Sunday, 23 October 2016


My absence over the weekend isn't to do with Civ VI (as hinted a previous post), but due to attending the 50th birthday party of Charles Zworestine (one of Australia's leading arbiters). Issues with trains late in the evening resulted in a fairly late return to where I was staying (after 1 am) and a missed deadline for yesterdays post.
Despite this I have a quick look at Civ VI and I already think its pretty good. My son mentioned that in updating the game from Civ V (and early versions) the developers used the 33/33/33 rule. Basically, they kept 33% of the game from Civ V as is. They improved 33% of the features in Civ V, and finally, the added 33% new features to the game.
This then got me thinking how this could be applied to chess improvement. Changing how we play is often difficult, but a similar idea might be helpful. If you are thinking of a change of style/opening or approach, then look after you more recent set of games, and see what you are doing right and wrong. Keep 33% of the features where it seems to be working for you, improve the next 33% and finally, replace what isn't working with something that is. By using these ratios, you don't completely throw away everything you know, but at the same time, you do commit to improving existing skills and learning some new ones.
It probably applies best to openings (keep a third, improve a third, change a third), but it may also be applicable to other parts of the game as well.

Friday, 21 October 2016

And in other news ...

Civilization VI was released today. That is all ....

Thursday, 20 October 2016

I do win the occasional CC game

Despite my somewhat poor results in correspondence chess (19/57) I have yet to throw in the towel. I normally have around 10 to 12 games going at any one time, with a mixture of tournament games and international/domestic matches.
When I started out I spent a lot of time analysing my games (like a good CC player) but in recent years it is a cursory glance, some unstructured analysis, and then an agonising choice about which is the least worst move to play. As a result I play less like a CC player, and more like a OTB player who has forgotten what he had planned to play next. Nonetheless I do occasionally manage to play the right moves, which is somewhat satisfying.
An recent example comes from the Australian Interstate teams event, where I was up against Graeme Deacon from NSW. Normally the choice of the Petroff's indicates a drawish game was likely, but the opening went down a side street, which gave chances both sides. The pawn on e5 turned out to be a thorn in Blacks position, and once it was joined by the f pawn, I had enough of an advantage to force an early resignation.

Press,Shaun - Deacon,Graeme [C43]
CCLA Interstate, 04.08.2016

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Carlsen hustles the hustlers

Taking a leaf from Maurice Ashley's late night chess adventures, Magnus Carlsen decided to have a try at playing some New York chess hustlers. The outcome wasn't really a surprise, with Carlsen handing out some Norwegian chess justice. He played a few games for the crowd (which included actress Liv Tyler) although it turns out some of his opponents had no idea who he was.
Gizmodo has a nice story about the whole activity, including video of the goings on. If you watch the clip, make sure you stay until the end, where a black squirrel almost steals the show.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

It was 60 years ago

Yesterday and today I saw a couple of articles about Bobby Fischer in the Australian media, and at first I wondered why the sudden interest. It turns out that yesterday (17th October) was the 60th anniversary of Fischer's "Game of the Century" against Donald Byrne. This seems to be enough to spark some interest, with a nice historical article about Fischer appearing in the Daily Telegraph, and IA Gary Bekker doing a radio interview on Fischer, and Australian chess in general earlier today.
While the game is very well known, it is always nice to play through it again, so here it is for those that haven't seen it before, or those who just wish to see it again.

Byrne,D - Fischer,Robert James [D97]
New York New York, 1956

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Return of the robot chess board

In the 1980's I can remember seeing a computer chess board that had a robot arm to move the pieces. It was even featured on television, playing against Shane Hill (IIRC). But it was a bit of a fad, and soon the whole "self moving" chess board went away.
However it isn't entirely dead, as a new design group is developing a slightly more aesthetic board, using magnets under the board, rather than a more obtrusive robot arm. There is even a kickstarter campaign to support it, and at the time of writing they are two thirds of the way to their goal.
The product is called "Square Off" and it is a normal chess board, except it can move the pieces itself, using a 2-axis robotic arm with a magnetic head, so it can slide the pieces around the board. It is controlled by a phone app and has extra features to enable live broadcasting of games.
Of course such boards aren't exactly cheap, although the base model is 200 euros (for early purchasers)  which is cheaper than a DGT board.
I'm not sure if I will ever shell out for one, but as someone who used to work in robotics, it seems like a smart approach to an old problem.

If you can't believe Donald Trump ...

As much as US politics interests me (I am an avid reader of US political blogs), I rarely post about it here. Unless of course there is a chess component, when I am more than happy to share.
In a recent speech Donald Trump discussed the complexity of handling multilateral trade agreements and stated "you have to be a grandmaster" to understand them (look at this link for further context). He then followed up with the claim that "We don't have any of them" (The "we" being the United States). Of course this claim is wrong (the US has 90 GM's), and the fact checkers action into action. Pointing out the errors in this statement, Politifact rated this as a 'pants on fire' claim, which I guess is fair enough.
Nonetheless I assume Trump did not make a statement he knew wasn't true, as it was more likely he just had no idea what he was talking about. The "stupid not dishonest" defence has been used by his team on a few other issues, and this may be another example. He may have confused Grandmasters with Chess World Champions (thinking of Bobby Fischer), but if so, he is ignoring the recent US win at the Chess Olympiad. And even if he was thinking of individuals, he must not be aware of GM Jeffrey Xiong, who is the current World Junior Champion.
Semi-surprisingly, one person who was critical of Trump's claim, and the whole Trump campaign in general, is Gary Kasparov, who has tweeted a number of criticisms of Trump over the last few months. Previously Kasparov seemed to share Trump's views on US foreign policy (and possibly still does), but Trump's praise of Putin (who Kasparov is strongly opposed to), is no doubt the deal breaker for Kasparov, no matter how many other opinions they share.