Sunday, 25 December 2011

Smirnov vs. Zworestine

 "15 241 383 936" - Anton Smirnov calculates the answer to 123456^2 in his head (I had to use a calculator).

This year's Christmas present to our readers from Figjam is the 2010 Sydney Interclub game between then 9-year-old Anton Smirnov and our former hero Charlsen. Despite making a good start with his first move, it seems the Zworebeast has forgotten his preparation by move 3. Five questionable moves in a row change the position from (-0.11) to (13.77), and mate will follow on just move 23.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters - Muller v Zulfic

" I've been a good boy for the rest of my life" - IM George Xie on why he isn't the mafia

The following is my game against Jonas 'Bronas' Muller in round 3 of the Lidums AYM, judged the best game of the tournament by sponsor Robert Hoile.

Jonas played some great practical defensive moves, particularly 25.Qc3 and 26.Bxf6. Still, the position appears to be winning for black after 30...Qa4 threatening b4, but I missed the idea in time trouble.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 9

Saturday, 10 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 8

Friday, 9 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 7

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 6

Thursday, 8 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 5

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 4

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 3

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 2

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters Round 1

2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters

Junta: "Alright, just do one post this month (November) yeah?"
Fedja: "Yeah I'll do that."

With the generous sponsorship of Aivars Lidums, the 2011 Lidums Australian Young Masters tournaments will be held at the South Australian Chess Centre in Adelaide from the 7-11th of December this year. The fields for the Young, Junior and Girls Masters are below. The Lidums South Australian Junior Masters will run alongside these events, although the field is still to be confirmed.

IM George Xie and WGM Daniela Nutu-Gajic will be doing post-game analysis with the players.

Prizes: 1st $300, 2nd $200, 3rd $100 + trophies in each event. The Robert Hoile Brilliancy Prize $100

Schedule: Games to start at 9.30 am and 2.30 pm daily, one game at 9.30 am on the 11th

Time Control: 90 minutes + 30 second increment from move 1

Arbiters: IA Charles Zworestine and IA Roland Eime.

The tournament couldn't go ahead without the generous support of the following sponsors:

Aivars Lidums (naming rights sponsor)
Robert Hoile
George Howard
David Hudson
Ian Rogers

Technology permitting, we'll be running a live blog for each round on this site so tune in on Wednesday!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

London Classic 2011 tipping!

"Sam is one of the Gold Coast's young talents and has been introducing many kids to chess with the Gardiner Chess Academy. Today it was Sam who learned a lesson." - IM Aleks Wohl

from the official website,

Just a week after the Tal Memorial concluded in Moscow, the 2800 club + Nakamura head west to play in the 3rd London Classic, joined by four of the best English players for a 9-player round robin. The pairings are here.
The football scoring system of 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw is being used.

Andrew's predictions:
1st: Carlsen - 16, 2nd: Aronian - 15, 3rd-4th: Kramnik, Adams - 12,
5th: Anand - 11
Fedja's predictions:
1st: Charlsen - 16, 2nd: Aronian, 3rd-4th Anand, Kramnik, 5th: McShane

Junta's predictions:
1st: Aronian - 16, 2nd: Carlsen -15, 3rd: Anand - 12,
4th-5th: Nakamura, Adams - 11

Moulthun's predictions:
1st: McShane        2nd: Hikaru        Equal 3rd: Aronian, Short, Carlsen

The games will be at 1am AEST, except for Round 4 at 3am and the final, Round 8 at 11pm. The rest day is at the halfway mark on the 7th, but with nine players, one gets a rest from playing each round - they will be providing commentary on the games, a brilliant idea which has received widespread praise.

Information for the numerous side events, exhibitions and innovations are all on the official website - it sure sounds like one professionally organised, fun chess event to be a part of. On Friday afternoon, the 9 participants took part in a game vs. the world on Twitter, which, amusingly, the super GMs won with the North Sea Defence (1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 Nh5) as Black in 23 moves!

Some (especially) interesting games to watch will be:
Round 1: Kramnik-Nakamura, a re-match from last year where Kramnik made a surprising knight sacrifice right out of the opening but Nakamura won.
Round 2: McShane-Carlsen, another grudge match from last year where McShane surprised observers by conducting a smooth positional victory in R1.
Round 3: Carlsen-Nakamura, with Kramnik commentating. Key word: Kasparov.
Round 5: Aronian-Carlsen - Let's hope we'll witness another fascinating game between the two highest rated players in the world (2829 and 2815 on the live list).
Round 7: Aronian-Anand - the decisive game count is 5-0 in favour of Aronian since Anand became WC in 2007 (four of them with Black)!
Round 9: Short-Carlsen - will we see another of his vital last round wins?

In any case, it's hard to see there not being more decisive games than in Moscow (just 10/45), although the chess played there was very entertaining and of admirably high quality.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Vikings Weekender 2011 - Day 2

"...I have always been of the opinion that, of the two evils - under-estimation and over-estimation of one's own strength - the former is much the more harmful." - Mikhail Tal
by Junta

On 3½/4 after the first day, it was clear that I would have to score at least 2½/3 on the second day to have hopes of winning the tournament. After the pairings were released in the evening and I looked up my opponent's games in the database, I revised a particular line in the Sicilian Kan as I was quite certain it would occur on the board.

More important, though, was to get a sufficient amount of sleep - it's impossible to play these 60 10 time control games at an optimum condition with insufficient rest overnight. Doubly so for me on this night, as the fast food lunch after Round 2 had given me some non-chess annoyance afterwards - since returning from overseas, having fast food which I'd had no problems with before have given me stomach pains so I might be avoiding them for a while.

On another note, I was planning to take some photos of the playing venue but once the tournament had started, such extraneous tasks all faded out of my mind. Perhaps Shaun Press will be uploading some later, when I'll link to it here.

Round 5

Feeling much better in the morning, the opening as Black went perfectly, and my opponent (who last year killed my chances of 1st by leaving me on 2½/4 after Day 1), pursuing action, decided on an unsound Nd5 sacrifice. I was moving all the right pieces in keeping my advantage until a couple of dubious moves crept in, and suddenly White won back my estranged knight on a2. He was close to equalising, but went astray from the pressures of Black's passed c-pawn and heavy pieces.
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On Board 1, Andrew was playing George as White, in an interesting line of the Queen's Indian which I believe went 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 Nc6 10.Rd1 Nc7!? (10...Be7 is usual)

A provocative novelty from Black.
Andrew subsequently went all out for the attack on Black's slightly suspect king, but George calmly repulsed the onslaught after taking the exchange and converted convincingly. With two rounds to go, the leaderboard read:
4½ - Xie, Ikeda
4 - V.Smirnov, Brown, Melrose, E.Guo, Ng

Round 6

The crucial game. I believe George is the player who has given me the most losses in tournament play, and apart from one win thanks to an opening blunder in 2008, through 2005-start of 2011 I had lost 7 games to him - over the last summer especially, losing to him in each of the three big tournaments (Surfer's Paradise - penultimate round, Australian Open - final round, Oceania Zonal - final round!). Many players have one or two opponents they score poorly against, and it takes time to overcome what is undoubtedly a psychological obstacle against these players.

In this game, I had a slight advantage as Black after the opening (Torre Attack), but lost the thread in the early middlegame, and White's queen, light-squared bishop and two knights became poised to attack my king on the queenside . Although the knockout blow was missed, White's immovable bishop on c6 and potential exploitation of the a, b and e-files had each of my king, queen, rook and bishop confined to passivity. However, the vertical path for the rook to my royal couple was chosen wrongly, letting me escape into an equal ending - it is difficult to play 'normally' after a large advantage is given up.
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Vlad grinded down Melrose's hedgehog, while Andrew was lucky to survive with a draw against Emma Guo as Black, after a similar opening (trap) catastrophe to his loss against Moulthun at the Zonal in January occurred in the Grand Prix Attack (involving e4, Nc3, Nf3, Bb5-c4, Nf3xNd4, Qf3, Nc3-b5, Qa3 etc.).
With one round to go, the scores were:

5½ - Ikeda
5 - V.Smirnov
4½ - Xie, Brown, Mandla, A.Smirnov, E.Guo

Round 7

Needing at least a draw against Vlad to clinch the tournament, I decided to play the Exchange Slav with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 etc, and offered a draw in the fairly equal middlegame, which was accepted after some thought.

19.Kc1-b1 ½-½
On Boards 2 and 3, George and Andrew beat Blair and Anton respectively, and the final scores of the leaders were:
6 - Ikeda
5½ - Xie, V.Smirnov, Brown
5 - Melrose, Ng, Ali, Grcic, Lo

The final crosstable can be seen here.

The overriding feeling when drawing Round 7 was of relief, that my nerves had held out over the 7 rounds. The overseas experience from June-September has definitely helped in my confidence, as I was playing strong opponents every game in those five tournaments, but there is still an awful lot to be done in my game.

The Vikings Weekender is the tournament I've had the most success in over the years, winning in 2004 (my first adult weekender win, in Year 7 - I still remember how happy that made me), 2005 (shared), 2008 and 2009 - although I fall into time trouble quickly with this time control, I usually handle it well as I'm able to play on intuition, on feeling - my intuition isn't too bad, but the biggest deficiency in my chess is that I find it difficult to trust my intuition and play quickly - hence I think too much, when I should also be tuning into my 'feel' of the position.

Many thanks to the organisers, Glenn Ingham, Jim Flood and Matt Radisich, as well as the Tuggeranong Vikings League Club, and DOP Shaun Press. The number of entrants have been unusually consistent over the last few years at 58 in 2008, 57 in 2009, 55 in 2010 and 56 this year - it's a great tournament to play in, so I hope there'll be more people joining to play this event in Canberra next year.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Vikings Weekender 2011 - Day 1

by Junta

The Vikings Weekender, the third biggest tournament on the nation's capital's calendar, was held over the weekend (Nov 19-20).

This 7-round Swiss with the familiar Australian weekender time control of 60 minutes + 10 seconds / move was promoted to a Class 2 (ACF rated) event on the Grand Prix for the first time this year, attracting some strong players at the top - three IMs (Xie [NSW], V.Smirnov [NSW], Brown), one FM (Ikeda) and three others rated over 2100 (Mandla [NSW], Melrose, A. Smirnov [NSW]).

Round 1

The lower rated players are outrated by up to 1000 points or so at the start of these Swiss events, but several upsets usually occur, and this event was no exception - one of these was scored by an ex-junior who was Board 1 on my primary school team when we represented the ACT at the nationals 11 or 12 years ago.

Like the large part of once active Canberra juniors, he had drifted off the scene as college and university studies had got in the way of chess, but having completed his studies and a friend taking up playing, he had made a return. Another player who had come out of hibernation was an Australian Junior champion from the early 70's - it's great to see people like these come back and play again.

The top seeds won comfortably, with the exception of myself - as a dedicated time trouble connoisseur from my pre-teen years, I often exhaust most of my hour in the first 20 moves in this time control, and blitz from the middlegame - I hadn't been able to convert my slight advantage until my opponent blundered when down to his last 10 seconds also, in the last game to finish.

Round 2

Things went better for me this time, as the two bishops had their say;
I was satisfied to find a strong move here, 15.Bd4-b2 (Idea Qd1-d4), Houdini's first choice also. 1-0 (27)
It seemed like the top seeds would cruise through the round again, but as the games finished one by one, the Board 1 game between Xie (2460) and local player Sengstock (1723) had reached an intriguing endgame: Xie had sacrificed the exchange in the middlegame to reach an endgame with White having the two bishops, active king and an one or two-pawn advantage against Sengstock's rook, bishop and weaker pawns.

As more than a third of the 56 tournament entrants crowded around the table, Black defended brilliantly in serious time trouble to slowly whittle away the material, and a big upset draw was scored - White couldn't make any more progress.

Round 3

Following the top seed's draw above, the 2nd and 3rd seeds also dropped half points this round - Vlad Smirnov was held to a draw by his ever improving 10-year old son, Anton, while I was in big trouble on the next board against local veteran Grcic. A lapse of concentration in the opening resulted in making one pawn push too many, and White's 9.Qe2+ forcing ...Nge7 guaranteed my king would not be on time to board his scheduled flight to g8. White soon had a big advantage - down to my 10-second increment very quickly, I made a desperate draw offer, and to my relief he accepted after some thought - in the analysis we quickly established that White was probably just winning at the end.

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As the 4th-6th seeds survived to win, the leading scores after Round 3 were:
3  - Brown, Mandla, Melrose
2½ - Xie, V.Smirnov, Ikeda, A.Smirnov, Grcic

Round 4

A couple in the leading group, Mandla and V.Smirnov, took half-point byes - playing four games in one day can be quite demanding, so the players were allowed to take a half-point bye (or two perhaps, for good reasons) on the first day. There was some controversy after last year's event when one of the tournament winners had taken two half point byes in Rounds 4 and 5, so the rules were modified this year.

Board 1: In the clash of the leaders, Brown beat Melrose in a typically strong 1.d4 game from him, against a Nimzo/QID hybrid setup.
Board 2: Xie outplayed Grcic.
Board 3: Although getting in time trouble in the middlegame after trying my hand at the "beginner's" Giuoco Piano as White, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Na4 etc., I managed to win against Anton.

The game ended: 36...Qd5? (...Qc5 += or ...Qb6 were better) 37.Ng6 Rf6 38.Rxf5 1-0

The leading scores at the end of the first day were:
4  - Brown
3½ - Xie, Ikeda, Mandla
3  - V.Smirnov, Melrose, E.Guo, Ng, Ali, Zulkifli, Press, Litchfield

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tal Memorial 2011 tipping!

Superior knowledge of the rules will lead 'Charlsen' to victory

The highest rated 10-player round robin (Category 22 with average 2776) to ever grace the chess world begins tonight (Games at 10pm AEST).
The participants are below.

# = World ranking on the November FIDE rating list
#1 Magnus Carlsen, Norway, 2826
#2 Viswanathan Anand, India, 2811
#3 Levon Aronian, Armenia, 2802
#4 Vladimir Kramnik, Russia, 2800
#6 Vassily Ivanchuk, Ukraine, 2775
#8 Sergey Karjakin, Russia, 2763
#10 Hikaru Nakamura, USA, 2758
#12 Peter Svidler, Russia, 2755
#14 Boris Gelfand, Israel, 2744
#20 Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia, 2730

Here are the predictions for 1st-5th from the FIGJAM contributors. As our World Cup tipping didn't go so well (though Fedja 'mysteriously' predicted all of the top 8), let's hope someone will hit the jackpot this time. With Nepom as bottom seed and each player capable of winning the big events, every game will be tough.

Andrew's predictions:
1st-2nd: Carlsen, Aronian 6/9, 3rd: Kramnik 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Anand, Svidler 5/9

Fedja's predictions:
1st: Charlsen 6/9, 2nd-3rd: Anand, Kramnik 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Nakamura, Aronian 5/9

Junta's predictions:
1st: Kramnik 6/9, 2nd-3rd: Carlsen, Nakamura 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Aronian, Gelfand 5/9

Moulthun's predictions:
Such a tough tip, and mind you I've never picked any winner right before.
1st-2nd: Karjakin, Ivanchuk, 3rd: Kramnik, 4th-6th: Carlsen, Aronian, Hikaru

Sam's predictions:
1st-2nd: Anand, Carlsen 6/9, 3rd-4th: Kramnik, Ivanchuk 5.5/9, 5th: Aronian 5/9

Final reports on last year's edition, won by Karjakin, Aronian and Mamedyarov with just 5.5/9, can be read here and here

Sunday, 13 November 2011

European Teams 2011 R7-9: Germany win!

by Junta
Round 7

In the battle between two of the leaders, Azerbaijan crushed Bulgaria 3½-½, and with the other leader Romania beaten by Germany 2½-1½, the leaderboard showed:

12MP - Azerbaijan
11MP - Armenia, Germany
10MP - Hungary, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Romania

Topalov (2768, Bulgaria) - Radjabov (2781, Azerbaijan), Round 7.1.1, 09.11.11

After 43.Qc2 ½-½ - the finale of a King's Indian symphony with each side dominating their own colour
On Boards 2 and 3, Gashimov and Mamedyarov scored nice wins - you can see those games here and here.

Morozevich (2762, Russia) - Illescas (2609, Spain), Round 7.6.4, 09.11.11

A position with appealing geometry all over.
Morozevich won in style with 30.Rxe2 Rxe2 31.Qxe2! Qxe2 32.bxc7 1-0

Round 8

Sensation as the German team defeat the Azeris 2½-1½ to overtake them in the lead (Naiditsch scoring the crucial win against Radjabov on top board), with Armenia also keeping pace by defeating the Dutch 3-1. The Romanian team surprised yet again by holding Hungary to a draw, and Bulgaria were back to their winning ways, beating Italy 3-1.

Radjabov as White began with 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.b4, a line I am fond of playing also, although objectively, with Black playing the best lines I don't think White can hope for much of an advantage. I held a faint hope that he had found some new lines to disprove this, but it wasn't to be as Naiditsch comfortably gained the upper hand.

With only the final round to go, the standings (with the first tiebreak factor, game points in brackets) were:

13MP - Armenia (21), Germany (20), paired in Round 9
12MP - Azerbaijan (20), Bulgaria (18½)
11MP - Hungary (19), Romania (19), Russia (18½)

Round 9

Table 4 - Russia beat Slovenia 3-1, but the losses in Rounds 4 and 6 were too costly, so they did not have enough to reach the podium. As Ian Rogers commented on today's The Canberra Times chess column, a team of champions isn't necessarily a champion team - after the failures at gold over the years, it must be difficult to change the flow of things, but they will have to try and meet the expectations as the top seeded team again at next year's Olympiad in Turkey.

Table 3 - A demolition of Bulgaria by Hungary - 4-0!? Leko's win over Topalov was quite exciting, and his teammates also played strongly to win - but such a scoreline between two battle-hardened teams is difficult to explain with just the play. While Hungary had been bubbling a couple of MP's below the leaders for several rounds, eyeing chances of bronze, the Bulgarians had been leading the event at one stage, and perhaps they found it hard to play with both intensity and objectivity when their chances of gold were now very, very slim.

Table 2 - Gashimov and Mamedyarov won again, and the Azeris were victorious against the Romanians 3-1. So, at this point, the Azeris were on 14MP (23GP), and following on 13MP were Hungary (23) and Russia (21½).

As the leaders on 13MP had 21 and 20 GP, Azerbaijan could potentially take gold!
And thanks to their 4-0 win, the Hungarians now were real candidates for bronze.

Armenia beating Germany would lead to...Gold - ARM, Silver - AZE, Bronze - HUN
A 2-2 draw would lead to...Gold - AZE, Silver - ARM, Bronze - GER
Germany beating Armenia would lead to...Gold - GER, Silver - AZE, Bronze - HUN

Table 1 - Naiditsch and Aronian had a quick draw on Board 1, and Fridman-Akopian on Board 3 was also drawn. Germany's 2nd board Meier played a brilliant French game beating Movsesian, so everyone's eyes were on the Board 4 game which lasted over 5 hours - could German Board 4 Gustafsson hold on for a draw to give the team gold, or would Sargissian win to tie the match 2-2, giving Azerbaijan gold?

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So the medals went to:
Germany - 15MP (22.5), Gold
Azerbaijan - 14MP (23), Silver
Hungary - 13MP (23), Bronze;
Armenia (22½) and Russia (21½) missed out on tiebreaks.

No-one saw the 10th seeds as victors before the event - their first team gold since the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939! As has been mentioned in several places, the German team's success was a genuine team effort. Their only two losses were in Round 5 to Bulgaria, and from there - a 3-1 win, followed by tight 2½-1½ wins in the final three rounds - with a different member scoring the much needed point each time.

The final standings on is here.

The best performance ratings in the event were achieved by:
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Azerbaijan Board 3 (!), 7/9, Rp 2866
Michael Adams, England Board 1, 6.5/9, Rp 2841
Alexander Grischuk, Russia Board 2, 5.5/8, Rp 2838
Levon Aronian, Armenia Board 1, 5.5/8, Rp 2833
Zoltan Almasi, Hungary Board 2, 6/8, Rp 2809

The Womens' event was won convincingly by top seeded team Russia (17MP, 25½GP), with Poland taking silver (14MP, 23GP) and Georgia bronze (14MP, 22½GP).

Final round reports with lots of pictures and games on some major chess news sites are below, which are highly recommended viewing.
ChessBase, ChessBase (pictorial)ChessVibes, WhyChess

Saturday, 12 November 2011

European Teams 2011 - Rounds 1-6

by Junta

The European Team Championships was held in Greece from November 3rd-11th, at Halkidiki which hosted the World Youth U/12's back in 2003, my first overseas event.

The Open section had 38 teams, of which the top four teams had an average rating above 2700, 20 teams were above 2600, and 28 teams were above 2500 - a very strong event. If Australia could have sent in a team with the highest rated lineup possible (average 2480), we would have been seeded 33rd.

I was sure that the battle for gold would be between the highest seeded teams:
#1 Russia (average 2758, determined to win their first team gold in years),
#2 Ukraine (2010 Olympiad winners),
#3 Azerbaijan (2009 European Teams winners) and
#4 Armenia (always formidable in teams events, winning the '06 and '08 Olympiads, and this year's World Teams).

However, with so many strong GMs playing, there were many big upsets and surprises throughout the 9 rounds, and the race to the finish was unusually dramatic, with the leaders changing round by round. Last night, I was up until 3:30am watching the live games, as the allocation of the medals hung on the result of the nervy last game...

From the start of the tournament, though. After the first four rounds, things had already took an unexpected turn, with Azerbaijan, France (6th seeds), Bulgaria (7), Germany (10) and Spain (13) leading on 7 match points after 3 wins and 1 draw each - while Russia, Ukraine and Armenia had only scored +2 =1 -1 (losses to Bulgaria, Germany and Azerbaijan, respectively).

And after Round 5: Bulgaria were sole leaders on 9MP, with Azerbaijan, France, Romania (17) and Greece (19) following on 8MP. Though around the middle of the field in seeding, even these latter two teams had an all-GM team, capable of fighting against any of the stronger teams on a good day.

Round 6 was hard fought at the top, with a single win deciding the winner on Tables 2-4. Bulgaria drew with France at the top, so the standings were now
10MP - Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Romania, and
9MP - Armenia, France and Germany.

By now, the prospects looked grim for Russia and Ukraine, behind on 7 and 6 (!) MP respectively. Although Russia recovered to score =3rd, Ukraine had a shocker, finishing with 4 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses (including one to Switzerland [26]!) at 15th.

Here are some crisp game climaxes from the first two thirds of the event:

Morozevich (2762, Russia) - Svetushkin (2621, Moldova), Round 1.1.3, 03.11.11
An obvious draw. Unfortunately, the worst blunder of the tournament occurred:
76...Rg2?? 77.Rxg2 1-0

Grischuk (2752, Russia) - Laznicka (2703, Czech Republic), Round 2.1.2, 04.11.11

Another drawn position with a Russian player as White.
But the game continued: 39.f4 h5?? 40.Kf5 Ke7 41.Kg6 Kf8 42.Kxh5 1-0

Outspoken Russian team manager Evgeny Bareev commented (from WhyChess):
"In order to complete the rout Alexander Grischuk used a cunning trick: when his opponent had managed to defend a difficult position Grischuk looked from side to side to where his opponents had won, sighed and offered a draw. The pawn ending really was drawn, but could the proud Czech guy agree to that so easily? Of course not, and having used up all his remaining time thinking Viktor boldly advanced one of his pawns. When time trouble ended you could observe the scene, as Laznicka, who was sitting up straight on his chair, found out that he was lost. He slowly started to slide from his chair and found that his feet were far ahead of the table in the aisle, while his head was almost under the table. A painful loss, but a deserved victory for the Russian team."

Mastrovasilis (2621, Greece) - Short (2698, England), Round 2.5.2, 04.11.11

White has a decisive advantage, so Black decided to lose in style:
24.Rhd1 Qc7?? 25.Bf8 Qxc4 26.Bg7# 1-0

Miezis (2547, Latvia) - Navara (2724, Czech Republic), Round 3.9.1, 05.11.11
An attractive finale: 86.Ka6 Bb8 87.Nd7 Bxa7 88.Nc7# 1-0

Gustafsson (2633, Germany)-Efimenko (2702, Ukraine), Round 4.3.4, 06.11.11
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A nice attack!

Hansen (2566, Denmark)-Aronian (2802, Armenia), Round 5.6.1, 07.11.11

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A memorable swindle.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

November in chess

November 1st
- The November FIDE rating lists were published. For the first time, there are four players with a published rating of 2800 or above, with Carlsen near his PB (of 2828) at 2826, Anand at 2811, Aronian at 2802 and Kramnik at 2800 (his first published rating of 2800 or over since January 2003).
There are 47 players rated 2700 or over, and about 175 players rated between 2600 and 2700.

  The top end of the (active) Australian list sees just a little bit of change, most notably the juniors Max Illingworth rising from 2358 to 2401 and James Morris from 2327 to 2364. Assuming they will also play in the Australian Championships at Geelong (Dec 27-Jan 8), the field looks to be quite strong, with Li Chao (!), Zhao, Xie, Johansen, Solomon, Ly, Ikeda, Cheng and Steadman (NZ) being the titled players already registered.

- The Category 4 Melbourne Club Cup Weekender concluded, with George Xie scoring an impressive 8.5/9, followed by Bobby Cheng 2nd on 7.5, and Morris, Solomon, Brown, Rujevic, Garner, Tan on 6.

November 3rd-11th
- The 18th European Team Championships kicks off in Greece. Although the biennial Olympiad is of course the most colourful competition on the chess calendar, this year has seen a wealth of strong team events, with the World Team Championships in July and the European Club Cup which concluded a month ago; not to mention the strong national leagues in Europe and Asia, especially the Bundesliga. David Smerdon had a taste of the Dutch League very recently when he played Yasser Seirawan on top board for his team.

Russia hopes to stop its drought of gold in recent years with an elite team of Svidler, Karjakin, Grischuk, Morozevich and Nepomniachtchi (Kramnik is conserving energy towards another tournament later in the month) - but the other top seeds, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia will not make it easy for them.

The Open Section results are here, and Womens' here.

November 13th-30th
The Women's World Championship match between Hou Yifan (China) and Koneru Humpy (India) will be held in Albania, consisting of 10 games followed by a tie-break if necessary. The official site is here.

November 16th-25th
An absolutely mouthwatering field is assembled for the 10-player round robin, Tal Memorial in Moscow. The four players in the 2800 club are all playing, followed by world #6 Ivanchuk, #8 Karjakin, #10 Nakamura, #12 Svidler (2011 Russian Champion and World Cup winner), #14 Gelfand (his game against Anand should be interesting to watch) and #20 Nepomniachtchi (2010 Russian champion)!!
The average rating: 2776, surely a record for a 10-player round robin. Throw in Radjabov, Topalov, Morozevich and Grischuk for a dream Wijk aan Zee.

November 19th-20th
The Category 2 Vikings Weekender will be held in Canberra.
At the moment George Xie, Vlad Smirnov, Andrew and Junta are the top players entered.

November 26th-27th
The Category 1 Caloundra Open will be held on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hungary - Part 2

"There can be no finer example of the inspiring powers of competition to shatter the status quo than Hungary's Judit Polgar."
Garry Kasparov

"Only those with inferior taste prefer the unnecessarily complicated to the simple. Sound human understanding chooses from two equally appropriate moves the one which is more straightforward and less complex."
Emanuel Lasker

"If it's stupid but works, it isn't stupid."
Murphy's Laws of Combat
by Andrew

After a dismal start, I was paired against GM Gyula Sax (2491) in the fourth round, who apparently is an ex-candidate for the World Championship, and is still remarkably strong at the age of 60. Luckily I got the Queen's Indian I was hoping to get, and I gained quite a bit of time by being able to bash out theory and leave my opponent either trying to remember or trying to work out the best moves - perhaps a bit of both.

I got exactly the position I'd looked at up until move 19, and all I had to do was play a simple knight retreat and continue with a straightforward plan that is hard for Black to do anything against. Instead, as you can imagine, I played a rather dubious but very exciting move that adequately bamboozled my opponent for him to think for half an hour and miss the simple win. However, after the first few moves of the combination I decided, yet again, against the straightforward option which would have given me very decent compensation and this time had to suffer with a clearly worse position. Fortunately though, due to my opponent's time trouble, I was able to swindle a draw out of the resulting ending.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Okay, so I didn't win the next four. Actually from the fourth round on I continued as "expected", more or less. My next game against IM Julian Estrada (2285) was very interesting, and although I made another of my typically unnecessarily complicated moves (as in, the reasoning behind the move, not the manner in which the move is carried out - for example using one's elbows to move the piece and pressing the clock with one's head) I felt it could have gone either way until just a few moves before the end.

After 40.g5

Resorting, once again, to my bamboozling tactics I played 40...Rf2?! (according to Houdini 1.5a w32 Black can achieve a draw with 40...Ra8 41.Ra1 Kh8 42.Bd3 Rd2 43.g6 Rxd3 44.Rxd3 b2 45.Rdd1 bxa1=Q 46.Rxa1 Ra3) which allowed for a study-like finish after 41.Kxf2 Rf8+ 42.Rf3 Rxf3+ 43.Kxf3 b2 44.Kg4! a1=Q 45.h7+ Kg7 46.Rf7+! Kxg6 47.h8=N#! (D)

The (almost) Paradox Knight-mate

The final position deserves its own diagram. It looks almost paradoxical at first, as the knight can't have got there from any other square; then you realise that it was just promoted. I think this must be the most beautiful final position I've ever had.

Another loss, but I guess I don't mind losing like that. My Round 6 game was against yet another GM - this time against Serbian Zlatko Ilincic (2467) - again with the Black pieces. It started off as a Fianchetto King's Indian with his normal deviation of the mainline with 9.b3. I played an early queen move that, although not altogether bad, was probably not the best option. My pieces got a bit cramped up in the middlegame and I made an interesting sacrifice which was probably the best move this time, but eventually my opponent proved that it wasn't enough for me to be able to hold the game.

Hmm... 0.5/6. Could be worse, I guess.

Who knows, perhaps the man in the foreground was on 0/6.

And at least I'd got all the GMs out of the way.

Round 7 I was White against American FM Erik Kislik (2320). It was a Grunfeld with Bb5+ on move 7. I got what I felt was quite a reasonable position and in the middle game I would have had quite a bit of an advantage had I not carelessly swapped off into an endgame. The game ended in a draw. I got to know Erik pretty well over the course of the tournament and it was nice not to have to eat lunch on my own every day. I often had dinner with him too, as well as Julian Estrada and Carla Heredia Serrano (who played in the IM group).

On top of the mall, looking out over the city.

In Round 8 I had my best game of the tournament, or at least the most entertaining. I played the Chinese player Qiang Hou (2320) as Black. It started in a very long line of the Sveshnikov where I'd sacrificed two queenside pawns to get a kingside attack. He missed a tricky move in the middlegame that would have given him a definite advantage and made a "safe" move when it was unsafe to do so. Then a final time-trouble-assisted blunder from him allowed me a nice way to finish.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

So after a late tournament comeback I was on par with my expected score, but unfortunately I was defeated swiftly by FM Tamas Fodor (2458) in the last round when I ran out of theory quite literally on move 4 and then proceeded to self-destruct, probably more due to apathy or exhaustion than anything else.

As was the case in Sunningdale, there was no presentation or closing ceremony after the tournament. And all the people I'd met and friends I'd made were no longer there the next day, such is the case in many a chess tournament. Before my trip I tended to be more reserved during tournaments for a mixture of reasons, and I've learnt a great deal now about independence and taking care of myself with out the support of friends or family. But I've also come to realise the importance of making the most of those opportunities, as it really enriches the whole experience when there are like-minded people to share it with. This realisation helped to make Hungary one of the best parts of my trip.

And although I would have felt quite disappointed with such a tournament earlier, it doesn't worry me too much now. As Zong-Yuan Zhao said to me just before I left Australia, "Remember, it's just chess; it's not life". I did my best, and while I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, what I've learned from these tournaments and experiences is simply invaluable. A physical, mental and emotional journey I'll never forget.

P.S: Max Illingworth has written a great article on deciding between the straightforward and the complex on the Sydney Academy of Chess site, which can be reached here. The article happens to contain my most flattering example of the latter over the former.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hungary - Part 1

"You'd better make a GM norm. Just pretend you're in NZ."
Correspondence from Fedja before the tournament.

A wise man once said, 'Hungarians are strange creatures'.
by Andrew

I arrived in Budapest on the afternoon of the 16th of September, and stayed at the Medosz Hotel on the street Jokai Ter in the centre of the city. I woke up quite late the next morning - getting to breakfast just before they were about to close the restaurant - and then headed out to Oktogon Square. While my brain pondered the validity of the concept of a square being octagonal, I walked around there and found an ATM and the Ferenc Liszt (Franz Liszt) music store to browse through some very cheap selections of sheet music.

Opposite Jokai Ter in Budapest

After checking out at 11am with my 21kg suitcase and 10kg backpack, I asked the lady at reception for directions to the nearest train station. She told me that if I walk to the end of this street, turn left, and continue walking for 5-10 mins, the Nyugati Train Station (which would take me directly to Kecskemet) will be on my right. Easy enough, I thought and said, 'I'll be okay', when she offered me a map. So, naturally, I arrived at Nyugati Station two and a half hours later, after taking a route that looked something like this:

Blue = Walking
Red = Train
Green = Correct Route
Yellow Highlight = Origin (Jokai Ter - with the red balloon) and Destination (Nyugati Station)

Distance Covered: 13.3km - 6.2km by foot, 7.1km by train
Necessary Distance to Cover: 750m (5 - 10 minute walk or 2 minute bus ride from Oktogon Square)

Okay, maybe next time I'll take the map. Although I was quite sure I followed the lady's directions ... strange ... I wonder if your thoughts turn now as mine did to the quote from the wise man at the beginning of this post. I reflected on this observation many times over the course of my Hungarian journey.

One of the many train stations I went to

Anyway, I arrived at the Nyugati Station at around 1:30pm and after struggling for a little while to find where to buy tickets, finally made it onto the train to Kecskemet.


Aside from my week in England for the Sunningdale tournament, I had spent all my time in Europe in the Netherlands, where although English isn't the native language, just about everyone speaks it quite well and most of the signs are in English too. It was only after I got to Hungary that I realised I really should have looked up some common Hungarian words and phrases before I got there.

But I did manage to make it to the tournament venue/hotel - Caissa Panzio, near the centre of the city - by taxi (not taking any chances this time), and was greeted by the tournament organiser Tamas Erdelyi, who kindly showed me my room and then gave me a 30 minute tour of the surrounding areas.

Outside the Caissa Panzio

Park in the centre of Kecskemet, with chess players in background

When I got back it was just about time for the first round. None of us had any idea who we were playing until the player numbers were drawn immediately before the first round. Unfortunately I got paired with the GM Attila Groszpeter (2521) as Black in the first round. The game was a closed Sveshnikov in which a couple of my dubious moves in the opening lead to him being able to secure a slight advantage. I felt like I was defending the whole game and as if I never really made any big mistakes, but he ended up winning quite comfortably.

My second round was a bit of a disaster. I played the underrated 13-year-old Tibor Antal (2286) as White. I should have prepared better before the game, as it was quite clear what opening I was going to get, but it had somehow turned out reasonably well until I made a serious mistake that gave him all the initiative, and suddenly I was fighting to equalise. Before long I made another mistake and I had to sac a piece to have any hope of staying in the game (by perpetual check) but he refuted all my attempts and before long I had to call it a day.

The nice and cosy tournament venue, with organiser Tamas Erdelyi to the right.
The venue also had a lot of interesting chess memorabilia and artwork.

In the 3rd round I got paired with another GM as Black: top seed Levente Vajda (2557). Vajda is quite easy to prepare for as he basically only plays the Alapin (c3-Sicilian) after 1.e4 c5, but he is one of the world's leading experts in it and can easily turn an objectively equal, normal looking position into a dynamic, attacking position that is not easy to defend against. I got quite a decent position after about 20 moves but missed an attacking idea that he had, and before long I made a serious blunder that gave him a mate in 5. Interestingly, although I wasn't too fond of the position I got into after 24 moves, I looked at the game later with a chess engine and  found another way to defend that probably would have resulted in a draw with best play from both sides.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

So by losing the first 3 games, I had not only lost all chances of securing a GM norm, but continued with the very pattern of results I had hoped to stop in this tournament - that of 4 losses, 4 wins, 4 losses from my last 12 games. But on the upside, I thought, at least I could look forward to 4 wins now...

Part 2 will be up in a few days.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

My first steps in chess

 by Junta

The other day, we had guests over for dinner, and one of them was a 6-year old boy. There was some time until the meal, and I would usually push the responsibility of playing with young children on to my sister, but as she was busy, I had to face up to the giant task myself.

He wanted to learn how to play chess. Slightly reluctant at first, having never taught the absolutely basic rules to anyone as long as I can remember, it was an enjoyable 15 minutes or so, playing a game with him while teaching how the pieces move, capturing, checking, getting out of check, and checkmate.

Answering each of his careful, oblivious moves with a lightning-fast bang, I crushed the child's ego with 4.Qxf7#.

Just kidding.

After several moves, his dark-squared bishop gave a check on b4, and with some hints and encouragement, in the grasp of the little fingers, the wooden piece zoomed diagonally backwards and forwards, munching a large part of my army. As he finally got a rook out on the open e-file behind his queen, I moved my queen's rook to the undefended e1-square, next to my king on f1.

...Qxe1#, the first ever checkmate in the boy's life.
Jumping up and down on the sofa, he shouted in excitement and joy: "I won I won I won!!" He wanted another game, but it was time for dinner.

Later, I became curious about what my forgotten, first steps in chess were like.
My father explained: at first, he was teaching my sister when I was 4 or 5 - asking me if I wanted to learn also, my answer would be a no. A year or two later, the curiosity got the better of me this time, and I took up the game.

From that day on, chess became a big part of my life. Each night, after dinner, I would challenge my father to another game. For weeks and weeks, I would lose every game, but as 6 weeks or so had passed, the losses were alternating with wins. Some time later, I would win all the games.

It was time to look for more opponents. In 1999, I joined my first junior chess club (incidentally, I have been coaching at the club with the same name for some years now), and gained my first ACF rating of 315. 12 years later, and here I am.

I'm sure many have wondered: what would my life have been like without chess?

I must finish this post with the words of a world champion, from
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (2009 Reprint, Everyman Chess).

"... But about my first game. When one of us first plays chess, he is like a man who has caught a dose of microbes of, say, Hong Kong 'flu. Such a man walks along the street, and he does not yet know that he is ill. He is healthy, he feels fine, but the microbes are doing their work. Something similar, though less harmful, occurs in chess. ... You lose the first game. But at some time, if your father or elder brother or simply an old friend wants to be kind to you, then you win, and as a result feel very proud of yourself. A few days pass, and suddenly you involuntarily begin to sense that, without chess, there is something missing in your life. Then you may rejoice: you belong to that group of people without a natural immunity to the chess disease..."

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Marvelling at Super GMs' play

by Junta

A simplified banner - tempting to incorporate into FIGJAM
A great website I visit daily when elite tournaments are being held is .

Conducted since May 1st, the website has:
1. a live, informative FIDE rating list of players rated over 2700; and
2. a game viewer with all of their recent games you can play through.

Personally, I find the quality of the top players' games quite inspiring, and although I usually just play over all of the games from the previous day, it can be a good training method to pick a game, choose a side (2700+) and after the opening stage, compare the moves you come up with to the one played.

Some memorable recent games (which made me smile while replaying them) are:
Caruana-Berg, European Club Cup (2) - great endgame technique.
Gelfand-Jobava, European Club Cup (3) - a queen sac in the style of Ivanchuk.*
Moiseenko-Morozevich, Saratov Governor's Cup (3) - a mobile queen.
Ni Hua-Morozevich, Saratov Governor's Cup (4) - R's+P's overpowering RBN.

* - Examples (I'm sure there are more of them in the database):
1. the famous 'Final Fantasy' game against Jobava in last year's Olympiad

After 11.Qd2xRe1
2. an interesting battle from this year's Greek Team's Championships
38...Be5-f6 0-1
3. the classic from the 1996 Wijk aan Zee with 21.Qg4-g7

4. the win over Karjakin in the 2008 Amber (Rapid) named 'Speed Racer'