Sunday, 26 March 2017

The UAE is the place to be

Sharjah in the UAE is rapidly making a name for itself in the world of chess. Having hosted the FIDE Grand Prix event earlier this year, it is now hosting the Sharjah Masters at the Sharjah Chess and Cultural Centre.
The tournament has attracted a large field of 230 players, including 92 players from India. However the organisers were a bit over enthusiastic in drawing up the entry list, as the first round saw 34 forfeits, mainly from players who indicated an interest, but hadn't actually turned up. This included a number of top seeds, resulting in a few free points to lower rated players.
Having sorted that out, the tournament seems to have settled down a bit.  Currently there are still 13 players on 3/3 but mixed in with some well known GM's like Gawain Jones and Wang Hao are a few lesser known CM'a and FM's. This is because the organisers have accelerated the tournament pairings, but in a somewhat odd way. They looked to have split the field into top half and bottom half, and simply paired the players within those groups for the first 3 rounds. So instead of pairing top half players on 1 with bottom half players on 2, the bottom half players on 2 played other bottom half players on 2. There is no gradual deceleration after round 3 either (as recommended by the Baku System), so round 4 will see pairings that would normally be found in the first round of a non accelerated event.
The website for the event is here, and apart from finding out about the tournament, you can also read about the host club, which is the largest dedicated chess club in the world (by area).

Algorithms now rule us

A few years back I set up an account with paper.li so as to create a curated online newspaper dealing with chess. As far as I know I am probably the only person that reads it although if you are interested I think this is the link to it.
Unfortunately I have little control over the source material, apart from specifying that it has to have something related to chess. I suspect thi is more of a key word search, rather than an intelligent collection, as I do get a number of 'chess but not chess' articles.
I don't mind the recipes for 'chess pie' or the occasional articles on "Chess Records", but I am quite sick of the articles on the current president of the united states. For some reason certain sections of the blogspehere portray every blunder, mistake or just outright lie as some kind of move in 4 dimensional chess game that most of us are too dumb to understand. So references to "playing chess while the rest of you are playing checkers" or "smart like a chess grandmaster" seem to trigger the collection algorithm's interest, and it ends up on my screen. This is not good or desirable.
Attempts at tweaking the settings to avoid this have proved unsuccessful at this point, so if you do click the above link be warned, it isn't always pleasant reading.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Between the server and the board

These day I play a lot of server chess over at www.iccf.com This is the home of the International Correspondence Chess Federation, with correspondence being almost exclusively being carried out on their chess server.
When I first started playing CC it was still played by post, with moves (and scoresheets) going by mail. I took a break from it for a while, and only got back into it when the internet had really taken off.
Even then my return tournaments were played by mail, but in this case, email. Server based chess was only just starting to become popular (and technically feasible) so my early events involved remembering to send moves. There were some issues with this system (lost emails, stuff going into the wrong folders etc), and it wasn't until server based chess came along that they were resolved.
I did take part in the first Australian Email Championship and I think I finished mid field. There were a few long games, but also a couple of quick ones, like the following. My opponent captured on h2 and offered a draw (which was unavoidable anyway) but the line after Kh1 is slightly more interesting.


Thew,Brian - Press,Shaun [C80]
CCLA Australian Email Championship, 11.2000


Thursday, 23 March 2017

ANU Chess Club

Up until last year there was a chess club that met at the Australian National University. Due to a combination of factors the club ceased operations, although there was hope that it may restart in the new year.
I'm pleased to say that not only has the club been reborn, but it has already picked up a large group of chess players. ANU students Fred Litchfield and Willis Lo have restarted the club on Wednesday evenings, although it is more of a 'Uni Club' than a club that meets at a University (yes, there is a difference).
The activities are a lot more casual than the previous club, and while they host to occasional tournament, the emphasis is more on getting together for the social scene. When I dropped in, there were some chess games going, a little bit of opening analysis, a couple of the players were choosing the music to be played, and an impromptu magic show was taking place. The club was overwhelmingly undergraduate as well, and I certainly felt my age walking through the door.
Also good to see was that the ANU Go Club (which meets in the same building) was also thriving, with their club rooms filled with players as well. 
If you are interested in getting along to either club for some social chess (or go), then keep your Wednesday nights free. Both clubs meet from 6pm at the Bauldesan Precinct Building, Ellery Crescent ANU. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Entries filling fast

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup is just over 3 weeks away and entries are starting to flood in. When I looked this evening there were over 170 players registered across the 4 main events, with spaces beginning to run short in some of them.
If you are keen to play in the Premier, you will need to get your entry in quickly as there are now only 16 places left for the 64 player field. The tournament is picked up another GM (Vishnu Vasanthan from India) and there are now 7 GM's, 6 IM's, 1 WGM and 3 WIM's in the field.
The Minor is also attracting a lot of interest, with 58 players already entered, leaving only 22 spots free. The Under 1200 event is over half full, though players can enter that event on the day (if there is room of course). The only event lagging at the moment is the Major (Under 2000), although that event does still fill up closer to the closing date.
The tournament runs from the 13th to the 17th of April, at University House, ANU. There will be the super popular Saturday night Blitz event (entries capped at 100!), while there may also be a Wednesday night pre tournament blitz organised by the ANU Chess Club (TBC)

(** I am a paid official for this event **)



One day a rooster ...

Playing an important game at the Belconnen Chess Club last week, I trod on a landmine that had been waiting for me for the past 30 years. Ian Hosking was White and after 3.Bc4 we both knew that the Traxler was going to be played. In my mind I have a 6-0 score against Ian in this line, but according to my database it is closer to 2.5-0.5 (although there were a number of scoresheets from the mid 1990's that have long since been lost).
Usually Ian manages to find a new move that I've either not prepared for, or more recently forgotten, but I've still managed to find the right followup, or Ian misses a particularly nasty trick. This time this did not happen as I played into a line I suspected was bad, and then missed a check and fork combination at the end. A quick loss, and a return to the books in preparation for the next time we play.


Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C57]
University Cup, 14.03.2017


Saturday, 18 March 2017

The people you might see on TV

I do not watch a lot of reality TV (except the first series of the Joe Schmo Show), so I came across this by accident.
During the Gibraltar Masters I often took the same bus to the venue with GM's Ganguly and Shankland. As Ganguly is a regular visitor to the O2C Doeberl Cup, we would often chat, including what post tournament activities were happening. While Ganguly will be in Canberra next month, I just assumed Sam Shankland would be off to another tournament somewhere.
Instead he is taking part in a 'Survivor' style show called 'Kicking and Screaming'. I am assuming this was filmed post Gibraltar, although IMDB does not show the actual filming dates. The series is/was filmed in Fiji as well, so possibly the Fiji Chess Federation might have an inkling.
I have no idea when (or if) the show will be shown in Australia, although based on one review I read, Shankland makes sure he stands out. Possibly he stood out a little too much, as *spoilers* he has been voted out in the latest episode. Of course these show do bring people back, so he may pop up in a future episode.