [0]  
 5 Jerzy Krysiak 1355 [0]       :     BYE                          

Round 6 Friday 21st November:

 1 Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]       :     Sarah Anton  1640 [0]  
 2 Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]       :     Josh Moore        [0]  
 3 Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]       :     Carl Gorka   2069 [0]  
 4 Jerzy Krysiak      1355 [0]       :     James Morris 2401 [0]  
 5 Smari Teitsson          [0]       :     BYE                    

Round 7 Friday 28th November:

 1 Carl Gorka     2069 [0]       :     Jerzy Krysiak      1355 [0]  
 2 Josh Moore          [0]       :     Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]  
 3 Sarah Anton    1640 [0]       :     Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]  
 4 Smari Teitsson      [0]       :     Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]  
 5 James Morris   2401 [0]       :     BYE                          

Round 8 Friday 5th December:

 1 Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]       :     Smari Teitsson      [0]  
 2 Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]       :     Sarah Anton    1640 [0]  
 3 Jerzy Krysiak      1355 [0]       :     Josh Moore          [0]  
 4 James Morris       2401 [0]       :     Carl Gorka     2069 [0]  
 5 Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]       :     BYE                      

Round 9 Friday 12th December:

 1 Josh Moore              [0]       :     James Morris       2401 [0]  
 2 Sarah Anton        1640 [0]       :     Jerzy Krysiak      1355 [0]  
 3 Smari Teitsson          [0]       :     Rad Chmiel         1750 [0]  
 4 Rebecca Strickland 1540 [0]       :     Domagoj Dragicevic 2243 [0]  
 5 Carl Gorka         2069 [0]       :     BYE                          

Obviously we want the games to be played on the night, though we are aware that some of the players will be unable to make a particular round for one reason or another. In this case, we are willing to allow rearrangements, though I'd highly recommend getting these arranged as soon as you are aware that you will be unable to make a game. There will be some players unable to rearrange as this will be the only night they can play. In this case, forfeits will have to apply.

I'll be writing more of this tournament as it happens, including games, fragments and pictures (hopefully).