Tuesday, 28 February 2017

It is not always that solid

I spent the weekend writing a couple of articles covering my trip to the UK, and in them I made the observation that UK chess is a lot more solid and positional than Australian chess. While in the UK I also made this observation, remarking that a lot of games sin Australia start with players just throwing pieces out there, and then looking for whatever tactics may arise.
There are of course exceptions in both directions, as I saw at the 4NCL weekender. In the game below I'm not convinced either side was looking for a positional edge, especially after 8.d5 set fire to the position. White then decided to throw more wood onto the fire with 11.Nxg6 with the idea of keeping the kin in the centre. But it wasn't until Black passed on 15. ... Nd3+ that White could begin to breath easier, and a few move later it was a full on king hunt, ending in Black getting mated.

Eagleton,Greg T (2055) - Hand,Freddie (2205)
4NCL Division 2b Northampton, ENG (4.72), 15.01.2017

Saturday, 25 February 2017

It depends upon your background

While listening to Australia spin its way to victory in the 1st Test Match against India, I heard on of the commentators say "Smith is like a chess grandmaster, moving the pieces around the board". It was of course one of the Indian commentators, who said this, while the Australia commentator did not seem to react.
I suspect for an Indian sports fan, or commentator, such a comment was perfectly sensible and understandable, tapping into the cultural awareness of chess in that country. For Australian fans, the comment might be a little bit more confusing or odd, although even then I think that most Australian fans would at least recognise the terms.
Anyway, I thought it was a nice intrusion into the normally dry cricket commentary (at least in Australia), and I hope to hear more of it over the next couple of tests.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I'd thought I'd seen this disaster before

Flicking through the games from the FIDE GP in Sharjah, I was surprised by the number of draws. I know at the top level it is pretty easy to make a draw if you want to, especially with White, but I had expected the change in format to an 18 player swiss (rather than a round robin) would have at least encouraged more decisive games. As it stands around 75% of the games have been drawn, although this number seems to be coming down.
There was one real disaster in round 5, although it wasn't the one I first thought it was. Playing through the game at firt I thought Black was in big trouble after Qc6+. I've seen a number of games where the king gets kicked around the board after going to e7 and I assumed this was one of those. It turns out the Black is fine, and it was White who quickly found himself in trouble. 17.O-O could bes be described as 'brave' but 19.Rd1 was the real lemon, and after Black found Qh3, White did the sensible thing and resigned (as f4 drops the rook to Qg4+)

Riazantsev,Alexander (2671) - Jakovenko,Dmitry (2709) [A30]
Sharjah Grand Prix 2017 Sharjah UAE (5.7), 22.02.2017

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Things I've never been asked to do

A few people have asked me about the dress code that was put in place for the 2017 Womens World Championship being held in Iran. Instead of debating whether it is appropriate, or whether the event hosts have the right to set such conditions, I simply point out that despite playing chess in a number of countries, I have never been told what I must wear at the board (although I have been asked to wear a suit on occasion while working as an arbiter). I'm not saying that those who played or chose not to were right/wrong, just that this rule seems to be only applied to 50% of the worlds population.
I've also never been asked not to play an opponent for political reasons. The issue of refusing to play against players from a certain country has come up again, with news that Iranian player Borna Derakhshani has been suspended by his federation for playing against Alex Huzman from Israel at the Gibraltar Masters. This has been an issue at other events, including the Chess Olympiad, although my suggestion that such boycotts are only legally acceptable if supported by a directive from the players country hasn't gained much traction within FIDE. Instead FIDE publicly pretend they have no policy on this matter, although privately they do (eg at Olympiads). However I do find this case slightly surprising, as there was at least one instance in the tournament where and Iranian v Israeli pairing was changed. So I'm not sure why this one went through.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I might have to start watching the Simpsons again

A long time ago I was an avid watcher of The Simpsons. But as I got older I kind of lost interest, mainly due to the fact that most 'new' episodes recycled ideas and characters from previous episodes. So eventually I moved on the Futurama, Family Guy, and more recently Rick & Morty, and Archer. (PS Bring back Duckman).
However there is still a little life left in the Simpsons, at least for chess fans. World Champion Magnus Carlsen appeared in the latest episode (shown in the US), and it wasn't just a drive by. The whole episode revolved around Homer's previous chess career(!), with Carlsen encouraging Homer to continue playing. At least one review I read not only said Carlsen's performance was good (and self deprecating), but the writers seem to get the chess stuff right (including some pretty accurate name drops).
I'm not sure what the lag is between US showings and Australia but hopefully I'll be alert enough to catch it when it turns up.

Monday, 20 February 2017

No not really

Following up from yesterdays post ....
In the end I decided I wasn't going to gamble on my opponent forgetting his own analysis from a few years back, and so decided to play it safe with 6.O-O, which was recommended by theory. It turned out to be at least 50% correct, as the game eventually ended in a draw.

Press,Shaun (1970) - Osuna Vega,Enrique (2181) [B07]
Gibraltar Masters, 27.01.2017

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Is this a coin flip?

During some downtime at Hastings, a question was asked about methods of choosing a move. The question was "If you cannot decide between two moves, are you allowed to toss a coin to make a choice?"
The question was asked of a number of very experienced international arbiters (and myself), and we all pretty much said it would not be allowed as you were relying on external assistance. But being experienced arbiters we also suggested alternative methods of making such choices, including using the second hand on your watch to simulate a coin toss.
A couple of weeks later I found myself mentally tossing such a coin at the Gibraltar Masters. I knew my opponent played a specific line against 1.e4 and was pretty sure I was going to reach the diagrammed position. The choice was either to castle, or sacrifice on f7. Having looked at it further it turns out that the sacrifice is not quite sound, but there was still a wrinkle. On two occasions previous opponents had sacrificed on f7 with a 1-1 result. The odd thing was that where he chose the correct line, he eventually lost, but when he chose the losing line, he actually won. So the sacrifice may have worked, if for the wrong reasons.
So when I reached this position at the board, I spent 5 minutes deciding what to do. To sac or not to sac. Eventually I ....