Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Seed Loses

The first round of a swiss open almost always produces some shocks. Top players are held to draws, or sometimes even lose to players much lower rated. The biggest upset is when the top seed loses in the first round, and this is exactly what happened at this year's Hastings Congress.

There seemed to be an acceleration of pairings which was presumably used to enhance norm chances. In round 1, top rated Indian GM Deep Sengupta, rated 2586, was paired as black against English FM Adam Taylor, rated 2242. The opening seemed innocuous enough, a king of Reti/English opening where Black chose a Slav set up. The following position was reached:

Black had just played the novelty 10..Qd8-e7. White played the thematic central thrust 11.e4! I wonder if either player realised that this was already very good for White, maybe winning?

Black traded by 11..dxe4 [Not sure this is best, but everything else loses at least a pawn] 12.dxe4 Bg4

So far all seems to be logical, but White now launches an exchanging sequence which wins a piece. And this is the player rated 350 points lower! 13.Nxd7 Qxd7 14.Qxd7+ Kxd7 15.Bxd6 Kxd6

This little sequence was all forced and has brought Black's king into a poor position. White would like to play e5 forking king and knight, and by combining threats to trap black's bishop, he manages it. 16.h3 Bh5 [16..Be2 17.Re1 and after the bishop moves White plays e5+] 17.f4!

This leaves Black the choice of losing a knight to e5+, or losing the bishop to g4 and f5, either way, white nets a winning material advantage which he went on to win, though he missed a chance to win more easily.

It seems Sengupta had given upon this game. He played 23..Rad8?

White here played 24.Raf1, methodical and good enough to win. But he missed a good tactical shot which would have been found if he'd thought about searching for all checks and captures. 24.Nd5+! blocks the d-file interrupting the connection between Black's rooks. The same tactic could have been played on the next move as well, but wasn't. Never mind, white still went on to win and gained a great scalp.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Chess Ageism

Anand has just become the World Rapid Champion of chess at the age of 48. People have written the ex-World Champion off and there have been suggestions that he should retire. Perhaps this has been partly because of Kasparov's retirement in his early 40's, but whatever the reason, no one should be forced to give up something they enjoy doing and which they are good at.

We seem to have a feeling in chess that it is a province of the young. Young mostly means in a person's 20's, but we have seen a rise in prodigiously young talent as well over the past 20 years, with younger and younger children reaching high levels of play. And I am all for that, but to write off older players is demeaning and bad for the game and ageist.

When I was a young player, if the older, more experienced players weren't around to test myself against, then I might not have have made it to the 2200 level. At the age of 51, I intend to keep playing, and improving if possible, but mostly enjoying the game and playing it to the best of my abilities.

So what is old in chess? 50? 40? In the upcoming 2018 Candidates tournament, only one player, Kramnik is over 40. 4 out of the 8 players are in their 20's. Compared to AVRO 1938, it is similar with 2 players over 40 (Alekhine 46, Capablanca 50) and 4 of the 8 players in their 20's. However, not all tournaments have been like this. The first great modern tournament, Hastings 1895 had a field of 22 players. Only 6 of these were in their 20's while 10 were over 40, and 3 of these were over 50 (Blackburne 53, Steinitz 59, Bird 65). Of the 15 players who competed for the Zurich Candidates tournament in 1953, only 4 were in their 20's while 5 were over 40, Euwe being the oldest at 52.

It seems to me that there can be affects to one's chess as one gets older. Increasing health risk, and rowing family commitments are 2 obvious things can affect a players activity in a field. But we have seen longevity in chess from a number of players, historically Steinitz, Lasker, Smyslov and Korchnoi come to mind and more locally, Darryl Johansen who won the Australian Chess Championship at the age of 53. But to 'keep going' at chess it seems a deep love of the game and a purpose is needed. Also as a community we need to equally encourage participation by players of all demographics, regardless of gender, race, age etc.

I'll leave for another day the fact that Anand's great victory was marred by the boycott of many chess players of Saudi Arabia including defending Women's Champion Ana Muzychuk who said:

"In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone's rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature"

And I'll not get into the Twitter story I saw where Swedish Grand Master Pontus Carlsson was abused online:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

First Day Out in Gippsland

Today was the 28th December which is my Mother in Law's birthday. She is still in England so celebrates half a day after us. While she was asleep, Caroline and I took to the road for our first day out in our new Gippsland home. Actually, we only drove for about an hour north into the foothills of Mt Baw Baw, to Noojee. Noojee is an aboriginal word meaning 'place of rest' and the tranquility of the area is noticeable.

Serene Latrobe River at Noojee
It was a gentle drive through rolling green countryside. We passed through towns we hadn't heard of such as Jindivick and Neerim and stopped on the road to view the fresh scenery.

Rolling hills of Baw Baw Shire

Tarago Reservoir from Little Charli's Lookout in Neerim
The main attraction was going to be the old trestle bridge at Noojee. We did stop in to have a look and walk around, though some parts were restricted due to fire damage.I guess that's a sobering thought one has to keep in mind wherever you are in Australia.

Noojee Trestle Bridge

Rain Forest Canopy from the Trestle Bridge
However, as is often the case when Caroline and I go off on a drive, the main attraction often gets overshadowed when we decide to check out something else. This can be a random path we decide to follow, or an attraction that we never meant to visit, but on a whim, go off to explore. So it was we went to Toorongo Falls after a spot of lunch in Noojee. Probably due to the heavy rain we had last week, the falls were flowing freely, and we were treated to some great views. The sub tropical rain forest area was lush with growth and the Little Toorongo River was gushing through the trees and ferns.

Flowing River

The Little Toorongo River cuts through the forest

Toorongo Falls flowing freely.

It was a beautiful drive through Baw Baw hills, into Noojee State Forest and back. It amounted to about 2 hours driving total though we were out for 6 or 7 hours. This bodes well for future outings from our new home.

I'll leave you with some less spectacular, but no less beautiful things that I saw today, a couple of flowers, and in the last picture, a butterfly (there were hundreds) amongst the flowers.

My Chess in 2018

A move anywhere usually means some changes to a person's lifestyle. I have moved to Drouin which is about an hour from my work in eastern Melbourne, and another 20-30 minutes from the centre of Melbourne. Chess is a big part of my life and I still want to play my one game a week schedule that I've been doing.

The club which I have been a part of for a long time is the Melbourne Chess Club. However, MCC meet on a Monday night for long play games with a finish time sometimes in excess of 11:00, it means I won't be getting home until the early hours of the morning. Not good if I want to work on Tuesday! The alternative I am considering is Box Hill Chess Club which meets on a Friday night. This is better for work as Saturday is generally a day off, but usually worse for chess as Friday night most workers are exhausted. There are weekend chess clubs, but I'm not prepared to give up that valuable time which I spend with Caroline and relax.

So I have some time to think about it and decide as both clubs are on shutdown until the end of summer with both clubs starting their first 2018 long play events just after Australia Day on 26th January. In the meantime there is the Australian Championship to look forward to, running from 2-12 January. Unfortunately I'll be away on holiday in New Zealand then, but I'll follow the results and catch up on some games after. The Championship is followed by the Junior Championship which is being held in Melbourne. I'll be dropping into this so I'll see some live action.

And I always follow the games of Hastings which is in its 93rd edition and Wijk (80th edition) which is running at the same time as our Junior Champs. So it looks to be a good summer of chess for me as a follower of events which will hopefully give me the inspiration to take my chess back to the 2200 level and beyond next year, whichever club I choose to play at.

In the meantime, have a look at this amazing game from London 2017 where Ian Nepomniachtchi plays the amazing novelty 7.g4 against ex-World Champion Anand. The game erupts into a crazy unbalanced affair with White's king stuck in the centre but feeling safer than Black's castled king. I know there were some great games played in 2018, but this was one of my favourites.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A New Start

I have recently been busy with a move to the country and a change of lifestyle, but it is time to restart blogging. I'll be back to my favourite subjects of chess, travel, and coffee but with a distinctly country Victorian feel to it.

A couple of weeks ago Caroline and I moved to Drouin in West Gippsland. This will leave me with an hour long commute to and from work when things pick up again in January. Funnily enough I was born in a commuter town in England, Basingstoke which lies about an hour west of London. I wonder how coincidental this is? I'm not a keen driver, but I don't mind driving. And being born and raised in a town, rather than a city followed by spells in small cities around the UK (my short time in London wasn't particularly happy) probably leads to a tendency towards a smaller home town.

Don't get me wrong, I love Melbourne and my time in Melbourne, and will be working within the metropolitan boundaries (mostly). As cities go, I could not think of a better one to live in. But maybe I'm not really cut out to be a 'city person' in the long run, and even better, Caroline felt the same way.

Anyway, Drouin is a small town (about 12,000 population) next to a slightly bigger town, Warragul (30,000 ish population). They are set at the bottom of the ski resort of Mt Baw Baw and just to the north of the Strzelecki Ranges. This gives some great areas to explore, and lesser known places in Victoria. I know next to nothing about the area, and will be blogging about my discoveries.

I do know there are some chess enthusiasts in the region, and maybe with my help, we can build a little club. More updates to come soon :)

Caroline Gorka's beautiful view of Gippsland