Friday, 30 September 2016

I may not try this

The saga of finding an opening system against 1.d4 continues for me. Having tried the Dutch for the last 3 years, I've become less than satisfied, and for now am reflexively playing the Grunfeld again. Previously I've dabbled with various QGD systems, with mixed results, and this includes the Semi-Slav.
I did wheel it out at the 2008 Chess Olympiad, but a crushing defeat against South Korea did not help my confidence in it. And having seen the following game from the 2016 Tal Memorial, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to it.
To be fair, Gelfand was OK going into the middle game, so the opening isn't entirely to blame. However it did look as though Mamedyarov did have an easier time of it, and maybe this influenced Gelfand's risky play (Qxb2 and g5). With Mamedyarov's well posted pieces targeting an exposed king, Gelfand tried to find a way to defend, but the game ended far more quickly than Gelfand would have hoped when he decided on 1. ... d5

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2761) - Gelfand,Boris (2743) [D43]
10th Tal Mem 2016 Moscow RUS (3.5), 29.09.2016

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A strange strange headline

I kept seeing the following headline in my newsfeeds "Chess Grandmaster takes on 11 opponents, all at the same time in Jersey City". The story itself was listed under to section "Hobbies and Interests", placing it alongside stories such as "Go Topless Day Parade in NY", and "New Jersey woman stabbed man for refusing sex".
Clicking on the story, you will find the headline understates what was going on. The GM in question was Magnis Carlsen, playing a 30 minute clock simul against players who had won a "Play Chess with Magnus" competition.  Also in attendance was Fabiano Caruana, who was there as part of the celebrations for the US team winning the Chess Olympiad.
But as they say in the media, all news is local, so it wasn't important that they might be the best players in the world, what was important was they visited Jersey City.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Tal Memorial 2016

The first big post Olympiad event has just begun in Moscow, the 2016 Tal Memorial. This 10 player round robin is a little light on the top 10, but the assembled field are all rated above 2700, and the organisers have tried to invite exciting/attacking players.
Top seed is Vladimir Kramnik, and with Anand, Aronian and Mamedyarov in the field, it looks to be a hard fought event. Mamedyarov got his tournament off to a good start, winning the opening blitz event with 7.5/9, and getting to choose his seeding number.
The main event started a few hours ago (Canberra time) and while I'm watching it through chess24, the tournament website is here.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Week in Chesss

One of the great online chess resources "The Week in Chess" has just turned 22 years old. I used to subscribe to it when it came it as an email service, and it was a vitally important when Paul Dunn and I produced a weekly radio show on chess in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
It has always been a free service,  getting by on sponsorship and donations. Currently there is a donation drive going on, and it does have an added bonus. If you donate 30 pounds or more, Mark Crowther, (the man behind TWIC), will send you a copy of the entire TWIC database. The is contains around 1.9 million games from the last 22 years, and it is worth getting if you need to keep your reference databases up to date. Having made a recent donation I was delighted to get my hands on this file, which even included some of my efforts from various chess olympiads, including the following game, which was the first one I ever played at this level.

Press,Shaun - Bagheri,A (2409) [B16]
34th Olympiad Istanbul TUR (1), 28.10.2000

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Overs and Unders ( a continuing series)

It appears the Millionaire Chess tournament, which is being held in New Jersey USA in October may be the third and last of the series. A message from event organiser GM Maurice Ashley points to continuing financial losses as being the reason.
This of course raises the issues of how to make big money tournaments work in chess, without a big sponsor behind it. In the more successful examples, the organisers have generally done everything as cheaply as possible, and poured as much into the prize pool as possible, although this has been a bit hit and miss.
However chess players seem to have some expectation that an event will at least be comfortable, and having a good venue with plenty of other nice touches seems to be required (at least in Australia). But for this to happen, money needs to either be taken away from the prize pool, or entries increased, at which point players start to have second thoughts about playing.
This balancing act reminds me of an old software development comment. "On time, on budget, on spec. Pick any two". In this case it might be "Cheap entry, large prizes, quality event. Pick two".
So I sympathise with the organisers of Millionaire Chess, but without being able to provide any solutions to this problem. Hopefully future events of this type will either find the "sweet spot" to attract the right size field, or create an event that will be supported by sponsors. I have my fingers crossed.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Refactoring your openings

A lot of the players PNG faced at the Olympiad were a bit of an unknown quantity, which made opening preparation a little difficult. When I did have a large set of games for an opposing player, it was often because they were experienced 2300+ players, and opening prep would only go so far.
One game where it did work was Rupert Jones's game against Enrico Grassi from San Marino. It did help that the two players were of similar vintage and activity, and in fact had played in the 1986 Olympiad, when Jones was representing Botswana.
Oddly enough both played the Centre-Counter with black, so there was plenty of material to work with. In the end Rupert and I decided to go with an opening idea that had been used by another PNG player in the 2002 Olympiad. Alan Luga (also a past PNGCF President) was shown an attacking idea in the Centre-Counter by GM Ian Rogers (IIRC), where White plays Bc4, then d3. The idea is that the Black bishop usually ends up on f5 or g6, and after the normal d4, the c2 pawn is under threat. But with the pawn on d3, moves like Qe2 can be played with safety, and an attack on the kingside gets moving a little quicker.
We actually found the first 13 moves of the game on the morning of the round, but ran out of time to go that extra bit further. If we had we might have spotted that 14.Nxe6 is winning (14 ... fxe6 15.hxg5 followed by g6 is the main idea). Instead Rupert played the obvious recapture, but chaos ensured after Bxd3, with a queen versus wood middlegame where both players were not quite sure who was better.  In the end a 'tactical' draw was agreed, as this resulted in the match being drawn 2-2, and this seemed to come as a relief to both players.

Jones,Rupert (1851) - Grassi,Enrico (2049)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (8.2), 10.09.2016

Thursday, 22 September 2016

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender

Having been a somewhat poor captain at the Olympiad, I'm thinking about putting my rating where my mouth is, and start playing some more events. I've certainly got a number of events scheduled over December and January (London Chess Classic, 4NCL, Gibraltar), but before I do that I may need to get some local practice. There are a few weekenders I can play in, with the first being the following.

The 2016 Ryde-Eastwood Weekender is being held in Sydney on the weekend of the 1st,2nd and 3rd of October. It is a 7 round event played with the slightly weird time control of 60m+30s per move (This is to prevent clashes with the NRL Grand Final that is being held on Sunday). It is a single division event with $3200 in prizes. Further details (plus online entry form) can be found at the NSW Chess Association website.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Taking your second chances

IM Anton Smirnov is getting some notice around the world after is stellar performance at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He was featured in The Guardian chess column and a number of other chess writers are taking notice of what he achieved.
He played a number of brilliant games during the tournament, including the following one against Brazil. I was able to watch some of the end of the game from around move 35, but at the time wasn't sure if he had played a brilliancy or just a brilliant draw. Captaincy duties called me away before the end, and it was only afterwards that I learned that he had one, but that his opponent had missed the drawing resource at the end (37 ... Kh7 was the final mistake). But earlier than that, Smirnov himself had missed a stronger continuation when he played the Botvinnik-esque 29.Nh5+ instead of the more brutal 29.Rxb4. Of course chess is about taking your chances, and having missed one, he made sure he didn't miss the next one.

Smirnov,Anton (2482) - Barbosa,Evandro Amorim (2509) [D80]
42nd Olympiad 2016 Baku AZE (6.4), 08.09.2016

Monday, 19 September 2016

Blockchain and chess

Blockchain is a new idea which has the potential to radically change the world of online (and non online) business. It is essentially a distributed database that contains records secured from tampering or revision. It is the basis of a number of bitcoin type currencies and solves problems of forged, reversed, or double credit transfers.
As the technology matures there seems to be a number of uses that it can me integrated with. If you follow this link you will see that students in Berlin have built a chess game that uses the technology. As I am in a 'post-first, read-later' mood at the moment I'm not exactly sure what they are doing here, although at a guess, it is about transmitting moves in a non forge-able way.  At some point I will look at the source code to get a better idea of what is going on.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Kirsan to go - but not quite yet

Apart from the chess at the Olympiad, the other big games was politics. After the release of the FIDE financial report showing how much trouble FIDE is in, there were plenty of rumours floating about the Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was for the chop.
The juiciest claim was that there is a "sugar daddy" is the wings, willing to invest 10 million Euro's in FIDE, but only if Kirsan stood down. This did not happen at the Congress (a motion of no confidence was ruled out of order), so it will be interesting if the offer is around in 2018 (assuming the story is true).
From a more credible (and very high level 'inner circle' source) is the claim that Kirsan will not run in 2018 anyway. He has lost the confidence of the Continental President of America, Jorge Vega, and without this large block of votes he realises he has no chance of winning.
At this stage no replacment has been seriously suggested. A few names have been floated privately (Filatov, Vega or Sheik Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nehyan) but they have either said no, or haven't got an organised ticket behind them as yet.
Even if Kirsan goes it is likely at this stage the existing management team will simply hitch themselves to another figure head and hang on to power. The only possibility of effective change is if in the confusion the various continents and federations split into opposing camps, making the election more about policy, and less about patronage.

Know thy classics

The FIDE Trainers course in Baku was an interesting experience, especially it in seeing how top level trainers train the trainers. There was a lot of general advice about approaches to training, although I was amused when the advice from one instructor was contradicted by the approach of the next instructor. Examples included a suggestion that trainers shouldn't rely on their own games (as this is a little lazy), only for the next instructor to show us one of his own games. (NB It was still an informative and interesting lesson.). Or that a common mistake is to present examples that the trainer thinks are straightforward, but are really above the level of the student. This was then followed by the next instructor growing increasingly frustrated when we could not calculate our way to an tricky endgame fortress!
However there were a couple of things that all instructors agreed on. Firstly, all students should start with Open Games (1.e4 e5) as their first openings. And secondly, you must know the classics (as student and teacher).
I happily agree with both pieces of advice, and find the games of Joseph Blackburne suitable for use. Of course not all of games are considered classic, but they are usually straightforward and instructive. Here is one such very quick game, which can be useful in demonstrating how a big centre and an oddly placed knight on g6 can quickly turn into a winning attack for White.

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - De Vere,Cecil Valentine [C60]
BCA-02.Challenge Cup London, 1868 [Blackburne, JH]

Friday, 16 September 2016

Back from Baku

A good 36 hours of travelling now sees me back home in Canberra, after 3 weeks in UAE and Azerbaijan. The main purpose of the trip was to captain the PNG team at the 2016 Chess Olympiad, as well as attend the Asian Chess Federation Summit in Al Ain.
As a first time captain at the chess Olympiad I had an idea what was in store, but it turned out harder than I expected. Anyone who has followed the PNG team at past Olympiads knows that it has its own special quirks, which makes the captains job a little more involved. As a team we weren't helped by a 2nd round 4-0 walkover against Uganda, as that left us playing some very difficult teams for the first half of the tournament (which we all lost 4-0). However we had hoped to better in the second half, but 2 drawn matches and a single win was all we managed from the last 6 rounds.
The drawn match against San Marino may well have been the best we played, but for most of the other matches, it was a tale of missed opportunities. A lack of  competition did show, with a couple of points and half points tossed away in the 4th and 5th hours.
My overall impressions of the Olympiad weren't that great. While a lot of people I spoke to thought it was one of the better organised Olympiads, I felt the over zealous officiating took a lot of the fun out of the tournament. The social side was a bit hit and miss (at least for teams way out in the Qafqaz hotel), and so a slightly dull routine of prep - play - analyse - sleep was the usual way of things. However teams located in other hotels may have had a better time, as they were closer together along the water front.
Hopefully with the next Olympiad (in Batumi, Georgia) the organisers can find a better balance between security and enjoyment (especially given the complaints about the anti-cheating measures). Not sure if I will back up as team captain (or maybe as a player), although I will feel a little sad if I do not go.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 11

(Brief report)
With the USA and Ukraine winning their last round matches, the USA has won the 2016 Chess Olympiad on count back as both teams tied on 20 points. Russia finished out right third on 18.
Australia had one of its best results in the Swiss era, tying for 25th after beating The Philippines to score 14 points. Of the other Oceania countries New Zealand scored 10, Guam finished with 8, and Fiji, PNG and Palau all scored 6.
In the Women's event China won with 20 points. Australia won its last round match to finish on 11, with New Zealand 10, Fiji 6 and Guam 6.

(A longer report will appear in the next day or two, after my 2 day journey home is complete)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 10

The USA and Ukraine continue to lead the 2016 Chess Olympiad with one round to play. The USA holds a slight lead on tiebreak and play neighbours Canada in the last round. Ukraine play Slovenia so I suspect there will be eyes on both matches from each of the teams. Russia has fallen a further point back and are now on 16 points. They play Italy, and would hope to win that match to make sure of a podium finish.
Australia had a tough match against France in round 10, with David Smerdon playing world number 2, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The French team proved too strong, winning 3-1, but a draw by IM Anton Smirnov kept his undefeated Olympiad streak going. In the last round they play The Philippines, and as the higher seeded team will be looking for a match win and a potential top 20 placing.
New Zealand had a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss to the Dominican Republic, but a win by FM Scott Wastney keeps his chances of an IM norm alive, although he needs a win in the final match against Uganda
PNG scored their first match win (played) of the tournament, beating Swaziland 3-1. The match was notable for one of the quickest wins of this Olympiad, when Rupert Jones' opponent resigned after 6 minutes of play. He played a line that was made famous by Anand losing in 6 moves to Granda Zapata, but rather than just drop a piece his opponent chucked his queen instead. Stuart Fancy had a nice attacking win, while Helmut Marko found a nice tactic in the opening before converting his extra pawns into a win.
Fiji's 4-0 win over Palau in round 9 came back to bite them after they lost to Ethiopia by the same score (there seemed to be a lot of those back to back results this year). Guam did well to take 1.5 points of the higher seeded Brunei, while Palau got blanked for the second time in a row, by a justifiably pleased Bermuda team.
The wheels have come off the Australian women's team, losing to a much lower ranked Indonesia 1-3. The only bright spot was Jiang Nguyen's save on board 2. New Zealand have now moved ahead of Australia in the Women's Olympiad after a 3-1 win over the ICCD team. Guam moved to 6 points with a win over Ghana, while Fiji lost to the twitter trending Ugandan team 0.3-3.5

Jones,Rupert (1851) - Hlophe Smilo (1592)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (10.2), 12.09.2016

Monday, 12 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 9

With two rounds to play USA and Ukraine hold the lead in the 2016 Chess Olympiad. Both are on  16 points, with Russia in third place on 15. As all 3 teams have met each other, results against other opponents will determine who ultimately captures first place.
Australia had another good win, beating Kazakhstan 3-1. Anton Smirnov looks to have secured a 20 game GM norm with another win, taking his score to 7/8 (+6=2-0). This leaves the Australian team tied for 20th, and they play France in round 10.
New Zealand drew 2-2 with Luxembourg, but a loss by Scott Wastney has put a dent in his chances for an IM norm. Fiji scored an emphatic 4-0 over a fellow Oceania team, Palau, while Guam score a nice 3-1 win over Bermuda.
PNG drew 2-2 with Togo, but it was a match that got away. At one stage we were equal or better on the top 3 boards, and worse on board 4. However Stuart Fancy made a one move blunder to lose material, while boards 2&3 missed chances to gain decisive advantages. Then the Togo player on board 4 played the wrong move, giving Nigel Marko a chance to win material, but sadly he missed the right move order. After the smoke had cleared there were wins for PNG on 2&3, losses on 1&4 and a point for each team.
The Australian Women's team finished 2-2 with Tajikistan, which they might consider a little disappointing.  New Zealand were outplayed by Albania 3.5-0.5, Fiji had a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss to Guyana, and Guam lost 4-0 to Angola.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 8

The 2016 Olympiad is getting down to the business end, with 3 teams still tied for first on 14 points. The USA split their match with Russia 2-2, allowing India and The Ukraine to join them after both won their respective matches. Russia, Azerbaijan and Norway are in a tie for 4th on 13th, and each of these teams is hoping today's results go in their favour. And while a number of other teams are holding out faint hopes of a high placing, it looks like the defending champions China will not be one of them. The wheels seem to have come completely off the team, and they are back on 10 points, tied with a number of teams, including Australia.
Australia reached their 10 points with a good 3-1 win over ICCD. Anton Smirnov continues to be the star of the team, winning in round 7 and has now scored 6/7. New Zealand drew 2-2 with the similarly ranked Andorra, with a win by Scott Wastney over GM Oscar De La Riva Aguado keeping his IM norm chances alive.
PNG had some reason the celebrate after drawing 2-2 with perennial Olympiad opponents San Marino. Having lost on board 4, a win on board 1 left the match split at 1-1, at which both remaining PNG players were very quick to ask their captain (ie me)  if they could offer/accept draws. Having said yes to each request, the match  (and the boards) was drawn soon after.
Fiji also drew their match 2-2, with a tricky opponent in the shape of Malawi. Calvin Prasad saved the day for the team, with a board 1 win in the last game to finish. Palau lost to Guernsey 1-3, while Guam found it tough going against Hong Kong, losing all 4 games.
The Australian Women's team had a bad day out, losing 1.5-2.5 to a lower seeded Malaysia. WIM Emma Guo won her third game in a row, both losses on boards 1 and 3 resulted in a Malaysian win. New Zealand beat Botswana 3-1 to move back up the rankings, while Fiji had an emphatic 4-0 win over Swaziland. Guam picked up a point on the top board against Trinidad and Tobago but lost their other 3 games.

Rossini,Paul (1692) - Fancy,Stuart (1995)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (8.1), 10.09.2016

Saturday, 10 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 7

The strong run by the Australian team in the Open Olympiad has come to an end after losing 1-3 to the 7th seeded polish team. There were draws on boards 3&4, but Smerdon and Zhao were unable to hold disadvantageous rook endings, leading to a Polish victory. However the draw by Smirnov keeps him on track for a GM norm (worth 20 games), as he has scored 5/7 (undefeated), with a performance rating of over 2700.
New Zealand also went down 1-3, to rugby rivals South Africa. Despite the loss, they look to have another tricky pairing in round 8, against Andorra.
The chess world continues to pass Papua New Guinea by, after the team was hammered by Gambia 4-0. With 80% of the team making their Olympiad debut's at least 30 years ago, the ageing team is struggling to keep up. Guam had a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss to Somalia, while Fiji suffered at the hands of a much higher rated Syria, losing 4-0. Palau scored their second win of the tournament with a 3-1 win over back markers Congo, and have jumped ahead of a couple of other Oceania teams.
In another rugby themed clash, the Australian Women's team beat the New Zealand team 3.5-0.5. Heather Richards and Helen Milligan drew on the top board, with wins for Australia on the rest of the boards. Fiji lost to Palestine 1-3, while Guam got cleaned up by South Korea 4-0.

Friday, 9 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 6

Australia continues to impress at the 2016 Olympiad, with a 2.5-1.5 win over higher seeded Brazil. David Smerdon and Anton Smirnov scored wins, with Zong Yaun Zhao drawing his game. As a result of this win, the team faces the 7th seeded Poland in round 7. New Zealand hammered Hong Kong 4-0 to bring them up to 6 points, and next round sees them play South Africa in a fairly even match up.
PNG scored their first over the board point with a win by Helmut Marko in the match against Maldives, but the team still lost 1-3. Fiji had a narrow loss to Kuwait 1.5-2.5, Guam went down 4-0 to Honduras, and Palau lost to Ivory Coast 1.5-2.5
In the Women's Olympiad Australia had a 3-1 win over Trinidad & Tobago, while New Zealand scored a second 4-0 win in a row, this time over Qatar. Round 7 now sees both teams paired against each other, with the Australian's favoured on ratings.
Fiji got blanked by Honduras, and Guam scored a good 2-2 result with Nepal.

Abdul Rahaman,Ali - Marko,Helmut (1939)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (6.3), 08.09.2016

Thursday, 8 September 2016

2016 Olympiad - Rest Day

Unlike previous Olympiads, there is only a single rest day. This means the Bermuda Party is held a lot earlier than usual, and as a result players either have to decide whether the day is one of site seeing and exploration, or simply one of recovery.
However for some of us the choice was neither, as for the first time team captains needed to become qualified FIDE Trainers. This required the completion of the FIDE trainers course, which was mainly held on the rest day. The course consisted of 14 hours of instruction, followed by a fairly straightforward 45 minute exam, which some people completed in around 20.
Unfortunately spending a day inside a small room working rather than having an enjoyable day out is pretty typical for this Olympiad. Just when it looks like restrictions on various things is going to be loosened a new set of directives comes down. The no camera rule continues to rankle, and even people with media accreditation are being hassled by security, sometime quite physically. Pencils are still being confiscated (as are notebooks etc), although the restrictions are ultimately pointless as players and captains have found ways to simply get around them (by using different entrances, or only handing some items over). I've also spotted a few arbiters using mobile phones in the hall, and this seems to be allowed.
This means that my attempts at producing pictures, videos and other social media content for this Olympiad have fallen flat, as it has for a number of teams. Sadly this mainly effects the smaller teams, as while coverage of their exploits may be appreciated at home, it is less newsworthy here.
As for the actual standings, the large field still sees 3 teams with a perfect score. Netherlands, Ukraine and India have all scored 5 wins, with the Ukraine win over Russia particularly tasty. Tucked in behind are USA, Czech Republic and Georgia, ahead of a large number of teams on 8. The Women's Olympiad has Russia and Ukraine in the lead, and they meet today. Roumania and China play on the second board, with the home team of Azerbaijan the third team that is tied for third.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 5

The last round before the rest day saw some tricky (if not down right evil) pairings for Oceania teams. Having narrowly lost to Norway in the previous round, the Australian Open team faced Albania, which were not a weak team by any measure. Wins to Zhao and Ly, plus draws to Smerdon and Illingworth gave the team a very good 3-1 win, leaving them on 6 points and tied for 40th place.
New Zealand had another narrow loss 1.5-2.5 against Nicaragua, Guam continued to impress with a big win (3.5-0.5) over Aruba, and Fiji won against Haiti 2.5-1.5.
Papua New Guinea continued to feel the effects of their 4-0 walkover against Uganda, being paired with Kosovo in the 5th round. Once again heavily outrated, the team went down to another 4-0 defeat. Palau also suffered a heavy loss, managing only a single draw against Somalia.
The pairings bounce for the Australian Women's team stopped, but not in a good way. They copped another strong team for the second round in a row, and only Heather Richard's heroics salvaged a single half point against Colombia. The New Zealand team jumped ahead of them on tie break after blanking Fiji 4-0, while Guam emulated their Open team, with a 3-1 win over Swaziland.
Today is a rest day for the players (although still a working day for some), with the final run of 6 rounds starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 4

The highlight of the day for the Oceania teams was the Australia v Norway match. With World Champion Magnus Carlsen playing on board 1, it was going to be a real challenge for GM David Smerdon, but a challenge he accepted with relish. Sticking to his tried and true 2.c3 Sicilian, Smerdon seemed to make most of the running, and with his pieces aimed at Carlsen's kingside, forced a draw by repetition on move 26. There were 2 other draws in this match (to Ly and Smirnov), but a loss to Illingworth on board 4 decided the match in Norway's favour.
Papua New Guinea continued to suffer at the hands of the swiss pairing gods, this time playing Thailand. Top board Stuart Fancy rested after yesterdays loss to Belgium, but the outgunned team went down 0-4. New Zealand had a strong result, beating El Salvador 3.5-0.5, with IM Russell Dive finding a nice save in his game.
On the bottom board Palau score their first match win of the tournament, beating Gambia 2.5-1.5, while Fiji went down 3-1 the Afghanistan and Guam got blanked by Netherlands Antilles.
The Australian Women's team turned up sporting matching team tops (which were purchased at a random Baku clothing store), but still got hammered by 7th seed Poland 4-0. New Zealand had a narrow loss 1.5-2.5 to Puerto Rico, Fiji beat Kuwait 3-1, and Guam drew 2-2 with Barbados.
Today is the last round before the only rest day. PNG's pain continues with a match against Kosovo, while Australia has a tricky match against Albania.

Smerdon,David C (2531) - Carlsen,Magnus (2857)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (4.1), 05.09.2016

Monday, 5 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Day 3

The third round of the Olympiad is where teams start to find a level, and even smaller teams start to score some points. In some cases it is due to playing a team quite close in seeding, in other, a fighting performance from a team member or two.
Of course this does not always apply, as PNG realised when the round 3 pairings were published. Belgium was normally a team we would play in Round 1 (as in 2004) and we were heavily outrated on all boards. While the final result was 0-4 (as expected), FM Rupert Jones did put a good fight against his IM opponent. Fiji gained their first math point finishing 2-2 with Guyana. Guam had an even more impressive result, beating San Marino 2.5-1.5, to notch their first match win of the tournament. On the other hand Palau is still sitting at the bottom of the table, suffering their third 0-4 defeat in a row, this time to Hong Kong.
Australia had a big win over Barbados 3.5-0.5. Anton Smirnov scored his third win in a row, and as a result Australia now play Norway, with a Smerdon v Carlsen game a distinct possibility.New Zealand went down to a narrow defeat to Denmark 1.5-2.5, which was good effort against an all GM team that outrated them by around 200 points on every board.
In the Women's section Australia is still bouncing around in the draw, having gone 4-0, 0-4, and 4-0 (over Aruba) to start the event. The bounce continues in round 4 with a match against 7th seed Poland. The New Zealand Women's team scored a 2.5-1.5 win over Netherland Antilles, Fiji lost 1-3 to Trinidad and Tobago, while Guam scored 1.5 points against Chinese Taipei.

Jones,Rupert (1851) - Vandenbussche,Thibaut (2401)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (3.2), 04.09.2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 2

Or "How they sucked all the fun out of the tournament"
Round 2 saw the PNG go 4-0 up against Uganda after 15 minutes, which was a mixed blessing for us. The Uganda team was paired for round 2 (they weren't included for the first round), but just before the round it became apparent that they were not in Baku. However formalities needed to be observed so the PNG players sat down at the board, started the clocks and waited the required forfeit time. After 15 minutes the scoresheets were signed and spent the rest of the afternoon observing the other boards.
The small Oceania teams (Fiji, Guam, Palau) all continue to find it tough going, all getting blanked by their higher rated opponents. This fate also befell the New Zealand team (at the hands of Kazakhstan), while Anton Smirnov's win over GM Ante Brkic picked up Australia's only point against Croatia.
In terms of the overall event, this is shaping up as one of the least fun Olympiads I have been to. Apart from the "no watches, personal cameras, notebook and pencil" rule, players are (as usual) being chased out of the hall once their games have finished. There is no area to socialise after the games either, as the venue seems to lack a coffee shop, bar or even merchandising area (ie no chess books or equipment). You catch the bus to the venue, play chess, and then catch the bus back to the hotel, with nothing else to do. And as the venue is quite a way from the various shopping districts it is no practical to find a local coffee shop or bar to gather at (at least for teams staying at the QafQaz hotel)
Round 3 sees PNG play Belgium all the way up on Board 46, which is a pairing that also occurred in Round 1 of the 2004 Olympiad. IIRC we did get 0-4 in that match, so we can only improve (or tread water) this time.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

2016 Chess Olympiad - Round 1

The 2016 Chess Olympiad got off to a mixed start,  both organisationally and competitively.  Unlike previous Olympiads the players had less difficulty getting to the playing hall, as the 40 minute queues caused by security checks seemed to have been eliminated. That's not to say there wasn't security, as upon entry I had my camera, notebook and even my pencil placed in storage until the finish of the round.
The start was delayed by 15 mins due to a late arrival of a bus, but again, this is a quicker start than some Olympiads I have been to.
I was making my debut as team captain for Papua New Guinea and we were paired against Azerbaijan 3, which was a junior team from the host country. As is normally the case in round 1 we went down 4-0, but we were handicapped by the fact that our opponents turned up. In our section of the tournament, 8 of the 12 matches ended in 4-0 walkovers due to the non appearance of one of the teams. This included New Zealand who's opponents Djibouti had a coach (Gurevich) but no players. At this stage it seems like there are at least 14 teams missing from the final entry list, but even then they are including teams who are due to arrive today, so that number may change.
Keeping up with New Zealand, the Australian team also won 4-0, although they did it my beating a physically present Oman. Otherwise that were the only points scored by Oceania teams, with Palau, PNG, Fiji and Guam all getting blanked.
In the Women's Olympiad Australia started with a 4-0 win over Chinese Taipei, but NZ, Fiji, and Guam all went down 4-0.

Friday, 2 September 2016

2016 Olympiad - 1 hour to kick off

The 2016 Chess Olympiad starts in a little over an hour. The PNG team has been paired with Azerbaijan 3 which looks like an Azerbaijan youth team (the hosts normally have 3 teams). All 2300 ish FM's and with the host country looking on, probably a very tough match for us.
The PNG Team is on board 73, while the Australian Open team is on board 44 against Oman, with the Women's team on Board 53 against Chinese Taipei.

Captains Revolt

Captains meetings at the Chess Olympiad are often a long drawn out affair, held after the opening ceremony and finishing well after the players have returned to their hotels. The first part is taken up by registering teams and board orders, followed by announcements about the rules, and any questions concerning the tournament.
There is normally one rule or regulation that arises at each Olympiad which causes a degree of consternation and this year it was the "miss, miss, may I use the toilet" rule. Players are now required to ask the arbiters permission to use the restroom. It was immediately challenged and a justification was requested. The initial argument  was that it was justified under the anti-cheating regulations, although the reasoning was somewhat lacking in rigour.
The next attempt to explain it involved claiming that it was simply enforcing the rule about players leaving the playing area, although the Laws of Chess only require this if the player is on the move (or wishes to exit the playing venue, which the toilets are considered part of). Having failed to quiet the dissension on the room, there was a claim that this had been requested by some players, although when challenged, Geoffrey Borg (who was representing FIDE at this point), declined to name any such players. He then claimed it was a request of 'some federations', and again was asked to name any federations, which he declined to do. At this point Margaret Murphy, team captain of the US Virgin Islands (and former chair of the FIDE Electoral Commission), took one for the team, stating  that the US Virgin Islands team was in favour of such a rule.
While this did not satisfy any of the other captains at the meeting, it was enough for FIDE to declare victory and move on to other matters.