Tuesday, 17 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal

Instead of staying up late to watch chess tournaments in Europe, I'm currently staying up late to watch the 2017 Oceania Zonal from New Zealand.  Last night was a double round "day" so I got to see the early round, and woke up to get the round 6 results. GM Max Illingworth leads the Open with 5.5/6 (ahead of 5 players), while Layla Timergazi leads the Women's Zonal on 5/6 (with 3 in 2nd).
I've also been following the performance of Canberra players closely. Albert Winkelman is doing very well in the Open, currently on 4.5/6 which is enough for a CM title. Michael Kethro is on 4/6, and should have no trouble earning that title as well. (I was planning to show a nice win by Kethro over IM Anthony Ker, but the game, result, and possibly the names don't seem to line up).
In the Women's Zonal Alana Chibnall is in 2nd on 4.5/6 (WCM title if she wants it), but having played 3 of the top 4 seeds, is hoping for a top 3 finish at least.
Tournament results from the Open are here, and there is a link to the Women's Zonal there as well.

Monday, 16 January 2017

4NCL Weekend - Part 2

The second day of the 4NCL went pretty much the same as the first for me, in that a played the opening poorly, tried to survive, and eventually lost. Harry Press at least proved one family member can still play chess, finishing the weekend with a nice win, while the White Rose 1 team won their match on the top section.
Of course while events like this work in the UK (and Europe), sadly the issue of distance prevents this from working the same way in Australia. I'd guess that at least 30 million people live within 3 hours of the venue, which makes finding teams a lot easier. Also the sheer number of players rated above 2000 who took part (at least 80% of the 250 players) makes the event competitive all the way through. I suspect the only way an event like this might work in Australia is a one-shot event each year, held over a long weekend. But even then I couldn't see more than 60 players deciding to play.

Press,Harry - Burnett,Andrew [E15]
4NCL Northampton, 15.01.2017

Sunday, 15 January 2017

4NCL weekend - Northampton

The 4NCL is a significant part of the UK chess scene. It has become the premier teams event in this country (surpassing the county championships) and now runs over 4 divisions. In fact it is so large that divisions 3&4 are split into North and South zones.
I'm currently at the Div 1&2 weekend at Northampton. There 32 teams of 8 players playing here, with 16 teams in each division. The top teams range from almost all GM outfits, to a more mixed GM+IM+2200 outfits. The format is 1 round per day, with the Saturday evening given over to socialising. Most of the players are staying at the venue and when  I left the bar around 11pm the chess and conversation was still going strong.
I ended up on board 7 for the White Rose 2nd team, but let the team down with a fairly dismal game. We lost to 'Spirit of Atticus' 5.5-2.5 (+0=5-3) although Harry Press continues his torment of UK 2100's, picking up a draw after his opponent miscalculated a winning ending. Today doesn't get any easier, as we play Alba, a Scottish team that contains a number of former Scottish champions.
Apart from the Press's, there were a few other Australian players in attendance, including Murray Smith (a strong Australian player of the 1970's and 80's) who had been lured out of retirement for the weekend, and is now thinking of making a proper comeback.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tie-breaks. But which one?

By all reports the 2017 Australian Open was an excellently organised event, which was enjoyed by all who played. However it appears there was an issue at the end of the event that seems to have left a sour taste in the mouths of the organiser.
Although there are no playoffs for the Australian Open (often due to the quick departure of overseas players), and all players who finish first are considered joint winners, there is still a trophy that is awarded to the winner on tie-break. When publicising the tournament the organisers specified a tie-break and this was used to determine the winner of the trophy. Having then announced the winner and awarded the trophy the organisers were then told by the Australian Chess Federation that they used the wrong tie-break and the wrong player was given the trophy.
The organisers defended themselves that they had attempted to find the correct regulations (that had disappeared from the ACF website) but were unsuccessful in doing so. They also pointed out that there was an official ACF representative whose job was to check the tournament regulations, and he raised no objection to the proposed method.
Now while it may just seem to be an unfortunate breakdown in communication, this type of situation has occurred in events I have organised on behalf of the ACF at least twice before. An almost identical situation occurred in the 1995 Australian Juniors where attempts to get any information from the ACF about tie-break and playoff procedures were met with absolute silence. Consequently we did the same as the 2017 Aus Open organisers and used what we thought were valid and sensible tie-breaks, only to be told almost instantly the event finished that we had got it wrong.
Then in the 2007 Australian Open attempts to get information on how to implement regulations on player approvals were met with a confused response, although myself and Stephen Mugford were still subsequently sanctioned for not implementing these regulations correctly. (NB This is not just an ACF problem. FIDE are very good at insisting you follow every regulation they specify, while simply picking, choosing or even ignoring regulations they need to follow).
Unfortunately  what happened this year is the rule rather than the exception, and it does have further consequences. The ACT Chess Association has been asked by the ACF in recent years to organise national events on their behalf. And while we have a good track record of running good events in Canberra (O2C Doeberl Cup, the very successful 2015 Australian Junior etc) I (as ACTCA Vice-President) always strongly recommend against anything to do with the ACF, because of their record of failure in this area. So while good organisers are hard to find, the ACF really need to improve their own procedures, otherwise they will have no one left willing to organise anything in the future.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Street Chess in Yorkshire?

Given the weather in Leeds at the moment (snow is forecast), holding Street Chess in Yorkshire may see a few chess players coming down with exposure. But that is not to say that something similar isn't worth trying. The Wakentake Cafe in Leeds hosted a semi-casual Rapidplay this evening, which had a number of similarities to the Canberra version.
The event was a 14 player tournament with 5 rounds of G/10m. The top seed was probably around 2300 but otherwise it was a group of players who would have been similar in strength to the Street Chess regulars. Between rounds we had enough time to grab drinks (beer or soft drink were both popular), and the tournament host, Peter Mason, arranged for food to be laid on before we started.
The tournament it self was smoothly run by IM Richard Palliser. Although there were prizes, it was more about having fun than the final scores. But the players gave it a big thumbs up, so much so that they are now looking at holding more events at the venue.
As it was a rapid, I did get to wheel out some of my more dodgy openings. Probably my best win was in the following game where I got to play the Traxler. My opponent captured on f7 with the bishop but I was able to use the open f file to my advantage. A coupe of pieces had to be sacrificed along the way, but this led to the mate I was looking for.

Other,An - Press,Shaun [C57]
Wakentake Blitz, 12.01.2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Australian Open ends in 4 way tie

Australian FM Yi Liu finished of an excellent 2017 Australian Open by defeating Round 10 leader IM Temur Kuybokarov (UZE) to join him in first place. This result also allowed IM Kanan Izzat (AZE) and GM Max Illingworth to also finish in equal first on 8.5/11. For Liu, a former Australian Junior Champion, this was not only his best career result so far, but also earned him an IM norm.
Kuybokarov had lead for most of the event after starting with 5 wins, but was unable to defend a rook and pawn ending a pawn down against Liu.
Max Illingworth had a welcome return to form, beating fellow GM Moulthun Ly in the final game. Both players showed signs of nerves towards the end, but one final mistake by Ly allowed Illingworth's attack to break through.
Of the players from the nations capital, IM Andrew Brown finished on 8/11 (beating IM Stephen Solomon in the final round), IM Junta Ikeda on 7.5, Michael Kethro 6.5, Dillon Hathiramani 6 and Albert Winkelman 6.
The Minor (Under 1600) event was won by Oliver McCarthy with a very impressive 10.5/11.

Illingworth,Max - Ly,Moulthun [A92]
2017 Australian Open, 12.01.2017

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Visiting the local

Another significant between UK chess and Australian chess is at the club level. League chess is still a big thing here, and in Yorkshire, some clubs exist only to play league chess. In Australia inter-club (as it is called) is much rarer, and only happens in the very big cities (and does not happen in Canberra at all).
It was at one of these clubs, Ilkely, that I visited tonight. The 1st team was playing a league match, while the seconds were playing away at Bradford. Fortunately there were a few other member sin attendance, so I had the pleasure of playing some friendly rapid (3 wins and a loss if you must know). In the meantime the home team was trying to save the match as they were 1 down with 1 to play.
But I didn't see the end of the match, because I partook in another English chess tradition. I headed of to the pub for a pint or two, only catching up with various results as other players wandered in. A perfect civilised way to spend the evening.