Wednesday, 24 August 2016

More Olympiad Shenanigans

One of the interesting, if sometimes sad, issues with chess Olympiads is which teams actually make it to the tournament. Having served on the Technical Administration Panel (TAP) in 2010 and 2012, there is a lot of uncertainty about whether a team has made it to the host city, and a lot of late night ringing around occurs.
On at least two occasions I have seen half a team turn up (only 2 players in 2008 and 2012) and been allowed to play. The rules were actually changed after 2008 to require a minimum of 3 players present for a team to be valid, but in 2012 FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov just waved his hand to allow Burundi to compete (they went 0-11 and scored 3.5 game points).
One of the weird stories for this Olympiad involves the team from Pakistan. According to this report the Pakistan Sports Board has refused to allow the team to travel to Azerbaijan. The PSB currently does not recognise an official Pakistan Chess Federation, as there are at least 3 competing federations. Apparently they have requested the team not be allowed to leave the country, which sounds like pretty serious stuff.
Papua New Guinea went through a similar situation in the lead up to the 2014 FIDE General Assembly, with a former president claiming he was still running the federation, despite a new executive being formerly elected. While it did not effect the participation of the team, it did mean that it was unclear who the PNG delegate to the GA would be. In the end FIDE, after some deliberation, simply recognised the candidate who was going to vote for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, which of course was the previous president. Oddly, part of the reasoning was the claim that a Federation needed to be recognised by the countries National Olympic Committee or Sports Ministry, a 'rule' they seem to be ignoring in this case.

FIDE Laws of Chess - Proposed changes

FIDE have published the proposed changes to the Laws of Chess, which you can find here. Most changes are to do with language, some with reorganising the document (numbering etc), and a few major changes.
Probably the most worrying is the return of the 'zero-default' rule, which had been removed a few years back. This rule has been the most unpopular rule in tournament chess ever since I had been involved, and it was a good thing that it was removed. So I'm not sure what the politics is behind bringing it back (and yes with FIDE it is always backroom politics), and I would hope that this proposal is rejected.
There are also changes to handling illegal moves, with players now only having to make a claim within 10 moves of the occurrence of an illegal move. This is to deal with the theoretical case of a player noticing an illegal move, deciding not to claim, and then waiting until much later in the game to make a claim, rewinding the game back to the legal position. The claim is that players could game the system by seeing if they are winning or losing before making a delayed claim, but I have never seen (or heard of it) in practice.
The only other change that jumps out at me is the handling of draw claims. The 5 times repetition rule has removed the requirement that the position occur via consecutive moves (which matches the three times repetition rule). Also it is now the players responsibility to check for three times repetition or a 50 move draw 'under the supervision of the arbiter' and that players now must assist in the reconstruction of games. I find this change odd, but possibly tacit recognition that too many arbiters are getting this part of their duties wrong.
Sadly, the changes signify a further move away from the ethos that chess players are relied upon to play fairly. Assuming players do not plan to cheat every time they sit down at the board makes for a simpler, more understandable set of rules, and by moving away from this, the rules are starting to become filled with 'corner cases' and 'what if's'

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The joy of six

Studying very short games might not teach you much about positional chess, but it does help sharpen your tactics. This is doubly so if you are new to the game, and are still trying to understand why you just lost in under 10 moves.
Obviously games that end in two moves aren't particularly helpful (unless you are filming a scene for Columbo ) but games that end in 5 or 6 moves can be a good start. Probably the most common six move mate is the smothered mate trap in the Caro-Kan, but here is one that shows you how powerful discovered checks (and pawn promotions) can be.

Laporte,Damien (2143) - Duc,Marie Christine [B01]
Creon op 10th Creon (6), 04.08.2005

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The engine

IM Moulthun Ly was one of Australia's heroes at the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul. Playing on board 2 in his first ever Olympiad he scored 7/10 and helped Australia finish in a tie for 19th place. This year he has dropped down a board (with the return of GM Zong Yuan Zhao) and once again may prove to be a significant contributor to the Australian score.
Both he and IM Anton Smirnov are warming up by playing in a number of events in Europe. Ly had a strong event in Lativa, finishing just behind the winners in the Riga University Open. He might have even had a chance at a GM norm, except for the fact he only played two GM's. He has one more event to play before the Olympiad, and if he stays on form, another GM norm is a distinct possibility.

Kriebel,Tadeas (2462) - Ly,Moulthun (2501) [B06]
Riga Tech Open A 2016 Riga LAT (8.11), 13.08.2016

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Vale ANU Chess Club

Due to a decline in numbers, plus some issues with venue management, the Australian National University Chess Club is closing next week. The club has run for the last 10 years, but like most university chess clubs, most of the players at the club weren't actually students! It was mainly organised by university staff members (including myself) but as most of us no longer have a connection with the university, it was getting harder to organise venues etc
The final club night will be this Wednesday evening (24th August) from 7pm. It will be a 9 round blitz event and all past players are welcome to attend. There is of course no charge (and no prizes) but these tournaments are usually more social than serious, and is a fitting way to see the club off.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

IM Gary Lane perfect in Fiji

Australian IM Gary Lane scored a perfect 7/7 to win the 2016 Fiji International Open. The tournament top seed (by over 300 rating points) was a class above his opponents, finishing 2 points clear of 2nd placed CM Calvin Prasad (Fiji). There was a big tie for 3rd on 4.5, with WIM Nancy Lane having the best tie-break.
The 26 player event attracted players from Australia New Zealand and the host country. For some of the local players it was a good warm up for upcoming chess olympiad, while for the visitors it was a chance to combine chess with week in the tropical sun.

Prasad,Calvin (2001) - Lane,Gary (2398) [A09]
2nd Fiji International Open (4.1), 15.08.2016

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Point and click

I didn't start playing serious chess until I was 16 years old, but I've always thought this was a help rather than a hindrance. As an 'older' junior, I probably learnt a little more quickly, especially from bad losses, and was able to put those lessons into practice.
My most common losses in those early days were games where I wasted a tempo or two in the opening, and then got hit by an attack. It took me a while to become a better defensive player, but I also learnt how to hack an opponent.
Even these days these lessons stick with me, as shown by the following game. To spare my young opponent I won't give his name, but while he played the opening reasonably well, he also played it a little automatically. As a result I was able to lunch a typical BDG attack, using the open f file and a lead in development to break open the kingside. Alert readers will spot that I could have won a piece with 11.Nxg4 but I was looking for the bigger prize with a sac on f6, and idea that quickly paid off.

Press,Shaun - Other, A.N. [D00]
Canberra 2016