Saturday, 26 May 2018

In praise of trash

I've never got out of my habit of playing 'coffee house' openings, especially when I'm actually playing in a 'coffee house' type event. And so it was today, where I played a couple of terrible games, interspersed with a few 'coffee house' wins. And in true coffee house style, I was helped by my opponent getting somewhat confused with what I was doing. Here is Exhibit A


Press,Shaun - Dude, A [C21]
Pub Chess, May 2018



Friday, 25 May 2018

And the bottom seed is ... Anand!

I've just had a look at the upcoming Altibox tournament in Norway, and noticed that the *bottom* seed in this 10 player event is Viswanathan Anand. He is in good company though, as the 9th seed is Lev Aronian a mere 4 rating points ahead of him.
At the other end of the event, Carlsen, Caruana, and Mamedyarov are the 2800+ players, with the rest of the field squeezed in between them. The first round of play is on Monday 28th May, although there are other events leading into, including a simul by Wesley So.
Also interesting is the format for the open event running alongside the main event. Although it is a 7 round event, the first 3 rounds are rapidplay games (15m+10s), played on the Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday see four 90m+30s (2 on each day), to round out the event. The entry fees are quite pricey, at what would be $150 Australian, although pretty much everything in Norway is pricey!
With such a strong field lined up, it is very difficult to pick a winner. I generally do well at this by picking Carlsen in whichever event he is playing in, but I'd love to see Anand win, as it isn't every day that the bottom seed wins a high level RR.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Making my life easier

I spent today running a small interschool competition in Canberra. As the field wasn't very large, the rounds tended to finish quite quickly. To make sure we stuck to some sort of sensible schedule, I used the time in between rounds to do a bit of coaching.
The first lesson I gave was on the 'Electric Fence' checkmate (Mate with Q+R or R+R). Fortunately for me the players were quite attentive, as it seemed that the lesson sunk in. Over the next few rounds, this became the 'go to' method of winning the game, especially by players who had never checkmated this way before. As a result, there were very few games that were dragged out by kings being unsuccessfully chased around the board. This meant the rounds finished even quicker(!), giving me more time to do even more coaching.
So if you are running a school event, showing a few basic checkmating ideas (Electric Fence, K+Q v K) might make the event run a little more smoothly.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Chess Club

When is a chess club not a chess club? When is it The Chess Club.
The club I am referring to is the Chess Club in London, which is a private members club located in Mayfair. It has a bar, restaurant and lounge areas, and indeed some chess sets, but I assume its main function is as a club, rather than somewhere to play chess. If you want to check out the interiors before visiting, https://martynwhitedesigns.com/blogs/interiors/chess-club-london covers it nicely. If you are interested in visiting or joining, the clubs own website https://www.chessclublondon.com/ has all the details.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Memorising endgames

Chess players learn/memorise openings, but don't really do the same for endings. This kind of makes sense, as there is no guarantee you will ever see a particular ending, but there are some that are common enough that committing them to memory would not hurt.
One classic example is the Rook and Pawn ending from the final game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match (1927). It is a good example of how you convert and ending where you have an outside passed pawn on the queenside, while there are equal pawns on the kingside.
The key ideas are to put your rook behind the passer, forcing your opponents rook to blockade. Then bring your king towards the queenside, forcing your opponents king to try and keep your king out. Then shift your king to the kingside to attack the pawns. Finally, break up the pawns on the kingside with a pawn push of your own, before picking them off and winning!
While it takes a little time to complete, the general method is usually enough to collect the point. I've even had the need to use it recently, when playing some casual games at Street Chess.

Alekhine,Alexander - Capablanca,Jose Raul [D51]
World-ch12 Alekhine-Capablanca +6-3=25 Buenos Aires (34), 26.11.1927



Fast start, gentle finish

GM Wenjun Ju is the new Women's World Champion, winning her match against Zhongyi Tan 5.5-4.5. After a pretty violent start to the match (games 2-6 were all decisive), the game finished with 4 draws.
This of course was what Bobby Fischer had predicted was likely to happen in fixed length matches, with on player taking a lead, and then drawing their way to victory. Nonetheless, his proposed solution (first to 10 wins, but the challenger requiring a 2 win margin for the title) was never adopted, except in his 1992 match against Boris Spassky, The other solution, which was the first to 6 wins, was tried after 1972, but fell out of favour after the Karpov v Kasparov match that was aborted after 48 games. Since then World Championship matches have become shorter and shorter, making Fischer's prediction more likely to be correct.

Friday, 18 May 2018

An easy chess engine example

If you are interested in how chess engines work (and can read/understand Javascript). then 'A step-by-step guide to building a simple chess AI' might be worth a read. It is a simple explanation/tutorial about how chess engines are coded.
It  mainly looks at the evaluation and search functions, using the existing chess.js library for move generation and validation. As it is a very basic implementation, it is missing a few things that makes a chess program really strong. There is no quiescence search (a search extension which follows capture sequences beyond the specified search depth), no transposition table, and no move ordering.
However, if you are interested in tinkering with a chess program, the source is free and downloadable from the above links, and if you are feeling energetic, you can probably add those features yourself.