Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Malaysian Open 2011 - Team Rapid

"Can we order two crispy ducks please?" "...(waitress starts giggling furiously, is smiling for the whole time we are there, and whispers to many of the other waiter/waitresses, leaving us feeling quite awkward)"

by Junta

Didn't the Malaysian Open finish at the end of August? Due to extraneous circumstances, some understandable and some which might be better represented by the words 'lazy contributor', the draft of this post lay untouched in the 'Edit Posts' section for a whole month. 

To wrap up the Malaysian Open Chess Festival, the 31st ASTRO Merdeka Rapid Open Team Championships was held on the last two days - a very popular event, more than 80 teams of 4 or 5 players (where there was one reserve) filled the spacious playing hall, causing the top five tables to be moved to a smaller but comfortable 'elite room', like at a recent Olympiad.

Our team, the Klang Valley Kangaroos, comprised of Gary Lane on Board 1, myself on Board 2, Fedja on Board 3 and Brian Jones on Board 4 for an average rating of around 2200, at 6th seed. Although this was rapidplay, it was my first teamplay event since the Singapore World U/16 Olympiad in 2007, and with the pressure of FIDE-rated games over, it was set to be an enjoyable 9 rounds.

Round 7, Table 3: Klang Valley Kangaroos vs. Dragon Two
Many of the 84 teams contained or were entirely made up of young juniors, and we encountered the wrath of youth from the very first round. Facing four players around four feet tall across the four boards, I honestly thought it would be an easy walkover, but I had to resort to converting a slightly better endgame in my opponent's time pressure. While Gary and Brian didn't struggle as much, Fedja was a slice of mangosteen away from humiliation in his game, as the talented little girl actually had forced mate in the final position, but her clock ran out before Fedja may have ran out of the room had he been mated.

As we later found out, these juniors possessed ratings of 1400 up to 1700.
Of course, we did underestimate them, but they played very strongly. As Brian quipped to us, "Are you guys feeling old now, up against these young players?" - surprised by our younger adversaries' talent, we indeed felt older.
We can understand now: how annoying it must have been for adults to play our generation when we were all so small and improving quickly!

To sum up our team's performance, Gary was incredible on Board 1, scoring 8/9 (+7 =2) against formidable opposition (performance: 2492), very unlucky to miss out on the board gold medal. Fedja started like a house on fire with 5/5 and then salvaged 1.5/4 (many points thanks to his 'flagging' skills) to be an impressive point-getter. Brian performed credibly on Board 4, scoring important points for the team. Sadly, I let the team down, losing to a 2000 in Round 3 and then finishing with triple castling (the first on this entire trip) in the all-important matches to finish with 4.5/9 and leave the team finishing only 10th.

Here are a couple of my games - I was quite happy with my Round 6 game, one of my best in Malaysia.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

But one round later, against a player I had beaten in the blitz and lost to in the individual rapid, I made some big mistakes in the tense middlegame and lost.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Another of my exciting games, I found my opponent had annotated here.

Final standings of the event are here.
Due to higher-scoring teams receiving other prizes, we were moved up to 7th place

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Amsterdam Adventures

"So I told my friend, '12', and he asked me, 'How many moves do you think ahead?'"
Comedian and chess player Tex de Wit

"Whomever sees no other aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one's opponent will never become a good chess player." 
Max Euwe

"Is is is in Dutch, isn't it?"
My thoughts while trying to interpret what people are saying on TV.
by Andrew

The title I chose for this post is nice and short, but I instinctively decided to make another assonating title, which is shown below.

"An Actual Available Account Articulating and Appreciating Andrew's Absolutely Amazing Adventures Around Amsterdam -  Are Amsterdam's Alcoholics Anonymous associations as awesome as Andrew's amazing adventures around Amsterdam? Answer: Affirmative." Although "Amsterdam Adventures" assonates accurately anyway and, as aforementioned, acts as an appropriate and attractive alternative.

Now that I've (hopefully) got your attention...

After my tournament in Haarlem, I once again came back to Amsterdam, where I was to spend the next two and a half weeks - from 29th August-15th September. In that time I saw and did a variety of interesting things - from visiting chess museums, to taking canal cruises, to seeing comedy shows - although I did refrain from going to some of the city's more disturbing of tourist attractions...

One of the city's more disturbing tourist attractions ... which I didn't go to.*

*In Amsterdam, a "coffeeshop" is a shop with the primary purpose of selling cannabis and hash (some actually don't even serve coffee), as opposed to a cafe, where drugs are prohibited and the normal stuff is almost invariably available.*

*Say 'invariably available' 10 times fast before you continue reading.

 But although doing touristy things was a top priority, it was also nice for me to have myself a decent break: I had had four consecutive 9-round tournaments (following a 7-round Australian weekender) with only a few days between each one to relax and reflect.

Me relaxing and reflecting ... in Vlissingen.

Although I can't remember the order all that well, all the things I did are listed below - the most blogworthy things, anyway.


The first museum I saw was, I believe, Amsterdam's most famous: The Rijkmuseum. I was actually intending to go to the Max Euwe museum on this day, but I'd gone way past it and couldn't find it, so I decided to go here instead. This was a very old building that at the time was being refurbished. Thankfully it was still open for the general public. The Rijkmuseum contained a lot of fascinating history about the Netherlands, and, among other things, I learned about how the once very powerful Dutch Navy made it to America and founded the city of New Amsterdam. This city was then later colonised by the British and called New York (which made it clearer to me why there was a Haarlem and a Harlem).

Rijkmuseum near Museumplein
The next day I went out again to Leidseplein. Leidseplein (known by some English speakers as Led Zeppelin) is quite a common area for tourists to go to, being close to many museums and other interesting places (and of course coffeeshops), and also a common nightlife destination. In the area that the tram I took stopped at, there was also often live entertainment - bands playing, people breakdancing, and a guy hitting a tennis ball attached to an elastic band for hours on end, in the hope that it would sell his product. My intention on this day was once again to go to the Max Euwe museum, and this time I found a few people watching a giant chess game take place in Max Euwe Square, so I knew I had to be close. However, after looking around for quite a while, I yet again failed to find the museum.

Giant chess board at Max Euweplein

So instead I decided to go to the Van Gogh museum, where I found many fascinating works of his and learned a lot about his short but interesting life. The final museum I went to was the Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House). This was where the famous painter lived and worked in his prime during the mid-17th century. Here I saw a huge collection of his art and many bizarre sculptures that he collected.

Canal near Museumplein

Max Euwe Museum and Library

I know what you must have been thinking up til now: What 19-year old male would go to Amsterdam and not visit the chess museum!? Well, luckily, one day I did manage to get there after not being able to find the entrance three times already. The 4th time came after I went to see Tex de Wit, whom I had met during the BDO. He had invited me around to his place to play blitz with himself and his friend. I told him about how I had tried to find the Max Euwe Museum and he said that I had to go in the building and press one of the numbers to be let upstairs, and then be taken in by the curator. It wasn't far from his place, and he liked the idea of going there, so we all went together anyway.

When we got there, the curator gave us a tour of the museum, however he only spoke in Dutch, so Tex had to translate for me. I saw lots of pictures of Max Euwe - as well as many other famous players whose faces I wouldn't previously have been able to identify - and learnt some interesting facts about his life. Max Euwe was only an amateur player when he became World Champion, which lasted from 1935-1937. He was also a mathematician, teacher and author. In fact he wrote around 70 chess books, much more than any other World Champion.

The museum also contained several other chess related things, including a timeline showing all the Dutch Grandmasters up to the present day - with 16-year-old Robin van Kampen about to be inlcuded - and an old specially-made Nazi chess set, with tanks, missiles, soliders, etc. for pieces. (The white pieces were the bigger and more powerful weapons, as they were supposed to represent the Nazi army.)

Nazi Chess Set in the Max Euwe Museum
After the tour of the museum, we were shown into the library, which had a collection over 10000 chess books inside. As there are so many different chess books, from opening, to endgame, to strategy, to biographies, etc., many keen chess players often come to this library to study. Also in this collection is one of the oldest surviving books on chess, 'The Bishop', by Ruy Loepez, dating back to the 1500s.

Blitz Tournament

A couple of days after visiting the Max Euwe Museum, Tex asked me if I wanted to come to his club to play in a blitz tournament on Thursday night at 8:00pm. By that stage I hadn't had any competitive chess (apart from the few games at his house) for almost two weeks, and so, eager to get my fix again, I replied with the affirmative. I left the house around 7:00, thinking that the two trams I'd need to take should get me there with 5 or 10 minutes to spare. However, I didn't account for the tram I was taking being 25 minutes late. Nor did I account for not being able to find the place when I got there. So when I finally found the place after 8:30, I was expecting to have already forfeited my first two games. But luckily for me they hadn't started yet.

The blitz was done as a 13 round all-play-all, with playing strength ranging from around 1700 to 2300. I've never really considered myself much of a blitz player, but for some reason today I was feeling pretty good. I got to 4/4, expecting I'd be playing Tex, who'd also been winning all his games. We both got to about 6/6 before he lost one game, but we still hadn't played each other. After several narrow escapes and lucky wins, I managed to get to 12/12, and I was paired with Tex (11/12) for the last round. After thinking for too long in the opening and then missing a nice exchange sacrifice he had, Tex beat me fairly comfortably, so 1st place was shared between us on 12/13.

Results sheet
Unfortunately the only prize for coming equal first in this blitz tournament, was the satisfaction of coming equal first in this blitz tournament. But we decided it was necessary to take a winners' photo, just for the record.*

Tex and me (winners are grinners!)

*This was actually the 8th photo we took... I guess that's what late-night blitz does to you.

Comedy show

At the blitz tournament, I had asked Tex what it was like being a stand-up comedian. He said he had only been performing for around 6 months, so it was a relatively new experience for him. But he asked if I wanted to come to a gig he was doing Friday night, which was going to be entirely in English. So before I knew it, I was at the

There were four acts of stand-up comedy altogether - three Dutch comedians and one English. I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances, but I think I understood some of Tex's chess jokes better than the rest of the audience.

After the show I had the luxury of hanging around with some of the comedians and listening to many entertaining stories about multi-functional steam-cleaners, politically-incorrect Australians, and elephant genitals.

Other news

Before I continue going on about myself, I would like to start off this section by congratulating Max Illingworth, who in the First Saturday GM Tournament in Hungary this September became the youngest Australian ever to make a GM norm, as well as the first to make a GM norm before getting the IM title. Max beat all 3 GMs who played (which could also be a record), and placed =1st in the tournament with 7/9 and a performance rating of 2638!


After suffering from the many disadvantages of not feeding myself properly during the BDO, I decided that it was important for me to find some wholesome, nutritious food to get me back into good condition. After all:

"The stomach is an important part of the chess master."
Bent Larsen

So I went and got the best food a chess player can possibly eat.

But unfortunately, the human-being part of me decided against having only chess-piece chocolate biscuits - which no doubt drastically enhance checkmating abilities - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I went and bought a large range of ingredients, which I used to cook up my best meal yet:

Fried rice (already half eaten, believe it or not)

On my last full day in Holland, I went to the Rembrantplein, walked around some scenic areas, bought some souvenirs, and took a canal cruise to finish off a very relaxed and enjoyable day.

Seeing the Statue of Rembrandt at Rembrandtplein

Cruising the canals

And swimming the walking the canals

Having the opportunity to visit and enjoy spending time in one of Europe's most famous and exciting of cities was something that I came to appreciate a lot more during the final two and a half weeks I spent there - and I'm sure I will continue to appreciate it once I am back home, working, and attending my first year of uni. Now that it's time for me to leave Amsterdam, I hope that I will enjoy my experience in Hungary, and be able to come back to Amsterdam in the future.

Maybe even next year...

"Hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability."

I'm writing now from Kecskemet in Hungary, and I am about to experience my first ever GM tournament. The Kecskemet tournament and the better-known First Saturday tournament take place each month in Hungary, with the latter being held at the start of each month in Budapest, and the former during the second half, taking place in Kecskemet (a city about 90km south-east of Budapest). My first round begins tomorrow at 3:00pm (11:00pm AEST), but unfortunately there is no website for this event, and nowhere online (at least, not that I've found) to check the results. However, I will be posting regularly during this tournament to keep you informed on how it's going. Until then, I feel it is only appropriate to finish this the way I started.

Adios, Amsterdam! And hopefully historical Hungary has hundred heavenly happenings happening half-hourly. Haha.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

BDO Tournament in Haarlem 2011 - Part 2

"Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays."
Omar Khayyam, around 1070
By Andrew

Two days prior to Day 5 (Day 3) I had learned that the food and drinks provided in our playing area were free, and until then I hadn't yet taken advantage of this rare opportunity. So before Round 5 I got there 15 minutes early and had as many sandwiches as I could eat in 15 minutes. Now that I was well- (and possibly over-) nourished and very keen to end my miserable losing streak, the gong sounded, and I began my Round 5 game with the white pieces against Dutchman FM Bart Gijswijt (2341). (There actually was a gong that the arbiter sounded at 1:00pm each day to signal the start of the round. So getting there early wasn't just to eat sandwiches, but also to make sure I didn't miss this battle-inducing BDO novelty.)

The opening was similar to the Cambridge Springs variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined, but with the moves a4 and a6 inserted. Whether or not it is advantageous for White to play this way, I wasn't sure, but I got quite a reasonable position after my opponent missed a couple of opportunites to combat my weaknesses. After a pawn sacrifice later in the game, my opponent made the mistake of offering a second pawn thinking that he would be able to trap my bishop, but missed a nice combination I could play to rescue the piece or win material.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

It seemed I was suddenly back on track and playing better. Was it the food? We may never know for sure. But I continued to eat better for the rest of the tournament just in case.

In Round 6 I played another Dutchman Tom Bottema (2247). The game started with the 3...g6 variation of the Rossolimo (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6), which lead to a very comfortable position for me after my opponent neglected to make an early pawn push and instead allowed me to take hold of the centre and enjoy a significant space advantage. After reaching quite a good-looking middle game, I found it very hard to know which plan to follow and after a thinking for a long time I chose the wrong one. After this he was well and truly back in the game, and soon he was a bit better but missed a few chances to give me serious problems. After we had both reached the time control (30 mins added on after 40 moves),  I was a pawn up but with quite an unsafe king and I had to be careful. However my opponent made a terrible blunder on move 41 allowing forced mate in 6.

Position after 40...Kf7

After 41.Qf3?? the rest of the game went 41...Re1+ 42.Kh2 Bg1+ 43.Kh1 Bf2+ 44.Kh2 Rh1+ 0-1. If he had played 41.Qg3 Bf8 42.c4 instead, the game would probably be drawn with best play.

Playing area for GM and IM groups (before the tournament)

Playing area for BDO Open

In the 7th round I came to the playing hall expecting to be playing White against James Jackson (after not double-checking the pairings), and when I got to my board I realised with quite a shock I was actually paired with IM Piet Peelen (2354) whom I hadn't done any preparation for. But somehow, probably due to my morale-boosting rounds 5 and 6 I managed to play my best game of the tournament.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

In Round 8 I played Black against English player James Jackson (2157) who was asked to fill in for Reiner Odendahl on account of the latter falling ill immediately before the tournament. The game started with a variation of the Sveshnikov which lead to quite a blocked up position. My opponent made a mistake by castling, which allowed me to attack and develop my pieces on the kingside. Later in the game we both missed good some chances but eventually we got down to an interesting R+B vs. R+N where I was down a pawn but my strong knight on c5 gave me enough compensation for it. The rest of the game is shown below.

After 42...a4

 43.bxa4 Rf3! 44.Rh8 Ra3 45.Rb8 Rxa4 46.Kg2? After this mistake White is probably lost. 46...Kf6 (Rxa2 was more direct) 47.h5 Strangely enough 47.Kg1 was probably the best move here. 47...Rxa2 48.Rxb4 (D)

48...e3 49.Rb6 Rxf2+ 50.Kg1 Rd2 51.h6 Kg6 52.h7 Kxh7 53.Bh3 Rd1+ 54.Kg2 e2 0-1

In going from having 4 losses in a row to 4 wins in a row my tournament had flipped upside-down, and suddenly I was doing quite well, coming 5th and gaining 17 points. However, unfortunately this run didn't continue into the last round (or did continue...?*), with me losing a miserable final round game to IM Fred Slingerland (2390), which sadly, this time, I don't think I can blame on the food I had the previous night.
*(Hopefully this isn't the start of another series of 4 losses.)

David Klein won the IM tournament outright with a very impressive 7/9, scoring an IM norm in the process. In the GM group, GM Maxim Turov continued his good form from the Dutch Open, scoring 6.5/9 and  narrowly edging out The Netherlands' newest (and youngest) grandmaster, Robin van Kampen, for first place on tiebreak. Consequently Turov qualifies for the C group at the Tata Steel (formerly Corus) Tournament in 2012. Full results are available here for the Premier section and here for the Challengers. With my 4/9 I ended up tying for equal 5th in my tournament, winning 20 Euros.

All in all it was an enjoyable and memorable tournament for me both in the chess, and in seeing the very interesting and historical town of Haarlem. Since the end of the BDO tournament I've been in Amsterdam relaxing, doing a lot of sight-seeing and preparing for my next tournament in Hungary. I'll be sure to post more about my adventures - chess and otherwise - before then.

Walking around Haarlem

Teyler's Museum

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

BDO Tournament in Haarlem 2011 - Part 1

"The business is above thy strength, thou alone canst not bear it."
Exodus 18:18

"Losing hurts more than winning is nice."
Nigel Short
By Andrew

After Sunningdale I came back to Amsterdam for a few days to relax before the BDO Tournament in Haarlem. Once the capital of Holland, Haarlem is only 15 minutes from Amsterdam by train, and is one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands. Many old buildings there have been preserved very well, with some dating back to the 13th century. These include the Teyler's Museum, which is apparently the oldest museum in Europe; the Grote Kerk (Great Church), which is a truly gigantic monument in the city centre built over a 150 year period starting in the 1300s; and the town hall, which was where the opening ceremony for the BDO Chess Tournament was to be held.

A small portion of the Great Church in Haarlem's town centre.

The opening ceremony was quite nice, with free food and drinks, and after a rather unusual presentation about the significance of the number 7 (this being the 7th edition of the BDO), the players in the GM and IM tournaments were called up to pick their numbers to sort out the pairings for each round. After the presentation I listened to a couple of performances from the Haarlem Jazz Festival which happened to be taking place on that weekend in the town centre.

In Round 1 I was white against the Bulgarian IM Petar Arnaudov (2439). The opening was a Blumenfeld Gambit, which I had just encountered in my last tournament (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6). At the start of the middle game, instead of playing it simple and enjoying my slight positional advnantage, I decided to go berserk and I ended up with a rook and two pawns for his bishop and knight. Eventually I managed to swap off queens, and the resulting endgame was fairly decent for me, but in time pressure I played some inaccurate moves and ended up with a very exposed king. Consequently he quickly found a way to force me to give up a rook to prevent mate, and so I resigned soon after.

Haarlem Jazz Festival

In my second round game I was black against the very appropriately-named Dutch stand-up comedian Tex de Wit. We got into a (double) King's Indian which soon lead to an interesting sort of position that neither of us had really come across before.  Eventually we swapped off rooks and the position was looking quite drawish until Tex sacrificed his a-pawn for play on the kingside. I took the sacrifice and defended fairly easily, until we reached the following position:
Position after 35.Bg2

Here, after the obvious 35...Bd7 Black has no problems. However, I made the mistake of playing 35...Bf7? after which he continued 36.Nh6+ Kg7 37.Nxf7 Kxf7. And here I thought his best move was 38.hxg6+, completely missing the obvious 38.Qh6. After this I'm not lost; in fact my knight can fend off any mate threats exceptionally well here, but I proceded to make blunder after blunder and ended up two pawns down in a lost bishop vs. knight ending. After two rounds I was on 0/2... not a great start, but I expected that things would start to pick up in the next round. It was not to be.

My worst game came in Round 3 against FM David Klein (2366). Shortly after the opening I decided against a good opportunity to get a double-edged, but probably advantageous position for me, to play a move that looked more 'normal', and soon after I was paying the price. After a few more moves I was under quite a bit of pressure, and probably had to sacrifice a pawn to stay in the the game.

Position after 26...Qd2

Instead I blundered a piece - 27.h4?? Qxe2 - and resigned immediately afterwards.

I continued in similar fashion in Round 4, losing to English FM Peter Poobalasingam (2299) in 29 moves. After he played a dubious pawn sacrifice in the opening, I took it, then played several unnecessary 'safety' moves and gave him more than enough compensation for the pawn. Then after he played a couple of neat (and sound) sacrifices I was lost.

Of course, I was getting used to losing by then. I'd lost my last 5 tournament games, and out of my last 12 games I had scored just 2 points. When I got back to my apartment I decided something had to change. Whether it was my lack of exercise, my poor sleep pattern, my diet or something else, I wasn't sure. However, I had a feeling that since my last four nights' dinners had consisted primarily of two microwaveable meals, some chocolate biscuits and some grapes, diet probably wasn't a bad place to start.

Panoramic view of my apartment - Part 1

Part 2 - the alcohol is not mine... unfortunately.

I went to the shop and bought a range of ingredients that I could cook with for the next few nights, including some good sources of protein (brain food), such as chicken and what I thought was beef (which turned out to be pork). There I had my most embarrassing experience at a Dutch supermarket checkout thus far, (well in front of not weighing a bunch of bananas before attempting to purchase them) when after holding up the rest of the line for several minutes trying to get either of my cards to register, I had to put the majority of my items back so as to be able to pay for them with the few coins I had left in my wallet. Since the shop was meant to shut at 8:00pm, and it was already 8:05, I knew I was in with a chance, so I rushed out and managed to find an ATM that worked, got 50 euros and headed back in. The shop doors had just started coming down and I thought it would be another evening of sad malnourishment, but when I got there the manager reluctantly let me take back the rest of my items and pay for them. Tonight I would be having a proper dinner!

'A proper dinner'
Part 2 will be up within the next couple of days.