Wednesday, 21 February 2018

In praise of club chess

For some players, the regularity of club chess can be a real chore. Facing the same opponents, not being able to skip a week to go to the movies, or simply becoming too strong are some of the reasons that come into play.
For other players (including myself), playing at a local club is what makes chess, chess. Knowing that a mistake in one game isn't the end of the world, or engaging in multi-year theoretical debates about favourite openings, is something that keeps members playing week in week out. And while the chess isn't perfect, it usually is interesting enough that each player (and spectators) get something out of it.
A few weeks ago I published one of my wins from the current tournament at Belconnen Chess Club. Here is a far more interesting game from round 3 of the same event (This time it isn't mine, as I played like a knuckle-head last night and lost). Milan Ninchich looked like he was gone for all money against Miles Patterson, until he found a clever double rook sacrifice at the death, to salvage a draw by repetition.


Ninchich,Milan - Patterson,Miles [B02]
University Cup Belconnen, 20.02.2018


Resigning with all the pieces still on the board

It is very rare that one player loses a game, while all 32 pieces are still on the board. Of course with rules concerning the use of mobile phones during the game in force, it has probably become a little more common, but even then it is at least noteworthy.
Here is a remarkable example from 2013, with Vasilly Ivanchuk resigning in 19 moves. Lest you think the early resignation was a function of Ivanchuk's eccentricities, Stockfish has him at -2.6 when he threw in the towel.


Ponomariov,Ruslan (2742) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2755) [C05]
Makedonia Palace GP Thessaloniki GRE (6.1), 28.05.2013


Sunday, 18 February 2018

How did I miss this story?

When I last visited the UK (late 2016, early 2017), I did not get a chance to visit Portmeirion in Wales, which is something I have done on two previous occasions. If I had, I may have walked into the middle of a chess related row, between fans of the TV series "The Prisoner", and local residents.
Each year there is a recreation of the human chess game that was seen in the episode "Checkmate", on a space of open lawn. For years the board had been a temporary one, but it was decided that a permanent one should be built. Local residents objected and an argument ensued.
In the end the Prisoner fans one, and the board has gone in. For more detail, plus a picture of the game, you can click on this link (Warning, it does have some annoying auto play video of other news stories)

Friday, 16 February 2018

In author mode

I'm currently in 'Author Mode', trying to write some new titles for e+ChessBooks (Disclaimer: I am employed by the company as a software developer). It is a mixture of typesetting older books, converting some newer books to electronic format, and putting together some original content.
The work I am trying to get finished first is a reworking of a 19th century collection of brilliancies, which was published without annotations. As a result I've spent the past week going through the games (with computer assistance) trying to find different ways of saying 'Black missed a better defence with ...'. And while the attacking play is quite ingenious, I have to agree with Bent Larsen's contention that he would have easily been World Champion in the 19th Century (if he had the same chess knowledge) as he would have simply defended better.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

FIDE chickens looking for roosts

The fallout from the 2014 FIDE election continues to roll on, with the FIDE bank account in Swistzerland being frozen. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/13/world-chess-body-has-swiss-bank-accounts-frozen-president-accused/)
As the above article says, this is due to  FIDE President Kirsan Ilymzhonov being under US government sanctions for his involvement in financing aspects of the conflict in Syria. Of course this has been an ongoing issue for FIDE for a few years now, but has come to a head at a somewhat unfortunate time.
The article does quote FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegal placing the blame directly on the FIDE President, but he would do better to look at the actions of some of his other FIDE colleagues. One of the problems that FIDE face is that they have no real mechanism for removing Ilyumzhinov, but this is a problem that the organisation created for itself.
In pushing so hard for Kirsan to win the past two elections (2010 and 2014), the FIDE executive essentially ran roughshod over any idea of executive accountability. This has meant that there are no real mechanisms for holding anyone accountable for their actions (unless you are a former FIDE executive member or unsuccessful candidate), and so Kirsan will remain president until the next election.
That this has occurred is of little surprise to me, based on what I witnessed during the 2014 election in Tromso. There was a definite 'win at all costs' mentality on show there, which I personally thought crossed the line in terms of what should have been an independent process. An obvious example of this was Kirsan's promise of $40,000,000 to support chess, which while being an obvious lie, was praised or excused by members of the FIDE Executive, rather than condemned by the very people who knew it was untrue.
After the election was I was even accused of being depressed because 'my guy lost', to which I replied, "No, I'm upset at the level of behaviour I've seen from people I expected better of". And it is this attitude of privilege over principal that has left FIDE painting itself into a corner.
Of course it is the same people who campaigned so passionately (and in some cases unethically)  for Kirsan's election who are now turning around to claim that they are the only people who can fix it. I have no doubt that they themselves believe it, and that is part of the problem with the current executive. Better for all would see them confess their past sins, take some responsibility for this fiasco, and then consider what they should do in retirement.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Crossing the board

There have been a couple of celebrated games where the Black king gets checkmated on the opposite side of the board. Normally a piece (or greater) sacrifice was involved and the king was frog marched to its doom. Most games I have seen take more than 20 moves before checkmate is achieved, but the following looks like some sort of record, in that Black is mated on e1 in only 15 moves. Unlike some other record setting games, this one does look legitimate, with Black just blundering in the open.


Abdel Aziz,Shehab (2116) - Tawfik,Neamet [C21]
Cairo op-B Cairo (1), 2000


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Order to Chaos

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura are currently playing a match for the unofficial title of Fischer Random World Champion. After 4 games Carlsen leads 5-3, having won the 4th game.
The match is over 16 games, with the first 8 played at a slower time limit (40 moves in 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes flat) than the last 8 (15m+10s). Scores are also doubled for the first 8, which accounts for the slightly odd score. For the first half players are shown the start position 15 minutes before the start, while for the rapid they will only have 2 minutes to see the position (NB the same position is used for each pair of white/black games).
I've had a quick look at the games, and there seems to be just enough in the initial setups to challenge the players. To my untrained eye, it seems that the positioning of the rooks is a significant factor in what sort of game you will see. If the rooks start off in (or close to) the corners (as they did in games 3-4) you get a 'normal' position, much sooner than if the rooks already occupy the centre files. I also noticed that sound pawn structures seems a little less important than I'm used to, but then I realised that seems to be the trend in normal chess at this level anyway.
I'd like to show you a game, but attempts at getting the pgn view to work have been a little tricky. If I discover the secret tomorrow, I might update this post.