Friday, 30 September 2016

I may not try this

The saga of finding an opening system against 1.d4 continues for me. Having tried the Dutch for the last 3 years, I've become less than satisfied, and for now am reflexively playing the Grunfeld again. Previously I've dabbled with various QGD systems, with mixed results, and this includes the Semi-Slav.
I did wheel it out at the 2008 Chess Olympiad, but a crushing defeat against South Korea did not help my confidence in it. And having seen the following game from the 2016 Tal Memorial, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to it.
To be fair, Gelfand was OK going into the middle game, so the opening isn't entirely to blame. However it did look as though Mamedyarov did have an easier time of it, and maybe this influenced Gelfand's risky play (Qxb2 and g5). With Mamedyarov's well posted pieces targeting an exposed king, Gelfand tried to find a way to defend, but the game ended far more quickly than Gelfand would have hoped when he decided on 1. ... d5

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2761) - Gelfand,Boris (2743) [D43]
10th Tal Mem 2016 Moscow RUS (3.5), 29.09.2016

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A strange strange headline

I kept seeing the following headline in my newsfeeds "Chess Grandmaster takes on 11 opponents, all at the same time in Jersey City". The story itself was listed under to section "Hobbies and Interests", placing it alongside stories such as "Go Topless Day Parade in NY", and "New Jersey woman stabbed man for refusing sex".
Clicking on the story, you will find the headline understates what was going on. The GM in question was Magnis Carlsen, playing a 30 minute clock simul against players who had won a "Play Chess with Magnus" competition.  Also in attendance was Fabiano Caruana, who was there as part of the celebrations for the US team winning the Chess Olympiad.
But as they say in the media, all news is local, so it wasn't important that they might be the best players in the world, what was important was they visited Jersey City.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Tal Memorial 2016

The first big post Olympiad event has just begun in Moscow, the 2016 Tal Memorial. This 10 player round robin is a little light on the top 10, but the assembled field are all rated above 2700, and the organisers have tried to invite exciting/attacking players.
Top seed is Vladimir Kramnik, and with Anand, Aronian and Mamedyarov in the field, it looks to be a hard fought event. Mamedyarov got his tournament off to a good start, winning the opening blitz event with 7.5/9, and getting to choose his seeding number.
The main event started a few hours ago (Canberra time) and while I'm watching it through chess24, the tournament website is here.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Week in Chesss

One of the great online chess resources "The Week in Chess" has just turned 22 years old. I used to subscribe to it when it came it as an email service, and it was a vitally important when Paul Dunn and I produced a weekly radio show on chess in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
It has always been a free service,  getting by on sponsorship and donations. Currently there is a donation drive going on, and it does have an added bonus. If you donate 30 pounds or more, Mark Crowther, (the man behind TWIC), will send you a copy of the entire TWIC database. The is contains around 1.9 million games from the last 22 years, and it is worth getting if you need to keep your reference databases up to date. Having made a recent donation I was delighted to get my hands on this file, which even included some of my efforts from various chess olympiads, including the following game, which was the first one I ever played at this level.

Press,Shaun - Bagheri,A (2409) [B16]
34th Olympiad Istanbul TUR (1), 28.10.2000

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Overs and Unders ( a continuing series)

It appears the Millionaire Chess tournament, which is being held in New Jersey USA in October may be the third and last of the series. A message from event organiser GM Maurice Ashley points to continuing financial losses as being the reason.
This of course raises the issues of how to make big money tournaments work in chess, without a big sponsor behind it. In the more successful examples, the organisers have generally done everything as cheaply as possible, and poured as much into the prize pool as possible, although this has been a bit hit and miss.
However chess players seem to have some expectation that an event will at least be comfortable, and having a good venue with plenty of other nice touches seems to be required (at least in Australia). But for this to happen, money needs to either be taken away from the prize pool, or entries increased, at which point players start to have second thoughts about playing.
This balancing act reminds me of an old software development comment. "On time, on budget, on spec. Pick any two". In this case it might be "Cheap entry, large prizes, quality event. Pick two".
So I sympathise with the organisers of Millionaire Chess, but without being able to provide any solutions to this problem. Hopefully future events of this type will either find the "sweet spot" to attract the right size field, or create an event that will be supported by sponsors. I have my fingers crossed.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Refactoring your openings

A lot of the players PNG faced at the Olympiad were a bit of an unknown quantity, which made opening preparation a little difficult. When I did have a large set of games for an opposing player, it was often because they were experienced 2300+ players, and opening prep would only go so far.
One game where it did work was Rupert Jones's game against Enrico Grassi from San Marino. It did help that the two players were of similar vintage and activity, and in fact had played in the 1986 Olympiad, when Jones was representing Botswana.
Oddly enough both played the Centre-Counter with black, so there was plenty of material to work with. In the end Rupert and I decided to go with an opening idea that had been used by another PNG player in the 2002 Olympiad. Alan Luga (also a past PNGCF President) was shown an attacking idea in the Centre-Counter by GM Ian Rogers (IIRC), where White plays Bc4, then d3. The idea is that the Black bishop usually ends up on f5 or g6, and after the normal d4, the c2 pawn is under threat. But with the pawn on d3, moves like Qe2 can be played with safety, and an attack on the kingside gets moving a little quicker.
We actually found the first 13 moves of the game on the morning of the round, but ran out of time to go that extra bit further. If we had we might have spotted that 14.Nxe6 is winning (14 ... fxe6 15.hxg5 followed by g6 is the main idea). Instead Rupert played the obvious recapture, but chaos ensured after Bxd3, with a queen versus wood middlegame where both players were not quite sure who was better.  In the end a 'tactical' draw was agreed, as this resulted in the match being drawn 2-2, and this seemed to come as a relief to both players.

Jones,Rupert (1851) - Grassi,Enrico (2049)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (8.2), 10.09.2016

Thursday, 22 September 2016

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender

Having been a somewhat poor captain at the Olympiad, I'm thinking about putting my rating where my mouth is, and start playing some more events. I've certainly got a number of events scheduled over December and January (London Chess Classic, 4NCL, Gibraltar), but before I do that I may need to get some local practice. There are a few weekenders I can play in, with the first being the following.

The 2016 Ryde-Eastwood Weekender is being held in Sydney on the weekend of the 1st,2nd and 3rd of October. It is a 7 round event played with the slightly weird time control of 60m+30s per move (This is to prevent clashes with the NRL Grand Final that is being held on Sunday). It is a single division event with $3200 in prizes. Further details (plus online entry form) can be found at the NSW Chess Association website.