Archive for March, 2017

Last Sunday I went to watch the RJ Shield Tournament at Mt.Waverley.  Some of my students were playing so it was a good opportunity for me to watch their games and see how they are progressing.

I came away very disappointed!  Juniors, it seems, don’t like thinking/analysing and often choose their moves simply based on the desire to threaten something.  Have they analysed their opponent’s possible replies?  Have they looked around for tactical ideas?  Probably not.

My observing got off to a bad start when I watched the round 2 game on board 2.  White played the Fried Liver attack which his opponent clearly didn’t know.  White had won a pawn and exposed the Black King but it was Black’s turn to move.  He chose 6 … Nd4 attacking the white queen on f3 and White quickly replied 7.Qf7#.  Oh well.  Next round I switched to board 1 in search of a better game.  Again I was soon disappointed.  By move 6 White had blundered a pawn and 3 moves later his opponent, the top seed, had blundered it back …. but of course White missed this 2 move tactic.

For round 4 I went back to board 2 as two of my students were playing each other.   By move 7 White had blundered a pawn and 4 moves later he blundered a second pawn.  Black now had a won game … two pawns ahead with no weaknesses in his position, so what did he do?  Did he complete his development and use his extra pawns to keep White’s pieces out?  Of course not.  He started making one-move threats which White easily got out of.  Then he allowed White to open up Black’s Kingside.  White blundered allowing a one move piece skewer … but of course Black didn’t notice.  Soon Black found that his N was trapped and he was a piece down with a totally lost game.  What a turn around!

There was one redeeming moment when I went back to board one where White finally produced a good game which he concluded with a nice tactic.   Let’s see if you can find it.  White to play and win.

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Archive for March, 2017

Like most keen chess players on the Labour Day long weekend I journeyed to Ballarat for the 51st Ballarat Begonia Open Chess Tournament.  GM Nigel Short was not there this year but the tournament still boasted 4 Grandmasters and 5 International Masters with my role being to supply the live commentary.

The event was very exciting with IM Ari Dale leading on 5.5/6 going into the final round followed by 5 players on 5 points.  Ari had to face IM James Morris as White in the final round and played solidly to keep the position level but slowly but surely James managed to create chances and he eventually ground out a win to join GM Zhou, IM Smirnov and IM Solomon in joint first place.  Each player received $1375.  Half a point behind on 5.5 points were GMs Illingworth, Ly and Johansen and IM Dale.  They got nothing!  The ratings prizes however were very generous.  One of my students happily pocketed $600 for his efforts.

The tournament started strangely.  I received a copy of the draw and noticed that listed to play GM Max Illingworth on board 3 was someone named Harrison Harrison rated 1750 FIDE.  I approached the arbiter and said surely this is a clerical error and the player should be Liam Harrison from Mildura.  “No, no” I was assured, “Harrison Harrison is a local Ballarat player …. they call him Harry.”  I went back to the top boards and started watching the top boards hoping to get some interesting games for my live broadcast.  Harrison’s game started strangely with him playing 1.Nc3 then 2.e3 then 3.Ne2 then rapidly got worse!  I rushed back to the arbiter and showed him the start of the game.  “This opening is the worst I have ever seen” I exclaimed …. “The guy is a beginner.  Can we check his ID or something as he can’t have a rating of 1750.”   We talked to Kevin Perrin, doyen of the Ballarat Chess Club, and he advised that Harrison was strong tactically but played weird openings …. he did well in their club events!   Here is the game for your interest.


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Despite this rocky start I did manage to find a number of interesting games to use in my live game commentary.  Ari chopping up Max Illingworth generated a lot of comments from the audience, however my favourite game is Smirnov v Puccini in the final round.  Anton played some very nice sacrifices to bring about checkmate a queen down.  Play through the game and see if you can guess Anton’s moves.
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Archive for March, 2017

“Searching for Bobby Cheng!”  No, it’s not the title of the latest chess movie.  It’s what I have been doing for the past few weeks.  Bobby decided to skip the Australian tournaments over the holidays and instead went to Europe in search of his grandmaster title.  A few weeks ago he was playing in a tournament in England, then he popped up at the Gibraltar Open … scoring OK results but no GM norm.  Last week I discovered that he was playing in the 9th Batavia Invitational tournament so I presumed that he was somewhere in Eastern Europe.  It turns out he is actually in Holland, playing at the Batavia Cafe, and Bobby was doing quite well.

After 4 rounds Bobby led the event with 4/4 and so needed only 2.5 points from his last 5 games to achieve a GM norm.   Alas, he came unstuck in the next 3 rounds scoring 2 losses and a draw but he bounced back in the penultimate round with a win against one of the lower players.  This left him needing to defeat GM Baron Tal, rated 2544, in the final round with the Black pieces to secure his norm.  I sat up all night watching the game, which fortunately started early, and Bobby’s opponent did not play solidly for a draw but instead attacked right from the start and gambited a pawn for attacking chances on the kingside.  It was a good sign when White thought for 34 minutes on move 10 and it was soon apparent that White had nothing for his pawn.  Indeed Bobby just developed logically, with better placed pieces and more options for pawn play, and after only 24 moves his opponent threw in the towel.

Even better, Bobby’s rival for top spot, the young Dutch player IM Van Foreest who Bobby had defeated in round 1, lost his final game so both players tied for top place on 6.5/9 with Bobby winning on count-back.  They both had secured a GM norm so would be very happy with the result.

For today’s puzzle let’s see if you can do as well as Bobby (or perhaps better!) in his crucial first round game against Van Foreest.  In the diagram below Bobby found a winning move …. but not the best move!   What move would you play?

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Bobby Cheng with his trophy for winning the 9th Batavia chess tournament.