Archive for March, 2016

If you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks you may have missed the big chess news that the 2016 Candidiates Tournament, to find a challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, has finished and Sergey Karjakin from Russia will be the challenger.

Karjakin vs Caruana

Karjakin vs Caruana

It was a very exciting tournament with former World Champion Vishy Anand at one stage looking like he may get through again but with one round to play youth had hit the lead with Caruana and Karjakin tied for first place with Karjakin holding the advantage on count-back.  Caruana, playing Black, had to win his last round game against his rival to advance to the title match and they reached the position below.

The position looks pretty even … if anything I would prefer to be Black because of his centre control and better control of the dark squares … but chess is a game of ideas and here Karjakin came up with a great idea.  It does not win the game but it does unbalance the game and give his opponent a chance to go wrong.  This is a skill that many players do not understand.  In a chess tournament you are not playing a computer, you are playing a human and humans make mistakes if given the chance.  Sometimes you can do this by just marking time in an even position and your opponent (thinking that he has to attack) does something, overreaches and you win.  Of course at Candidates level the players are perfectly capable of sitting tight, particularly if all they need is a draw, but like most champion chess players Karjakin is not afraid and backs himself with a very bold idea even though all he needs is a draw.

Let’s see if you can come up with the same plan.  I’ll give you some hints.  First look for weaknesses in your opponent’s position … like b4, d6 and h5.  Can you build up on these weaknesses?   Can you activate your pieces?  Can you give your opponent an unclear choice of a number of replies so that he may go wrong?  What did White play in the position below?

Archive for March, 2016

I’ve just returned from Ballarat where I watched the 50th Ballarat Begonia Open Chess Tournament … and what a fabulous event it was.  Over 140 players, led by British Grandmaster Nigel Short and most of Australia’s leading players, participated in the tournament including many juniors.  I had four students playing, one of whom got to play against his first grandmaster, and whilst they didn’t do especially well it was a fantastic learning experience for them.

A new feature of the tournament was the live games commentary supplied by grandmaster Ian Rogers who makes a living touring the world’s chess tournaments and supplying live commentary and reports for the various chess magazines.   When I was watching the games I spent most of my time in Ian’s audience and was able to join in the discussion about the games.  On one occasion Ian tried to ambush me as I was returning from the playing hall and about to take my seat in the audience Ian said “Ah, just the fellow …. Robert do you remember this position?”  I glanced at the board he was standing beside and it looked like a Philidor defence position after about 6 moves so I thought for a second and replied “Box Hill 1977” to which Ian could only reply “See it’s not true … he hasn’t lost his memory yet.”  The game Ian was referring to was his win against me in the Box Hill Jubilee Tournament and was a game that I shall not readily forget.
The absolute best part of the tournament though was on the last day after most games had finished and Nigel Short wandered into the lecture room and began, at Ian’s behest, to tell us about his game.  Three of my students were seated in the front row and were enthralled by the discussion and analysis.  Atlas’ father came up to me and said “we really should be leaving but Atlas refuses to be dragged away from the commentary”.  At one point Nigel said something about he didn’t want to play a concrete line against Max Illingworth but rather played a few nothing moves to give Max a better chance to go wrong.  My student turned around to me and gave me the thumbs up signal as this is exactly what we had discussed that morning when going through his games.  All-in-all it was a great experience for young players that will inspire them to keep working on their chess.
My role at the tournament was as Chairman of the committee that was to award the brilliancy prize (Short, Rogers and Jamieson) so I busily collected games and went through them.  There was however one little problem.  Most of the brilliant games were played by one N.Short!   Fortunately there was a nice game by Ari Dale v David Cannon in the last round to give Nigel some competition but in the end we decided to award the prize to the game Short v Izzat which decided first place in the tournament.  Perhaps it was not a brilliancy in the traditional sense but involved Short sacrificing the exchange for unclear compensation … sure he had nice pieces and more space but no obvious winning idea.  Ian thought that the manoeuvre Kh1 followed by Ng1 was brilliant and enabled Nigel to turn the game in his favour.  He concluded with a nice sacrifice on d5 to finalise his victory.   “It was my best game” he commented “and the one that I shall be publishing in my report on the tournament.”
Of the other players Kanan Izzat played well, including a win against GM-elect Max Illingworth.  For once Max’s 4 banana and 2 water bottle attack did not manage to distract his opponent.  Australian Champion Bobby Cheng started slowly with a draw against a low rated opponent but he won his following rounds and concluded with a draw against Zong Yuan Zhao, Australia’s highest ranked player.  Anton Smirnov lost twice to lower rated opponents whilst grandmaster Darryl Johansen had an forgettable tournament marked by a number of draws against far weaker opponents.
After the tournament Short went on to the Melbourne Chess Club on Wednesday evening and gave a lecture followed by a 30 board simul.   One of my student, little Gavyn, played in the simul and now proudly has a photo of himself and the grandmaster.
For today’s puzzle have a look at the position below which occurred in tournament which followed my weekly lesson at Gavyn’s school.  White has a problem with the pin on the “e” file which he didn’t satisfactorily resolve.   Can you do better?