Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Most Beautiful Game I've Ever... Failed to Win

by Andrew

"Simplicity, carried to an an extreme, becomes elegance." - Jon Franklin

"You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try." - Homer Simpson

This game comes from the recent Commonwealth Chess Championship and was the anticlimax of my tournament, and possibly my chess career. I don't remember ever feeling so devastated after a game before, and not because I'd missed an opportunity for a good result, or a norm, or some kind of recognition (though Kasparov had actually looked at my game at the start of the round).

It was because I had destroyed something I considered to be really beautiful, but more than that it felt like I had missed the opportunity I'd been waiting for for many years. By this I mean to say, one cannot create a masterpiece if one's opponent allows the 4-move checkmate; your opponent's decisions of course play a vital role in the process, and hence, games like the following are quite rare. 

I see the first part of this game as a kind of humorous testament to the advice every beginner is given when they first learn to play. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

1.e4 e5 (D)
"Move a central pawn forward two spaces."
2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Nf6 c3 (D)  
"Develop knights before bishops."
4.Qe2?! Bc5 5.f4 0-0 (D) 
"Castle early."
6.Nf3 d5! -+ (D)
"Push your other central pawn so you can
develop your last minor piece."
7.exd5 Bg4! (D)
"Now it is time to develop your last minor piece.
(Never mind the knight for now.)"

8.dxc6 (8.fxe5 Nxe5) e4 (D)
"Advance your central pawns to open lines for your pieces."
9.d4 (9.cxb7 exf3 10.gxf3 (10.bxa8 Qxa8 -+) Re8 -+) exf3 10.gxf3 Re8 (D) 
"Last but not least, bring your rook to the open file."
Perhaps chess is simpler than I thought? 11.Be3 Bxf3! (D) 
" that development is complete
it is time to sacrifice a bishop..."
12.Qxf3 Bxd4 (D)
"...and another one..."

So, now things aren't quite so 'simple', but it turns out that these sacrifices are completely sound, as 13.cxd4 is losing after ...Qxd4. E.g. 14.Kf2 Rxe3 15.Qxe3 Ng4+; 14.0-0 Rxe3 15.Qf2 Ng4; 14.cxb7 Rxe3+ 15.Be2 Rae8 16.Qf2 (Qg2 Qxb2) Ng4 17.Qg2 Rxe2+ 18.Qxe2 Qf2+ (D)

My opponent saw these lines and decided instead to opt for 13.Be2 (D)

The game continued 13...Rxe3 14.Qg2 Nh5 15.cxb7 Qh4+?! (D) my first real error of the game. Black is significantly better after the safe 15...Rb8 as Nxf4 cannot be stopped (e.g. 16.Rf1 Qh4+), but naively I decided against it for fear of compromising the game's beauty. Following this the game went rapidly downhill.

Here was the high-point in the game, at least in terms of beauty, where White could have played the remarkable 16.Qf2!! whereupon ...Rxe2 does not win the house as it appears but in fact after the calmest of moves, 17.Kd1!... (D)

...even being a piece up, even with all of White's major pieces on the edge of the board, and even with 3 pieces attacking the White queen, Black is hopelessly lost. Like Frodo at the Fires of Mount Doom, the b7-pawn will ultimately win the day for the White army.  

Instead the game continued 16.Kd2 (D)

After which I played Rd8 (Rae8 -+) 17.Bxh5 Qxf4 (Bb6 is still winning) 18.Kc2 Qf5+ 19.Kc1 Rxc3? (D) (Still aiming for the beauty prize, of which there was not. Qxh5 was fine.)

20.bxc3 Be3+ 21.Nd2 Qd3?? (D) (The end is nigh. Rxd2 would have still given me chances)

Then came 22.Bxf7, and to give you an idea of how rapidly things went downhill, on Move 29 the position looked like this:

Final Position

Consequently I had to resign to avoid further embarrassment.

Getting over this game was pretty hard, but it's something that needed to happen for me to be able to start playing well again. Kind of like one of those movies where the main character dies but saves the world at the same time. I found I was doing things like this nearly every game, going for beauty or misguided creativity over objectivity. 

The rest of the CCC was nothing special - in fact I dropped 35 rating points. But the whole experience was very important for me in a variety of ways. Since this experience I have found that the more objective I've been, both with chess and other parts of life, the more enjoyment I have got out of it. 

And of course my chess has started to improve, but that is a story for later.

I will leave you with some photos from my trip. Enjoy!


Monday, 23 September 2013

Kramniks' Reti win from Dortmund 2013

"Victory in the Tromso World Cup is the second best result in Kramnik's career after beating Kasparov in the 2000 World Championship - even Anand who twice won knockout World Championships never demonstrated such dominance over his rivals"
- Alexander Grischuk (from Chess in Translation's Twitter feed)
by Junta

Vladimir Kramnik showed his class, winning the recent World Cup very convincingly. He didn't seem to be in any real danger throughout the marathon spanning 7 rounds and several weeks, and he played some beautiful positional games as usual.

However, in this post I want to show one of his wins from the Dortmund tournament at the start of August: I was extremely impressed by this game because I play the same opening as White, and this was an absolute model game for the line, with a bayonet attack and exchange sacrifice putting Black firmly on the defensive, and White's whole army joined in the all-out assault.

This 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.O-O O-O 6.b3 line is covered in the final, 8th chapter of GM Alexander Delchev's book The Modern Reti (2012), a book I highly recommend for those who play or want to learn 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4.

I found the final move, 34.Qa1, amusing as it reminded me of another game of Kramnik's where the same queen move would have been the strongest move on move 21, winning at least an exchange (shown in Emmanuel Neiman & Yochanan Afek's book Invisible Chess Moves (2011)). This game was from a rapid match in Budapest in 2001.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The most geometrically awesome chess problem

"All conceptions in the game of chess have a geometrical basis."
- Eugene Znosko-Borovsky

by Junta
At the end of a lecture I gave at the universities' training camp in Niigata earlier this month, I showed a problem I first saw a few years ago.

Composed by Unto Heitonen
Published in Die Schwalbe, 2000
White to play - White's king is on h8, not a1
This is not a regular chess problem, but one in the realms of fairy chess, i.e. unorthodox problems not involving direct mates. The variant used here is the 'double maximummer', where White and Black must each play the geometrically longest move possible on the board on every turn.

We will consider each square to have dimensions of 1x1 units, and the distance between one square and the square horizontally or vertically adjacent to it 1 unit. The distance to a diagonally adjacent square would be √2, or approximately 1.4 units.

The list of relevant distances is below, rounded to one decimal place.

One square horizontally / vertically
One square diagonally
Two squares horizontally / vertically
Knight move
Two squares diagonally
Three squares horizontally / vertically
Four squares horizontally / vertically
Three squares diagonally
Five squares horizontally / vertically
Four squares diagonally
Six squares horizontally / vertically
Seven squares horizontally / vertically
Five squares diagonally
Six squares diagonally
Seven squares diagonally

So the first move for White would be 1.Bf1-d3, longer at 2.8 units than a knight move (2.2) or a rook move of two squares (2). Black moves after White like in normal chess, and after some time (it won't be a walk in the park!) the game will end in a certain way. Progress is slow at the start.

Note: If one side is checked, they must escape the check with, of course, the longest move possible.

I have no idea how composers create pieces of work like these, but please try this out over the board, not on the computer screen - be careful not to overlook making a mistake, or you'll have to start all over again. Enjoy!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Pre-Japan League training games

by Junta

A day before the Japan League tournament (August 10-13), I played some training games with good friend and Japan's top active player Shinya Kojima at his home and nearby beach.

We played 2 rapid (25+10) games and 8 blitz (3+2) games.

At Zushi Beach, Kanagawa Prefecture

Rapid, Game 1

Actually, 35...Rd5+ was a big mistake on my part, and White was wrong to resign after 36...Rxh5 - the rook is trapped after 37.g4 Rh6 38.h5, and it's still anyone's game after 38...Rf6 39.Nxf6+ Bxf6 or 38...Nc2 39.g5 Nxa3 40.gxh6 Nxc4! Instead, 35...Rxg2 was the right move, when White is pretty much in zugzwang and must quickly give up a piece!

Rapid, Game 2

White let Black equalise too quickly with Black's development advantage outweighing White's bishop pair, but active play with ...e5 or ...f5 was delayed for too long, and White was able to get an attack going on the kingside. Even after 20.g5, objectively Black is still fine, but letting White capture on h6 was too much.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Japan League 2013 Round 2: Black to play and win

by Junta

A tactic from my Round 2 game in the Swiss, 7-round FIDE rated Japan League tournament in Tokyo: it is Black to play and win.

Sakai. E (1985) - Ikeda. J (2339)
Japan League (2), 10.08.13

(Solution below)
23...Rxe3 24.Rxe3 Rd5! (In the game I played 24...Rb4 quite quickly but immediately realised 24...Rd5 was winning on the spot - 24...Rb4 was a much longer win, at 48 moves.) 0-1

Thursday, 22 August 2013

2 weeks of chess in Japan

"Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency."
- Raymond Chandler

by Junta

Through August-September I'm in my summer holidays here in Japan, and my last two weeks were filled with chess.

August 5-8:
Participated in a joint training camp of 7 university chess clubs of Japan, in Niigata.
August 9:
Played some training (rapid & blitz) games with Japan's top player, FM Shinya Kojima.
August 10-13:
Played in the 7-round FIDE-rated Japan League tournament in Tokyo, finishing =3rd with 5/7.
August 14, 16-18:
Played one blitz, one rapid tournament in Yokohama, with overseas masters also participating.

Over the two weeks I played 7 classical games, 17 rapid games, and easily over 100 blitz games over the board - I feel it's time for a bit of a rest from playing! I'll be posting game snippets and pictures in the days to come.

The second most important (after the World Championship match in November) and perhaps most exciting chess event of the year is the Chess World Cup currently going on in Norway - tonight the second game of the 4th round is being played, and every round has been very interesting to follow, with intriguing games and high drama.

On the official website above, you could enter your predictions for all 64 matches - there were 809 entries submitted before the commencement of Round 1, and after 3 rounds I'm sitting on =61st-84th with 69.8% of match winners correctly predicted. A Morozevich-Nakamura final seems extremely unlikely, but who knows...

Edit: Yes, Nakamura has been knocked out by Korobov.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Mate in 11

by Andrew

This puzzle comes from IM Andras Toth's book Exploration in Chess Beauty, and is one of my favourites.

Mate in 11
G. Murkisch, 1969

The solution can be seen by highlighting the area below.

1.Ke7 Bb4+ 2.Kf6 Bc3+ 3.Kg5 Bd2+ 4.Kh4 Be1+ 5.Qf2!! Bxf2+ 6.Kg5 Be3+ 7.Kf6 Bd4+ 8.Ke7 Bc5+ 9.Kd8 Bb6 10.Kc8 Bxc7 11.Bxc8#

The king makes the seemingly pointless walk from d8 to h4 all so that that the queen can lure the bishop onto a different diagonal, the point of which only becomes relevant when it makes it to b6: it blocks the queen from being able to defend the rook and prevent mate.
A lovely piece of work that demonstrates with real elegance how what seem like the finest, most intricate details of a position can make such an important difference.

Reminiscent of a certain mate in 271 I saw once...

Composed by Nenad Petrovic, 1969.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Back rank study

by Junta

Back rank mates are a motif we learn from our days as a beginner - a crisp way to end the game. Earlier this year I was going through some articles on the ChessCafe archives and came across an elegant study that's all about the back rank(s).

I. Hoch, 1973

White to play - what's the result with best play? Solution below (drag to uncover).
1.Qxc2 Re8! 2.Qc8! Qd7! 3.Qc1 (3.Qa8 h6) Qc7! 4.Ra8! 1-0

For two dozen other great examples (some quite famous) of back rank tactics, here's the link to the original article: Enjoy!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Shōgi master Yoshiharu Habu @ Kyoto University

"If you are guaranteed to succeed by challenging yourself to achieve something, no doubt anyone would do it. But persisting with the same passion, energy and motivation somewhere where there is no guarantee of success - is extremely difficult, and this is what I believe talent to be."
- Yoshiharu Habu

by Junta

On Sunday the 7th of July, I had the honour of meeting shōgi (Japanese chess) master Yoshiharu Habu as he made a visit to Kyoto University. Although inactive since 2007 due to being busy with his main profession, Mr. Habu holds the highest FIDE rating in Japan (2404), having achieved an initial rating of 2342 in 2001 and having played less than 100 FIDE-rated games!

Mr. Habu (born in 1970) is arguably the best shōgi player ever, and certainly the most famous since the second half of the 90's. In the world of shōgi in Japan, where there are around 150 players on the professional circuit, there are 7 traditional 'titles' players compete for each year (with a match between the champion vs. challenger who won through the gruelling qualifying stages) in classical time controls, as opposed to chess just having the World Championships.

After turning pro at the age of 14, Mr. Habu won his first title at the age of 19, and 'Habu' became a household name in 1996 when he won the 'Ōsho' title, thus becoming the first player to hold all 7 titles at once, covering the front of newspapers nationwide the following day! In 2012, he broke a long-standing record, achieving the number of 81 for total titles won (currently 83). Today he holds 3 of the 7 titles, and aged 42, will no doubt stay one of the top shōgi players for years to come.

Mr. Habu playing an simultaneous chess / shōgi exhibition match against French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

On Sunday evening, we played two rapid (25 minutes + 10 seconds/move) games in a classroom. In the first game, a Sicilian Kan with 5.Nc3 b5 was reached - I had played two games with this line as Black in the Japanese Championships in May, and Mr. Habu had prepared a natural-looking Nc3-d5-sacrifice against it. It is unpleasant to have to deal with such a novelty in a rapid game, but I was able to find enough logical moves, and although it was possible for White to play on with an initiative, the game concluded peacefully in the early middlegame.

In analysis, Mr. Habu proposed an interesting alternative for Black (which I hadn't seen) after accepting the knight sacrifice: retreating the c6-knight to d8, and then giving back the piece with Nd8-e6, reaching a balanced position!
In the second game, I played a line against Black's Semi-Slav structure involving Rg1 and g2-g4, which I am quite fond of. This time, my opponent was unfamiliar with the variation, and after a perhaps premature 8...dxc4 and slow 10...Re8, was faced with a strong attack on the kingside.

We had a lot of fun analysing after each game
Mr. Habu was also kind enough to visit the Kyoto University Shōgi Club after the chess, and I couldn't help smiling, seeing the excitement and awe on the club members' faces as their idol all the way back from childhood had really come - it is like Anand visiting students at a chess club in India!
Since my early teens, I have read one of Mr. Habu's bestsellers, 「決断力」(Ketsudanryoku = 'The Power of Deciding', or 'Decisiveness') many times, and I recently bought another of his books where he gives many deep and insightful thoughts about shōgi which can also apply to chess. It was a real delight to meet him in person and be able to hear his views on different things. I hope I will have another opportunity to meet him again in the future.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Commonwealth Championships 2013 Part 1 (OC + Rounds 1-4)

by Andrew

Sorry for keeping you waiting, Figjam Readers - a mixture of having a rather temperamental internet provider, my computer frequently crashing, jet-lag and the flu has made blogging not quite as easy.

When I decided to play in the Commonwealth Championships a couple of months ago, I had no idea that the tournament would be this prestigious...

Michael Brown's photo.
Light show during the opening ceremony. I was upstairs in the VIP area (who'd have thought?), eating fancy canapes and drinking whatever I could get my hands on.*  
*Non-alcoholic beverages, of course...


Michael Brown's photo.
Upon arriving at the airport we approached this sign and were greeted by two girls wearing chess shirts and soon a man (in a tailor-made suit with the Commonwealth Chess Championship logo embroidered into it) who kindly offered to take our bags. Then we were shown into a Commonwealth Chess van, with the full paint job, and taken to the 5-star venue that would be our hotel.   

...and, well, big! With 862 participants playing in the two sections (Championship section and B-section), this tournament has by far the most players of any tournament I have played in. In fact I'm pretty sure it has more than my last 15 tournaments combined.

So, thankfully I did manage to survive the flight over, long though it was, but it seems for the last few days jet lag has got the better of me. Even though I have been playing much lower-rated opponents, my games have been long and not as easy as they should have been: I have had trouble focussing and have missed a lot of simple things. On Day 3 this became quite serious when, having played for 3.5 hours to get into this unclear position against my South African opponent (1907), I managed to leave my rook en prix.

After 28.Nc3. Here I played ...Nb5?? and after 29.Nxa2 I was lost - Bxa2 30.Rd1 and staying in the game is all but impossible.

Losing in this way was quite painful, especially considering it would almost certainly ruin all my chances for a GM norm due to average opponent rating issues if nothing else. Battling the early onset of the flu, I was not in the best of moods for the rest of the day. The blitz was on the following day, and it was very tempting to play, but I decided it was best for me to take a break and do what I could to recover mentally - after all, this was only 3 rounds in to an 11 round tournament, and I was still keen to make the most of it.

I have had a few too many tournaments where a loss in an early round has inhibited me psychologically for the remainder of the tournament, and so I decided I had to work on what it was that was preventing me from bouncing back properly. I decided that I had to first of all not dwell on the loss, but fully accept that it had happened. Then I had to remember why I play chess - not just to win, gain rating points, get title norms etc., but because I love the game. I love the mental exercise that each game offers, the struggle to bring about harmony between the pieces, the opportunity to be creative, and the chance to produce something really special.

Keeping these thoughts in mind the next day, I was more focussed, more relaxed, and much more eager to be in that hall, at 3:00pm, doing it all again. Suddenly my flu seemed a whole lot better (in part due to the medication), jet-lag no longer seemed a problem, and my loss yesterday barely bothered me.

The game that followed was the most enjoyable game I have played in a long time.

And after this it got better and better.

I am hoping to have Part 2 (Rounds 5-8) up in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Great things happening in Australian Chess - Part 2

by Andrew

Part 2 - February - June 2013


On the 1st of February Bobby Cheng is listed in the top 100 juniors in the world with his new rating of 2425.

Anton Smirnov continues his good run, convincingly winning the Newcastle Open with 5.5/6.

Junta and I tie for first in the ACT Championships (for the 2nd year in a row). Remarkably, last year's tournament results for us were almost identical, with Junta beating me midway and then drawing two games towards the end so that we finished with 8/9 each. One of these draws was against junior Aelfric Gardiner-Garden rated in the 1300s, who played a super-solid game comfortably swapping off into an equal ending and holding. Aelfric also produced a number of other big upsets and this showed on the March rating list on which he made a 250 point jump.



The Ballarat Begonia Open traditionally attracts a number of top Australian players each year from Victoria and interstate. In this year's edition, the top boards were occupied by young players round after round, and after 5 rounds first place was shared by 3 young Australian players, IM James Morris, FM Chris Wallis, and Brodie McClymont, all on 5/5. In Round 6 Chris beat Brodie, while James drew with New Zealander Luke Li. In the final round James managed to beat Chris and take the $1500 first prize with 6.5/7 while also taking his FIDE rating over 2400 for the first time and entering Australia's Top 10: a highly commendable achievement. A number of other juniors gave strong showings here, with the oldest player in the final top 6 being only 22.

At the end of the month, Australia's strongest weekender, the Doeberl Cup, took place at the Hellenic Club in Canberra. This was the strongest ever Doeberl, and possibly the strongest tournament ever in Australia, with 11 GMs (including one of China's best Li Chao and Dutch superstar Loek van Wely) and many other titled players. After 9 rounds GM Li Chao emerged as the victor with 7.5/9. IM Moulthun Ly scored best out of the Australian contingent with 6.5, however the tournament standout was once again young Anton Smirnov. Throughout the tournament Anton consistently held his own against Australia's best and by round 9 racked up a performance rating around 2500, only missing out on an IM norm due to a technicality - that there were 19 overseas players instead of the required 20 in the tournament. Here is a great attacking game Anton played in Round 3 against the young Chinese girl Tingjie Lie (2232).

Unfortunately for some of us this year's Doeberl was not our best ever. However Junta and I were happy to come away with having played GM Loek van Wely (2684) who was once ranked inside the world's Top 10.


After the Doeberl came the 6th edition of the Sydney International Open, held in the Parramatta Town Hall. Though no members of Figjam participated in this one there were a total of 12 (!) GMs who played - all of the GMs who played in the Doeberl plus Polish GM Bartlomiej Heberla. In first place after 9 rounds was Loek van Wely on 7.5/9, edging out Li Chao who finished in outright second on 7/9, by winning their ninth round game. However the real star of this tournament was yet again young Anton Smirnov who got the equal best score by an Australian in the tournament with 6/9, scoring a well-deserved first IM norm! Anton was undeafeated throughout - an impressive feat considering his opponents included 5 GMs and 1 IM.

Bobby Cheng also did well, scoring 5.5/9 against a very tough field and getting his final norm and therefore (since he is well over 2400 now) the IM title. From what I can tell he is the youngest Australian ever to achieve the title by normal means. Congrats to Bobby!  
As it turns out, April truly was a great month for Australian chess, with Australian No.1 Zong-Yuan Zhao winning the super strong Bangkok Open. Yuan had a fantastic tournament the whole way through and remained undeafeated after 9 rounds (+ 6 = 3 - 0). His best game came in Round 8. Faced with the unenviable task of having to beat former World Title Challenger GM Nigel Short with Black, Yuan well and truly rose to the challenge, playing a brilliant double pawn sac for good control of the centre and well-placed pieces.

Short was unable to develop adequately and eventually had to give back material to break free. In the resulting endgame Yuan had a Q for B + N + P albeit with a king stuck in the corner. Apart from one small scare on move 39 when he allowed Short the opportunity to make use of his weak back rank (which Short luckily did not see) Yuan was able to convert quite comfortably and take the full point. (I might add, this truly was a great game to be able to watch live!)

In the last round Yuan took a short draw with his opponent who only needed a draw for a GM norm, and nobody else was able to catch him.
Full results here.
After that Yuan, having played three big 9-rounders in quick succession, decided to play a 7 round tournament in Melbourne, which he won smoothly with 7/7. From these last four tournaments Yuan gained nearly 30 points, significantly furthering his lead over the rest of us.


Fellow Figjammer Junta Ikeda won the Japanese Championships (as you should already be aware).
You can read a few interesting posts about his tournament below. Well done, Junta!
The Oceania Zonal took place this year in Fiji. Anton Smirnov, Ari Dale, and Justin Tan all did well enough to earn a title, with Anton and Justin earning the FM title, and Ari earning the IM title. This will mean in the upcoming World Youth Under 16 Olympiad 4/5 of our top team will be titled. Justin reached a live rating of over 2300 in the tournament and therefore got the title by normal means.
Congratulations to FM Igor Bjelobrk who won the tournament with 7/9 (and picked up a well-deserved IM title) and will therefore be Australia's representative in the World Cup this year, to be held in Tromso, Norway.


NSW Open

IM Max Illingworth led all the way (beating me in a nice sacrificial game in the process) till Round 7 when he lost a long hard fought game against GM Zong-Yuan Zhao, and had to settle with =1st.

Gold Coast Open

Visiting GM Lubomir Ftacnik won on tiebreak with 5/6 over IM Stephen Solomon and FM Chris Wallis. IM Moulthun Ly would have take Ftacnik's spot on the top of the table had he chosen the right move at one point in their K+2P each endgame. Moulthun said he saw the move but for some reason thought it was his turn rather than his opponent's when he calculated it, which would have made it losing. Bad luck, and well done to all the prize winners.

More on NSW Open and Gold Coast Open tomorrow.

Victorian Open

Ari Dale led the whole way (like Max) till Round 7 when he lost against young NZ FM Luke Li, resulting in a four-way tie for first.

Leading final scores:

=1st Dragicevic; Dale; Li; Matheson 6/7
=5th Stojic; Nemeth 5.5/7

Victorian Championships

A big congratulations is owed to IM Bobby Cheng who demolished the field here scoring 10/11 (with his only loss being to IM Ari Dale). Bobby played remarkably well throughout. From viewing his games it is easy to tell that he calculates well in attack and (especially) defense, and he is not afraid of going on the occasional king march...

Cheng - Hacche

The king has made it from e1 - h7 in World Record Time (29 moves).*

*OK, I'll admit I have not checked all 5 million games in my database just yet... but it's got to be close!

However, clearly by the end of the tournament Bobby's king was all tired out, as the following game shows.

Needless to say, king march or no king march, Bobby sure knows how to get the job done. Well done Bobby on becoming No.3 in Australia, now only behind GMs Zong-Yuan Zhao and David Smerdon!

Leading final scores:

1st: Bobby Cheng 10/11
2nd-3rd: Justin Tan; Ari Dale 7.5/11
4th: Dusan Stojic 7/11

Following on from that, Bobby will lead the Australian team at the World Youth Under 16 Chess Olympiad, to be held in Chongqing, China from the 21st-30th of this month. Our top team now looks like this:

Board 1: IM Bobby Cheng 2438
Board 2: FM Anton Smirnov 2289
Board 3: FM Justin Tan 2322
Board 4: IM Ari Dale 2310
Board 5: Yi Liu 2174

...and is seeded well up there in the tournament (3rd or 4th, I believe) alongside chess superpowers Russia, China, and India. Our coaches this year will be GMs Zong-Yuan Zhao and Ian Rogers. Australia is looking to get its first olympic medal/s in chess, and with that lineup, we will surely have a pretty good crack at it.

Best of luck to everybody, it will be very exciting to watch.

Before that however, I am off to Port Elizabeth, South Africa tomorrow morning for the Commonwealth Chess Championships (5th-14th). I am seeded around 20th for this 11-round tournament, in a field consisting of several strong grandmasters. I am hoping to blog regularly throughout the tournament (unlike in previous overseas tournaments...). I will be giving a bit more info about it all when I arrive - that is, if I survive the 5am bus trip and 14 hour flight. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Japanese Championships 2013 Round 8: Black to play and win

"Would you like some water?" I asked, to which he gave a four-millimetre nod.
From the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

by Junta

In Round 8 I was up against Naohiro Nakamura, who has been improving steadily over the last few years. He finished the tournament in 3rd place with 7.5/11, only losing to the 1st and 2nd place-getters.

As Black, I've built up a solid advantage - the game continued 21...dxe4 22.Bxf6 Bxf6

23.Rad1 (23.Nd6 Qd7 23.Rad1 Nd3, for example 24.Nb5 Qc6 25.Rf1 Qc5 26.Qxc5 Nxc5 27.Nd6 Rcb8 28.Nxe4 Nxb3)

Here it took me 20 minutes to find the best continuation for Black - what was it?
(Game continuation below in white)

23…Be7 Switchbacks are often difficult to spot. 24.fxe4 Nxa4 Now Black is a healthy pawn up. 25. Nd6 (25.bxa4 Bc5 26.Nd4 [26.Rd8+ Kh7 27.Rd4 e5 28.Nd6 Qd7] e5) Bxd6 26.Rxd6 Rc3 27.Rd3 Rxd3 28.Qxd3 Nc3 29.Nf2 Qb6 30.Rc1 Rd8 31.Qf3 Qa6 32.Kg2 Qa3 33.Rxc3 bxc3 34.Qxc3 Rb8 35.Qc4 Qxb3 36.Qc5 Qb5 37.Qd4 Qe2 38.Qc3 Rb1 39.Qd3 Qxd3 0–1

Friday, 21 June 2013

Peter Heine Nielsen lecture & Viktorija Cmilyte simul @ Kyoto University

Director: [in Japanese] Mr. Bob, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whisky. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently - say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid" - Suntory time.
Translator: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Bob: That's all he said?
- From the film Lost in Translation

by Junta

Sunday, April 28: two European grandmasters made a visit to Kyoto University. One gave a lecture, and the other gave a simul. Japan seems to attract grandmasters each year, with big names such as Nigel Short and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (linked to articles on the events) participating in widely publicised exhibitions in this country over the last year! Unfortunately, Australia's location makes it more difficult to attract occasional GMs.

This time the guests were Peter Heine Nielsen of Denmark and Viktorija Čmilytė of Lithuania. Peter, who has been rated over 2700 and in the world top 40, is well known for having being one of Vishy Anand's seconds since 2001, and since the start of this year, the second of world #1 Magnus Carlsen. It was really great to be able to listen to his 2-hour lecture where he talked about things such as his early steps in chess, becoming a chess professional, seconding Anand and Carlsen, before concluding by taking us through Carlsen's win against Gelfand in Round 10 of the recent Candidates tournament.

"Becoming a chess professional wasn't really a conscious decision for me - I think it is similar for many other professional players, but I loved playing chess from childhood, and as I got better and better, it had naturally become a part of my lifestyle, mind and being - so it was rather something that happened of its own accord." (Transcribed from my memory so it isn't 100% his words, but this sentence left an impression on me)

It was interesting to hear how he and Anand became acquainted before eventually teaming up. They played at the World Cup in 2001, and although Vishy won 1.5-0.5, he took a keen interest in Peter's chess and handling of the opening, and asked him whether he'd be interested in training together.

There was an amusing episode of Carlsen. At the 2005 World Cup, when Peter was the then 14-year old's second, Carlsen lost the first rapid game after scoring 1-1 in the classical games against Malakhov. If Magnus won this match, he would become the youngest player ever to qualify for the Candidates stage of the world championships.

Leading up to the short half an hour before the next game, Peter was agonising over how to raise the teenager's spirits and prepare him for the second rapid game. A friend he was talking to insisted: "Just make him laugh!", so the two grandmasters played 'some weird computer game with animals playing a sport' for the entire break. Thoroughly relaxed, Magnus went on to win the match.

After the lecture, Viktorija gave a simul to 13 players, scoring around +8 =3 -2 (the two GMs commented they were surprised at the playing level in Japan, having given simuls in Tokyo as well). I took part as well, and was lucky to win due to a blunder after I was two pawns down with a lost position in the middlegame.

A week later, Peter dropped into watch at the Japanese Championships' venue in Tokyo. I wish the best for his work with Carlsen! I've heard GM Alexander Chernin will be visiting Kyoto later in the year - he was also in Japan last year, with ChessBase writing a two-part article here and here.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Japanese Championships 2013: Miniature

"Get some rest Pam, you look tired."
Jason Bourne
by Junta
This was my quickest win from the Japanese Championships (19 moves). An attacking setup with an early h2-h4 against my opponent's kingside fianchetto worked very well, and most of White's army joined in the fun.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Japanese Championships 2013 - Results

"Poi-Poi is everything, but at the same time it is also nothing."
From an intense conversation about an abstract concept 'Poi-Poi' after one of the rounds

by Junta
From May 1-6 I played in the national championships finals in Tokyo - 43 players, all qualifying through regional championships, other major annual events, rating etc. I was given one of the three 'presidential nominee' spots as a player with a high rating (I was 2nd seed).
I'd finished the Doeberl Cup in Canberra, my last tournament in Australia before my 10 months' exchange in Japan, very badly losing nearly 30 Elo, so I wanted to relax, not think too much about results and enjoy playing in a new environment.
This worked very well, as I scored 8 wins and 3 draws, winning the title of Japanese Champion for 2013. I really enjoyed catching up with friends and meeting many new faces in the Japanese chess scene, and I look forward to playing in Tokyo again (maybe in August).
Chris Kevork, another Canberra player, also took part and performed well (he is currently working in Japan).
From the closing ceremony. Photo courtesy of Masako Uesugi
The final standings and crosstable (in starting rank order of Japanese Chess Association ratings) are below.


Place Name            Rtg  Loc  Score M-Buch. Buch. Progr.

  1   Junta Ikeda,       2367 2077 9.5      55.5  68.5   57.5
  2   Shinya Kojima,       2384 2408 8.5      60.0  74.5   57.5
  3   Naohiro Nakamura,  2058 2097 7.5      59.0  73.5   46.0
 4-6  Akira Watanabe,       2281 2334 7        56.0  69.5   37.5
      Gentaro Gonda,     2078 2058 7        54.5  67.0   39.5
      Naoto Mitsuya,          1894 7        52.0  63.0   38.0
7-13  Ryosuke Nanjo,       2327 2365 6.5      59.0  73.0   42.0
      Koji Noguchi,       2072 2129 6.5      57.0  71.0   44.5
      Atsuhiko Kobayashi,  2011 2059 6.5      57.0  71.0   42.0
      Ryo Shiomi,       2109 2210 6.5      55.0  69.5   42.0
      Masahiro Baba,       2235 2239 6.5      53.0  65.5   32.0
      Sho Inoue,       2038 1966 6.5      52.0  63.5   39.0
      Enju Sakai,       1978 1959 6.5      50.0  61.5   35.5
14-18 Yoto Usuba,            1883 6        56.5  68.0   40.0
      Tang Tang,       1927 1988 6        54.0  68.5   37.0
      Averbukh,Alex,  2214 2325 6        53.0  66.5   37.5
      Kazuhiro Sotoo,       1966 1769 6        51.5  61.5   35.0
      Teruomi Toshiba,       2001 6        49.5  60.0   35.0
19-23 Hideaki Ukai,       1810 2031 5.5      50.0  61.0   33.0
      Chris Kevork,   1892 1631 5.5      49.5  59.5   34.0
      Hiroto Taga,            1700 5.5      49.0  62.0   31.5
      Taro Shinoda,       1918 1901 5.5      48.0  60.5   30.0
      Satoshi Hirao,       1795 1835 5.5      41.0  51.5   29.0
24-31 Toshiki Tanaka,       1838 1886 5        53.0  65.5   38.0
      So Sakai,       1831 1789 5        52.5  63.0   41.0
      Go Umayabara,            2045 5        51.0  63.0   32.5
      Toyoaki Fukuda,       1934 1797 5        48.0  58.0   30.5
      Mikio Takahashi,       1894 5        44.5  54.5   27.0
      Koichi Sugimoto,   1989 2027 5        44.0  53.5   29.0
      Kenji Hiebert,        1371 5        44.0  53.5   27.0
      Akira Kinoshita,  1804 1751 5        38.0  46.5   25.5
32-34 Kenichi Hamane,       1884 1775 4.5      44.5  57.0   29.5
      Yuichiro Takada,          1818 4.5      44.5  54.0   28.5
      Daigo Kanda,       1906 1793 4.5      44.0  53.5   24.5
35-37 Ryo Kitano,            1661 4        45.5  55.5   24.5
      Kohei Takatsuki,       1636 4        43.0  53.5   25.0
      Soichi Wakahara,       1461 4        38.0  47.5   21.5
38-39 Kenshin Matsumoto,  1562 1541 3.5      44.5  53.5   21.5
      Hiroaki Manabe,            1628 3.5      41.5  51.5   25.0
40-42 Eiji Hakamada,       1743 1475 3        41.0  50.0   17.5
      Megumi Hasegawa,     1752 1623 3        39.0  47.5   14.5
      Yosuke Kawanaka,       1604 3        38.0  46.0   11.0

Cross Table

No  Name            Rtg  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11  

1.  Shinya Kojima,       2384 8.5   11:W  6:W 22:W  8:W  7:W 10:W  9:D  2:D  5:L  3:D  4:W
2.  Ryosuke Nanjo,       2327 6.5   12:W  7:L 25:W 17:W  9:L  3:D 16:W  1:D 22:W  8:D  5:L
3.  Akira Watanabe,       2281 7       :D  8:L   :D 21:W 19:W  2:D 11:D 10:D 15:W  1:D 23:W
4.  Averbukh,Alex,  2214 6       :W  9:D 16:D  7:L 25:D 26:W 12:D 23:L 34:W 18:W  1:L
5.  Masahiro Baba,       2235 6.5     :D   :D   :L   :L 34:W 12:D 23:D 20:W  1:W 10:D  2:W
6.  Ryo Shiomi,       2109 6.5   14:W  1:L 26:D 42:W 23:D 13:W 17:W  7:L 28:W  9:D  8:L
7.  Koji Noguchi,       2072 6.5     :W  2:W 29:D  4:W  1:L 28:L 30:W  6:W  9:L 17:W 20:L
8.  Naohiro Nakamura,       2058 7.5   16:D  3:W 20:W  1:L 22:W 23:W 28:W  9:L 17:D  2:D  6:W
9.  Junta Ikeda,       2367 9.5   19:W  4:D 32:W 29:W  2:W 16:W  1:D  8:W  7:W  6:D 10:W
10. Atsuhiko Kobayashi,       2011 6.5   21:W 16:L 27:W 22:D 30:W  1:L 15:W  3:D 23:W  5:D  9:L
11. Gentaro Gonda,     2078 7      1:L 23:W 34:W 30:D 20:W 17:L  3:D 12:W 18:L 28:W 35:W
12. Go Umayabara,            5      2:L 24:W 30:L 27:W 29:W  5:D  4:D 11:L 35:D 19:L 42:D
13. Hideaki Ukai,       1810 5.5     :D   :D   :D   :D 32:D  6:L 27:W 26:D 16:D 21:W 18:L
14. Koichi Sugimoto,       1989 5      6:L 28:L 38:W 33:L 39:W 42:W 22:L 25:W 26:W 23:L 30:L
15. Teruomi Toshiba,            6       :D   :D 36:W 23:L 26:D 29:W 10:L 19:W  3:L 16:D 28:W
16. Tang Tang,       1927 6      8:D 10:W  4:D 35:W 28:D  9:L  2:L 30:D 13:D 15:D 22:W
17. Sho Inoue,       2038 6.5     :D   :D 41:W  2:L 33:W 11:W  6:L 35:W  8:D  7:L 19:W
18. Enju Sakai,       1978 6.5     :D   :D   :D   :D 35:D 30:L 29:W 32:W 11:W  4:L 13:W
19. Taro Shinoda,       1918 5.5    9:L 29:L 40:W 34:W  3:L 27:D 31:W 15:L 32:W 12:W 17:L
20. Naoto Mitsuya,          7     33:W 32:D  8:L 24:W 11:L 35:D 36:W  5:L 30:W 22:W  7:W
21. Mikio Takahashi,            5     10:L 30:W 24:D  3:L 36:L 39:L 38:W 33:W 42:W 13:L 31:D
22. Toshiki Tanaka,       1838 5     34:W 41:W  1:L 10:D  8:L 32:W 14:W 28:D  2:L 20:L 16:L
23. Yoto Usuba,            6     35:W 11:L 33:W 15:W  6:D  8:L  5:D  4:W 10:L 14:W  3:L
24. Satoshi Hirao,       1795 5.5   36:W 12:L 21:D 20:L 42:D 33:D 32:L 41:D 39:W 31:D 34:W
25. Yuichiro Takada,          4.5   37:D 31:D  2:L 41:W  4:D 36:D 35:L 14:L 29:W 30:L   :D
26. Toyoaki Fukuda,       1934 5       :D   :D  6:D 32:D 15:D  4:L 33:W 13:D 14:L 35:L 36:W
27. Daigo Kanda,       1906 4.5     :D   :D 10:L 12:L 41:W 19:D 13:L 40:D 31:L 29:D 39:W
28. So Sakai,       1831 5     38:W 14:W   :D   :D 16:D  7:W  8:L 22:D  6:L 11:L 15:L
29. Kenichi Hamane,       1884 4.5   39:W 19:W  7:D  9:L 12:L 15:L 18:L 37:D 25:L 27:D 38:W
30. Kazuhiro Sotoo,       1966 6     40:W 21:L 12:W 11:D 10:L 18:W  7:L 16:D 20:L 25:W 14:W
31. Akira Kinoshita,       1804 5     41:L 25:D 42:L 36:D 37:W 40:D 19:L 38:D 27:W 24:D 21:D
32. Hiroto Taga,            5.5   42:W 20:D  9:L 26:D 13:D 22:L 24:W 18:L 19:L 39:W 33:W
33. Ryo Kitano,            4     20:L 38:W 23:L 14:W 17:L 24:D 26:L 21:L 41:D 40:W 32:L
34. Kohei Takatsuki,            4     22:L 37:W 11:L 19:L  5:L 38:W 40:W 36:W  4:L 42:L 24:L
35. Chris Kevork,   1892 5.5   23:L 40:W 37:W 16:L 18:D 20:D 25:W 17:L 12:D 26:W 11:L
36. Hiroaki Manabe,            3.5   24:L 39:W 15:L 31:D 21:W 25:D 20:L 34:L 38:L 37:D 26:L
37. Megumi Hasegawa,     1752 3     25:D 34:L 35:L 38:D 31:L 41:L 42:L 29:D 40:D 36:D   :D
38. Yosuke Kawanaka,            3     28:L 33:L 14:L 37:D 40:L 34:L 21:L 31:D 36:W 41:W 29:L
39. Kenshin Matsumoto,       1562 3.5   29:L 36:L   :D   :D 14:L 21:W 41:W 42:D 24:L 32:L 27:L
40. Eiji Hakamada,       1743 3     30:L 35:L 19:L   :D 38:W 31:D 34:L 27:D 37:D 33:L 41:L
41. Soichi Wakahara,            4     31:W 22:L 17:L 25:L 27:L 37:W 39:L 24:D 33:D 38:L 40:W
42. Kenji Hiebert,        5     32:L   :D 31:W  6:L 24:D 14:L 37:W 39:D 21:L 34:W 12:D

From the closing ceremony. Photo courtesy of Masako Uesugi