Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Grading of my 2009 Predictions

At the beginning of 2009 I made several chess predictions based on my own psychic insights into the chess world 

1.  Anand will retain his World title throughout the year.  Amazingly I was correct.  The fact that he did not have to defend last year made this prediction rather easy.

2. Magnus Carlsen will be the highest rated player in the world by the end of the year.  This prediction was much riskier as young players tend to progress in steps and you never can tell when they are ready to make that next step.  Magnus stepped up in his last few tournaments to surpass everyone.  His training partner may have had something to do with it.

3. Topolov will beat Kamsky in the Challenger match.  Correct again. 

4. Ivanchuk will win the Canadian Open (I don't even know if he's playing).  He did not play and therefore did not win.  I'm sure if he did play he would have so I don't consider this prediction incorrect.

5. Kevin Spraggett will end the year once again as Canada's highest rated player. I hope he plays in the Canadian Open.  Anton Kovalyov is now 7 points ahead of Spaggett but since he does not want to be considered Canadian, then I am right once again.

6. The CFC will lose money again this year, but only a small amount compared to the USCF. I am unsure how the CFC did finacially this year and haven't been interested enough to bother to look at any statements so I mark this as "not sure".

7. Robert Sasata will finally lose a rated game. Looks like he hasn't lost in two years.  Robert played only 3 rated games this year but lost to Nicholas Moloney in one.

8. Eric Hansen will be an IM by the end of the year and will be Alberta champion again, if he enters.  Eric did win the Alberta championship but failed to pick up his final IM norm at the Edmonton International.  Eric is definitly an IM calibre now so I will call this mostly correct. 

9. Keith MacKinnon will win the Saskatchewan Open.  Another correct prediction as Keith won over a good field.  Keith is another young player that seems to have made another step up in his last two tournaments.

10. I will finally beat someone higher rated than me. Wrong.  I should have won a game against Jamin at the Sask Open in Jan, but alas, I kind of chickened out into a draw.  In the second half of the year I believe my quality of play dropped off quite a bit and I didn't really have many winning chances.
8.5/10.  Not bad.  I will make predictions for 2010 and post them next week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Edmonton International and WBX tournament

The Edmonton International starts tonight and finishes Monday.  My prediction is that GM Josh Friedel will be the winner.  Top Albertan will be a toss up between IM Proper and Eric Hansen but I will go with Hansen.  I'll go out on a limb and pick young Keith MacKinnon to be the top Saskatchewan player. 

In conjunction with the international, the annual WBX (weekend before Christmas) team tournament will also occur.  I may as well pick a winner here to.  As there is no Sask teams this year (as far as I know) I will pick the Wang brothers team (if they are able to find a third).  If they don't get a team then my second choice is Vlad's Rekhson's team.

I may be able to take in some of the games on Sunday as I will to be in Edmonton for my daughter's swimming competition.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Southern Alberta Open Results

Just finished the tournament this afternoon. (I tried to post this yesterday but the hotels internet conection wasn’t working) Here are my results:

Round 1 - Black vs. Kim Nguyen (2082).
I played the Scandinavian w/ 2...Nf6. I think I could have equalized early with c5 but I made my Nc6 move immediately and then saw that c5 was probably best. I played the opening badly and then followed up by playing the rest of the game poorly. Kim was playing well throughout the weekend and ended up winning the tournament by beating Dale Haessel in the last round.

Round 2 - White vs. Mike Scholz (1431)
I was looking for blood and played the King's gambit and tried to make the game as complicated as possible. He offered me a draw several times and when I made it clear I wasn't going to take a draw, he resigned. Apparently he had somewhere else he had to go, but we hadn't even played 20 moves yet. I think when he resigned he might have been better, since I hadn't been able to create an effective attack for my pawn yet, but I was still looking for something to sac.

Round 3 - Black vs. Aaron Sequillion (1994)

I played the Scandinavian with Qd6. I chose this variation after talking over some openings with Roy Yearwood in-between rounds. I decided to castle long and try to storm his king. Once again I didn't play the opening very well and eventually lost a pawn and was most likely lost, but Aaron let me create some counterplay against his King but he managed to escape and wrap up the win. Aaron is much stronger now than when I played him last time two years ago (even if he has lost 100 points after gaining 300)

After the first day I was not very happy with my play. My opening play was bad and I just didn't feel sharp at all. I wasn't calculating very well and seemed to miss many of my opponents moves. I was choosing openings that I wanted to try out, but I didn't know them well enough to play them effectively or well enough to follow through with a middle game plan. I decided that on the final day I would scrap my plan to try out more new openings (like the 2.c3 Sicilian that Roy also suggested) and stick with the openings I played years ago and so that even if I didn't remember the moves I would at least have familiarity with the positions and be able to come up with a plan.

Round 4 - White vs. Hemant Persaud (1744)
Hemant is actually a fairly strong player who seems to me to have some bad habits that cause him to be underrated. He plays very fast and lets himself be distracted throughout the game. In this tournament I believe he was winning in 4 of his games but let 3 of them slip away. I played a closed Sicilian and once again I chose to castle long and storm the kingside in an all out win or lose attack. He managed to breakthrough first. I miscalculated my defence and then had to give up the exchange and trade my remaining major pieces and although I tried to create counterplay, I didn't have enough material left to be successful. Hemant also has another habit that was quite annoying during the game. He was constantly adjusting the pieces and half the time he did it, it was my turn. A couple of times I was deep in thought and he would come back from walking around and sit down and say "adjust" while wiggling three or four pieces. I was going to say something to him in the middle of the game, but I decided it wasn't intentional and instead started counting them. I estimated that he did it 20 times! I meant to bring it up after the game but I had to run out between rounds to eat and then forgot about it until now. If your reading this Hament you need to stop this habit.


Round 5 - White vs. Chris White (1768)

He played the French Defence and exchanged on e4. I sacked my Knight on f7 for two pawns and then I traded my Rook and Bishop for his Queen. This lead to his King being in the center and I was able to use my remaining Bishop, Rook, and Queen effectively to wrap up the win. This was my most enjoyable game, mainly because I was chasing his King around.


Overall not the result I wanted, but probably what I deserved considering I did no preparation. It's curious that three of my opponents brought up the fact that I play very aggressively. They say your style of chess should match your personality, but mine seems to be the opposite, since I am generally pragmatically cautious. Maybe I need to look at adjusting my perspective during tournament games or maybe I just wasn't taking this tournament very seriously.
Update. I've posted my games now. The last game was fun and so I ended on a good note.  I went back to the Calgary chess club again on Tuesday night and participated in their speed chess tounament. Even though I'm not a great speed chess player, I managed to share the under 1700 prize with 2 others (Tony and ??).  I was shut out by Martin Robichaud and an unknown Graham ??, who showed up late and then won 7/8.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Southern Alberta Open

Well, I have booked my flights and hotel and I have registrared for the Soutern Alberta Open this weekend. I am combining this tourney with a business trip I have planned, otherwise I would not be playing. The preregistrared list is still less than 20 and there are not that may strong players yet, but still, I will probably end up in the bottom half and be paired up to one of the top boards in round one.

I do feel alittle guilty about playing in the tournament because I now found out my son has a hockey tournament on Saturday. I could skip the chess tournament and drive to Calgary for business but that would be twelve hours of driving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Youth Tournament

The world Junior Turnament has started in Turkey. I've added David Zhang's website to my blog list as he plans to update it regularily from Turkey. I was thinking of having a poll as to which Canadian will do best, but I figure there would only be about four votes anyway, so I'll just give my prediction. I think Richard Wang will have the best result in the under 12 division, followed by Eric Hansen in the under 18 division.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why I Might actually play in a Tournament

I haven't posted much lately because there has been nothing new going on in my life regarding chess but that might change. It looks like I might be able to play in the Southern Alberta Open this month. I guess I need to dust off the old chess board and study an opening or two. To any future opponent wondering which openings I am studying, let me just say it's the Hammerslong as black and white - I swear.

The only reason I am contemplating playing is because I can combine it with a business trip. If not I would not consider it.

In other current chess events (concerning people who might actually read this blog):

Keith MacKinnon won the Edm International Qualifier last weekend and will be playing GM's and IM's in Dec. It will be tough but should be a good learning experience for him.

Eric Hansen and Kevin Me are going to the World Youth Championship. Good Luck!

Aaron Sequillion. It's hard to understand Aaron's results. When I played him a couple of years ago he was under 1800 and I was able to beat him. After that he went on a tear and climbed over 2100 and looked like he was on his was to becoming a master but since then he's plummeted to back under 2000.???? I hear the best way to improve your rating is to play alot and I guess the easiest way to lose points is to play too much.

Rick Pederson has been going the other way. He was under 1854 and in less than a year has climbed to an all time high at 2126. I played him at the Sask Open when he was 1908. I could have won that game if I saw a simple tactic but missed it and went on to lose in the final round so he came second instead of me.

Robert Sasata. Hasn't played much lately. I thought he might play in the Canadian Open this year but he didn't. The Edm International still has one spot open. I'm sure he could give them some tough opposition.

Looks like Jamin Gluckie hasn't played much lately either and has even let his CFC membership expire.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why I'm not playing in the Alberta Open

It seems like all my posts now are excuses as to why I'm not playing in a tournament. The Alberta Open is the most prestigious swiss event every year. This year it is being held at the Edmonton Chess club and surprisingly it appears that there will be less than 40 participants. The last time I played in it was two years ago at the West Edmonton Mall Hotel. I brought the family with me and I enjoyed it very much. I was hoping to play again this year, but after bringing the family to the Canadian Open earlier this year I couldn’t justify the expense of another chess excursion. With a $40 entry fee, $100 for gas $250 for hotels, plus food the total cost would have been about $500 and with Christmas approaching I figured there would be a better use for that money. On the positive side at least I do have a desire to play unlike when I passed on the Med Hat Open.

From of the pre-registered players list, I will pick IM Ihor Nester 2375 to win. I have never seen him before but he has the highest FIDE rateing and the only IM in the event, so he should be the favourite. If Eric Hansen was playing I would have picked him but it appears he is skipping the tourney. My other prediction would be that the junior players will perform better than their ratings. That of course is not a big stretch since they always seem to be underrated.

Another junior player who is over performing is wonderkid Magnus Carlsen who just demolished the opposition at the Nanjing Spring Chess tournament. I had predicted that he would be the highest rated player before the end of the year but he appeared to be quiet for most of the summer. Then it was revealed that he had been training with none other than Kasparov! If Carlsen’s first tournament after the training is any indication then Kasparov is worth every penny of the millions he is being paid. After this event Carlsen will join the elite club of players who have broke the 2800 rating barrier and should be #2 behind Topalov.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I'm not playing in Medicine Hat this Weekend

All year I had plans of playing in the Medicine Hat Open. Last year when I went to this tournament I had a great time. The event is well run and very friendly, plus I have a close friend who lives in Med Hat who I rarely get to see. The tournament this year looks like their best and strongest ever. Having two GM's will always bring the strong players out of the woodwork. So why didn't I go?

Although I had intentions to play this weekend for some time, after playing in the Canadian Open my desire for chess has waned and it hasn't come back yet. August is also my busiest time at work with our annual budget preparations, and I haven't had any time for chess. Needless to say with no time and little desire I haven't played much and I certainly haven't studied anything. I don't think I'm in very good form at this moment and the few online speed games I have played seemed to indicate as much as I dropped 150 points in not many games.

Another thing that always has to be considered before going to a weekend tournament is family harmony. One time I made the mistake of going to a tournament when my wife thought I had better things to do that weekend. That is a mistake I don’t want to repeat. My wonderful wife is very understanding of my hobby, but sometimes she can't understand the attraction that chess players have to spending valuable time and money, crowding into small rooms for hours at a time, and putting themselves under enormous mental strain all for the chance to win a few measly rating points and maybe, if you’re lucky, sharing in a three way tie for a prize that will not cover your gas back home.

Right now, I'm not sure when I will play in a tournament again. The Alberta Open is always a good tourney but it’s on the thanksgiving weekend and I don’t think I want to leave my family at home then and I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a hotel.

My prediction for the Medicine Hat Open is a two way tie between Hansen and one of the GM’s

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chess 960

I have just played my first chess960 games on chesscube. I must say it was fun. I won a bunch in a row but then lost several to finish up the session. The random placement of the pieces was disconcerting at first but knowing my opponent was in the same prediciment made me feel somewhat better. It was somewhat like being driven blindfold to an unknown location and then trying to find your way home or at least finding your way to something that looks familiar. All the positions reached during the game were completely new and the mates were unique and somewhat amusing.

I haven't played much chess lately due to a very hectic work schedule. My company always does it's budget in August and it means long days and working weekends for much of the month. Another reason might have been chess burn-out. After playing in the Canadian Open I didn't have much interest for several weeks. I think the chess bug is coming back though, as I am now I thinking about events I might want to enter. The Medicine Hat Open looks very interesting and also The Alberta Open and WBX event are appealing.

My kids have recently shown interest in chess again, especially my daughter. On Monday we had to make a trip into Edmonton for an appointment and I put them in a half-day of the week long chess camp that is going on this week. I hope they continue to show interst.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canadian Open - Look Back

Well the Canadian Open has now been rated and, as I expected, I lost a bunch of points. I had estimated I would lose over 50 but it ended up being only 41. I guess I hadn’t accounted for participation points. You can click on this link to see the cross table. Several people had outstanding tournaments including co-winner IM Proper, Jonaton Tayer, etc. Several others (including myself) were disappointed with their results.

One of the complaints about the tournament that has come up lately was the complete lack of GM and IM Norm possibilities available at the tournament. This opportunity is a major attraction to higher rated players when they are considering whether to enter a tournament. Two decisions by the organizers affected the possibilities of norms being achieved: First the tournament was 9 rounds and not 10 rounds; and secondly they decided not to use accelerated pairings in the first two rounds. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these decisions.

Years ago the Open used to be ten or eleven rounds with two rounds on some days but it has been reduced to 9 rounds lately. The current organizers decided to stick to the 9 round format. With only one round per day it produces a more relaxed schedule and allows for more side activities such as simuls, lectures, blitz and bughouse tournaments.

Accelerated pairings ensure that the high rated players play against other high rated players more often and thus are more likely to have at least 7 opponents who are FIDE rated as is required for norms. They can though cause even more volatility in pairings for middle ranked players in the middle rounds. By not using accelerated pairing it gave more average players, like me, an opportunity to play against one of the star GM’s and IM’s. This might have been an incentive for some average players to sign up but I’m not sure if that small benefit made up for the loss of Norm seekers who were discouraged from participating.

My recommendation would be to go back to having a 10 round tournament and have two rounds on the second day of the tournament. This should allow norm and still give ‘patzers’ their moment of glory. On day two the rating differences are usually still great enough that the top GM shouldn’t have two much of a struggle knocking off their challengers. If future organizers insist on sticking to the 9 round format then I believe accelerated pairings must be used. Otherwise their will be a lot of strong players who might wonder if it is worth their while to play.

I’ve had some time now to reflect back on my play during the tournament and I see that I did play rather well for a good portion of most of the games. The only game where I feel I was completely outclassed was round 1 against IM Quan, and that is to be expected. In the other two games I lost against higher rated opponents I achieved a reasonable position but then missed tactical shots that destroyed my position. In my 6 games against lower rated opponents I always achieved superior positions but then in all but two of the games lost focus and let my advantage slip away. There were times when I became bored and seemed too lazy to bother calculating and assumed that if I just played logical moves that I would turn my advantage into a win. Right now I’m at a loss as to how I can fix this defect in my game.

I had three goals coming to Edmonton. One was to play many different openings and in fact I did play a different opening in every game. This may seem like a foolish goal to have, as one should probably focus on one or two core openings, but I don’t think this strategy hurt me during the tournament as I did not have any really bad opening positions. If I was doing better in the tournament I might not have followed this strategy as much but when I was having poor results I felt I had nothing to lose. My other two goals were to score at least 50% and to perform above 1900. I felt they were modest goals that were achievable but of course I did not come close to achieving either.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 9

The final round saw exciting battles on the top 7 boards to decide who would be the Canadian Open Champion.

1 GM Alexei Shirov (6.5) - GM Eugene Perelshteyn (6.5) (0.5 - 0.5)

2 IM Irina Krush (6.5) - GM Michael Adams (6.5) (0.5 - 0.5)

3 IM Edward Porper (6.5) - GM Surya Ganguly (6.5) (1 - 0)

4 FM Theo Hommeles (6.5) - GM Mark Bluvshtein (6.5) (0 - 1)

5 FM Jonathan Tayar (6.5) - GM Xue Zhao (6) (0.5 - 0.5)

6 FM John C Yoos (6) - FM Eric Hansen (6) (1 - 0)

7 Victor Plotkin (6)- GM Hua Ni (5.5) (0 - 1)

So in the end it is Canadian GM Bluvshtein and new Edmontonian IM Proper who are 2009 Canadian Open Champions!!!

I played former CFC Prez, and new Treasurer, Maurice Smith and my game included two bad mistakes by me. I played the Sicilian and blitzed out the first dozen moves rather quickly even though we varied from the main theory quite early. I could have won a pawn at this point but played the wrong move so we remained quite even. Then I gradually took control and had a dominating position when I made one of my worst blunders. I wasn’t even thinking about what he might be threatening and moved my king to f1 and allowed him to capture on f2 with a check and fork my bishop. It should have cost me the game but he couldn’t find a way to win. He gave up his bishop to try to get a mate with the two rooks but when that wasn’t possible he conceded a draw. If I was him I would have played on because he definitely could have won a pawn or two and then pressed for a win.

In the tournament as a whole, my performance was horrible (Rp=1718) and I should drop about 50 points based on my results. Two of my opponents were provisionally rated so the actual numbers might be slightly different. I will probably make an entry later in more detail later on my mistakes.

Overall the quality of the tournament was excellent and the organizers should be very proud. Everything went off without a hitch, or at least that’s how it seemed to an average player like me. The rounds started on time; the facility was excellent, and all the players behaved with sportsmanship. It has been over 20 years since I last participated in a Canadian Open and even though I didn’t perform well, I enjoyed myself, and might consider doing it again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 8

The four leaders with 6/7 points met on the top two boards today and the result was a draw on both boards.

1 GM Mark Bluvshtein - GM Alexei Shirov 0.5 - 0.5

2 GM Michael Adams - IM Edward Porper 0.5 - 0.5

That gave the ten players tied a half point back a chance to grab a share of the lead and each and every one of the games were decisive.

3 GM Hua Ni - FM Theo Hommeles 0 - 1
4 GM Surya Ganguly - IM Zhe Quan 1 - 0
5 IM Artiom Samsonkin - FM Jonathan Tayar 0 - 1
6 GM Eugene Perelshteyn - GM Anton Kovalyov 1 - 0
7 IM Dmitry Zilberstein - IM Irina Krush. 0 - 1

That leaves 9 players tied for the lead going into the last round! Should be interesting. Here are the pairings for tomorrow:

1 GM Alexei Shirov (6.5) - GM Eugene Perelshteyn (6.5)
2 IM Irina Krush (6.5) - GM Michael Adams (6.5)
3 IM Edward Porper (6.5) - GM Surya Ganguly (6.5)
4 FM Theo Hommeles (6.5) - GM Mark Bluvshtein (6.5)
5 FM Jonathan Tayar (6.5) - GM Xue Zhao (6)
6 FM John C Yoos (6) - FM Eric Hansen (6)
7 Victor Plotkin (6)- GM Hua Ni (5.5)

After my loss yesterday I dropped to board 67 and was paired against Kristof Amudson (1601). I wanted a win really badly so I played the Kings gambit. Neither of us played the opening very well but I emerged with an advantage and eventually won a pawn. I desperately tried to hang on to my extra pawn so that I could win in the endgame and in doing so put both my rooks in passive position and then put my king on a precarious square with mating threats all around. I could not find a way out and had to give up the exchange and soon after he won a couple of pawns and forced a trade of the remaining pieces. End result I lost. I'm going to lose quite a few points this week.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 7

Another quick game today but unlike yesterday this one was not in my favour. My opponent was Brad Willis (2072). I prepared all day to play the Sicilian but he opened with 1.d4. I didn't play the opening very well and had to give my self doubled isolated 'e' pawns but my position still looked very drawable. We reached a critical point but I didn't give it the time it deserved, plus I completely miscalculated a fairly simple position. I probably could have saved the game if I gave up my N for two passed pawns but instead I saved my N but gave him 3 passed pawns that were unstoppable. Right now I have no idea what I was thinking for those several moves and I'm very disappointed in my play. My performance during the whole tournament has been less than I hoped.

The top board tonight saw maybe the most important game so far. The French Defense of the sole leader, GM Ganguly, was demolished by Shirov.

GM Adams defeated GM Zhao to join Shirov at the lead.
Board 2 saw a draw between GM Ni and Kovalyov.

Canada's GM Bluvshtein defeated FM Panjwani and Alberta's IM Proper defeated GM Mikhalevski to also join the leaders at 6/7.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 6

The day was supposed to start with a trip to the Klondike Days Parade with the family but I slept in, and then with the traffic and parking problems plus not knowing my way around the city we never made it. I was not too disappointed as I hate standing around watching parades anyway, but I think I will have some making up to do. It was nice to finally have a good night of sleep.

Today I was paired with Philip Santelices (1629). I played 1.d4 and was pretty happy with the way the opening went. He traded his 'c' pawn for my 'd' pawn and then I was able to apply pressure down the 'd' file. After 14...b4 we reached the following position and I saw that if I traded of on b4 and then took the Night on f6 I could ignore the pin and play 17.Nd5! He played 17...BxQd2 and made the game easy for me but if he took the N with 17...exd5 I would have a very strong position and his pawns would be horrible.

Other games this evening include:

Alberta's IM Proper on board 1 vs. GM Shirov.

Sask's Keith MacKinnon on board 7 vs. GM Zhoa.

China's Ni vs. Canada's GM Bluvshtein.

My game ended early tonight so I don't know any results. Here is Cheif Arbitrator Vlad and Alberta's True "Road Warrior" Roy Yearwood. Notice Vlad is wearing his own jacket today.

Canadian Open - Day 5

It was a good day for young Canadian masters. First Fm Eric Hansen won the blitz championship beating out a couple of Grandmasters and IM's. This is not a complete surprise as I hear his online blitz rating is over 2700. I guess he is hoping for the triple play by winning the bughouse, blitz and regular tournament.

In the regular tournament two young Saskatchewan players scalped IM's today. Keith MacKinnon (2241) beat IM Mulyar (2440) and Kevin Me (2124) beat IM Piasetski (2404).

At the top boards there were more GM clashes and other exiting games.

One of the most exciting games was the 137 move marathon between FM Michael Langer and GM Xue Zhao. At one point Zhao borrowed the arbitrators jacket because she was shivering with the air conditioner on.

My game was disappointing. I was playing against Ken Frier. His rating is 1450 but it is only provisional and he did draw with a master in his second round. I played a lifeless opening and reached an equal middle game. At one point I had to choose between trading my bishop for his night into a dead drawn position or take some risks to try to create winning chances. I chose the later and he missed the proper refutation so I reached a winning position with a pawn up and a B vs. his N with pawns on both sides, but I couldn't find the winning plan. In the position below I played 51...Bg5 to protect the f pawn when I should have went after the knight with 51...Ka4. End result was a draw.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 4

Once again the day started out with a shopping excursion through the City Center Mall. The kids had to find a specific Playstation and Wii game but despite endless searching we were unable to find them. They were able to find something else to spend Daddy's money on. I stopped by the tournament room to check out the Bughouse event but was surprised by the low turnout. Some people were scared away but the $20 entry fee. I had no intention to play as I find this chess variant rather confusing. I believe Eric Hansen and Dale Hasseal won the event. Here is a pic of them warming up before the event.

Round 4

The first battle of GM's took place with Shirov vs Zhao (draw)

I thought Eric Hansen had a good position against GM Mikhalevski but he ended up losing.

I was paired up against a WIM, Alisa Melekhina (2315) in this round. I think I played my best game of the tournament up until I stopped calculating tactics near the end. I tried to book up on her but surprisingly I could find few games. She played 1...b6 so my prep was useless and so I tried to play basic opening moves, control the center, develop pieces, etc. I think I had the better position into the middle game. We reached a position with a closed center and she was trying to break through on the Queenside. I thought I could temporarily sac my 'a' pawn and give her doubled 'a' pawns and then later on win back at least one of her pawns. If I could grab the second I thought I would have winning chances. At this point we were getting close to the time control and I was relying more on positional analysis rather than calculating tactics and unfortunately I missed a nice tactical shot she had available. She gave up her 'a' pawn but when I took it she won an exchange and left me in a horrible position. Soon she forced the exchange of queens and won my knight. I enjoyed the game even though I lost.

Game to follow:

4 GM's and one FM remain perfect with 4/4 followed by a bunch of players at 3.5.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 3

I had a hard time going to sleep last night after my game, wondering how I let it slip away and to make matters worse today I realized that I wasn't in time trouble during the game like I thought. The time control is 40 moves/90min then another 30 min for the game with 30 sec increments. I thought it was game in 90 min with increments. If I realized that last night I would have not rushed my queen exchange and might of won instead of drawn.

Today for me started with swimming with the kids at McEwan Colledge and shopping at Kingsway Mall. After that I was able to take in GM Mark Bluvshtein's lecture on endgames. I really enjoyed it. The annual AGM of the CFC started today also but although I was curious what would happen I didn't take that in.

Some of the top boards

Shirov won over Piasetski but Pechenkin managed to draw Adams!

Hansen beat MacKinnon for the seventh straight time.

Kovalyov beat Haynes.

I played Zhonlin Huang, a young kid who played much better than his rating (1515) or age would indicate. I made a mistake when I tried to force something on move 32. I saw the correct reply right after I made my move, but luckily he did not, and I was able to win a pawn and then converted the bishop vs. knight endgame.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 2

The morning started with the simul against England's GM, Michael Adams (2699). I asked Jamin what he played just before the simul started and Jamin said Adams plays everything but mostly 1.e4. Sure enough as he went down the line making his first move it was mostly e4 with an occasional d4 of Nf3. I was hoping for e4 but got d4 instead. I thought about playing the same gambit I played yesterday against the IM but instead I decided to play something more reliable. Rybka says I was equal for the first 12 moves and then gradually he started to get an advantage. His advantage stayed within a pawn until I missed a good move on move 25. I thought I saw a good unexpected tactical reply where I would delay recapturing until after I played it and he immediately played the winning move which attacked my queen and won the piece. I played one more move and resigned on move 27. Overall he had 26 wins and 1 draw. Irina Krush played a simul at the same time and won all of her 12? games.

Round 2
My opponent was Howard Du from Nova Scotia. I couldn't prepare anything as I had no idea what he played so we visited some friends in the afternoon. When the round started he played 1...b6 and somehow we ended up in a Queens Indian Defense. I had to spend a lot of time in the opening but ended up winning a pawn and having a good attack down the open h file. Rybka says I had a 1.5 advantage but he had some counter play. With less than 15 min left I saw a way to force a trade of queens and I thought I could grind down a victory but it was a big mistake and suddenly I was losing. He won back his pawn and now his passed pawn was stronger than mine. We both had rooks but my bishop was bad vs. his good knight. I struggled for some time wondering if I could draw. He couldn't get too adventurous with his knight or my passed pawn would threaten to queen but I felt he was winning and he must have felt the same way as he refused my draw offer. He was trying to find a winning method when he allowed me to repeat the same position twice. I played another move hoping he would let me repeat again and sure enough he did. I claimed the draw but he was adamant that it was not repeated 3 times so we had to get the head arbitrator. Vlad came and replayed the game and stated it was a draw, but I still think Howard wasn't convinced. When I put it into Rybka it confirmed the 3 repetitions and it gave the position as equal 0.00 but it still looked dangerous to me. I have never had that experience before where I needed to have an arbitrator confirm a draw. It was a bit uncomfortable but I knew I was right.
Position after 54.g3

2009 Canadian Open 2.pgn

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Canadian Open - Day 1

I arrived at the Delta Hotel for the Canadian Open just in time to take in GM Shriov's Lecture. It was interesting but not very helpful in terms of learning something new.

Round 1
I was desperately hoping I would be paired with a GM for the first round and it looked like I had a good chance but when the last minute entries were added and the pairings were made I had dropped to board 15. Still, I got to play my highest rated opponent ever, IM Zhe Quan (2465).

The game was broadcast on the internet on the monroi site. Weeks ago I decided that I was going to play a gambit line in the 1st round if I had a high rated opponent. I figured I was going to lose anyway so I might as well have fun. I had several things planned as white but not so much as black. I had black and when he played d4 I went into the Budapest Gambit and played a line where I give up a pawn but he has double isolated c pawns. I wasn't able to get any play for my pawn and had to trade off pieces to prevent being mated. Eventually he pushed his passed pawn and won the game. Not a surprise but fun anyway.

2009 Canadian Open 1.pgn

Since I didn't get to play a GM today I signed up for the GM Adams simul tomorrow morning. Wish me luck I'll need it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009 Battle on the Border

My first impressions of the weekend. I will add more later including my games and some pictures I took.

The third annual Battle at the Border Tournament was held over this weekend. As usual I waited until the last minute before preparing, but when I tried to look at some of my previous games on Thursday, I discovered that my database had been corrupted and I lost all the games I played in the last 18 months. So my new plan was to try out in long games a couple of gambit lines I been playing online in speed games.

Round 1. My first game was against a very young and precocious kid from Saskatoon, Jason Xiou (1147). He played very well and I think I underestimated him a little. I played too aggressively at one point and was certainly worse until he made a blunder. He then blundered several more times and I won soon after.

Round 2. I took a bye so that I could host a birthday party for my wife. We had a great time. I boiled some lobster, my father-in-law made some traditional Philippino food and we drank and played majong til midnight.

Round 3. I was paired with another underrated junior again (Josh Timm) but when I got to the site in the morning I noticed there was an error in the pairings. When it was corrected my pairing was changed to R Shanker (1804) He passed on my gambit line and I reached a nice position and a pawn ahead but then I made some errors and ended up with tripled isolated pawns. I choose to play for activity in a double rook ending and managed to draw.

Round 4. Art Milne (1873). We reached a position that I think was favourable to me but very closed. I was looking to sacrifice to open up his king but never found the right time. We traded off several pieces and then he offered a draw. I was way behind on time so I accepted but I believe it was a draw anyway.

Andrew Boik won with a perfect 4/4. Roger Blum had a great tournament and came second with 3 points.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Preparation for Tournaments

Well I’ve booked my hotel in Edmonton for the Canadian Open next month, and I’m registered in the Battle at the Border in Lloydminster this month. Now the only thing left to do is a little bit of preparation. I had hoped that I would have started before now but as usual I just can’t seem to find the time.

The one thing that I know I need to study is openings, but I’ve been struggling with which method is the best for me. I have used opening books exclusively for many years but found they can be very dry.
Lately, I also have looked at several opening DVD’s. While waiting at the Edmonton chess club, while my kids have played in scholastic tournaments, I had a chance to preview several of the Roman’s Lab videos. I was less than impressed with GM Dzindzichashvili’s style and lack of enthusiasm displayed in the DVD’s. I have also had a chance to watch a couple of the Foxy DVD’s at the Calgary Chess club. These I found much more to my liking. The enjoyment of the presenter in the lines was unmistakeable and made me eager to try out the lines recommended. I “copied” down some of the info, but when I looked at some of the same lines with Rybka, let’s just say that I was disappointed with the quality of the analysis. Even so I did get something out of them and have played those lines in many online blitz games since.
The most time efficient method for me might be to go through the opening book in a chess program, concentrating on lines that might be encountered, then to play through some database games in those same lines. I don’t know how much time I will have to do that before I play.

Another poll is open dealing with the BATB tournament.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who Will Be Alberta's First Grandmaster

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not believe Alberta has ever produced a grandmaster. Walter Holowach may have been the strongest Alberta player relative to his contemporaries, having played in Olympiads, but that was before international titles were handed out so freely. He was a very accomplished individual in many area's including music and chess. A brief summary of his long life taken from the "Canadian Chess" website is below.

Walter Holowach (1909-2008)

  • Doctorate in violin/viola, Vienna Conservatory
  • Played first violin, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Long-time violinist Edmonton Symphony Orchestra; Concert Master 1957-8
  • Taught music, conducted; founded Empire Opera Company
  • Code breaker during World War Two
  • Manager, family business Expert Dyers and Cleaners Ltd.
  • Represented Canada at Olympiad 1939
  • Alberta Champion 5 years in a row without losing a game 1946-50
  • Sources: obituary; Contented Knights 1949-50

I have a couple of books from his chess library at home. Actually my kids won them as door prizes at a scholastic chess tournament after he had donated his collection to the Edmonton Chess Club. One of the books is kind of outdated but the other is a puzzle book so it will never go out of date.

So the question is: who will be the first Alberta Grandmaster. My first poll on this website deals with this topic and I've listed who I think has the best chance to acomplish this feat. My vote was for Eric as I think he has the best combination of skill, desire and drive, plus he has youth on his side and should continue to improve.

Please vote. If you have an opinion or you think I've missed sombody you can leave a comment here (negative comments will probably be deleted).

ps. Eric Hansen won as I expected followed by Richard Wang.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Can Chess be Fixed

Recently I was laid up for more than a week with flu symptoms. I don’t believe it was “swine flu” but then again I never went to get tested . I just stayed home from work and watched daytime TV while playing some very poor online speed chess. It’s amazing how quickly you can drop 150 points when you can’t think clearly.

I also had a chance to ruminate on another recent article at Chessbase regarding the problems facing classical chess and the changes that some people feel are needed to revitalize it. Here is a link to the article

In summary the problem are as follows:
1. Drawing Tendency: Chess is a drawish game when played by very good players.
2. Lack of Sponsorship: Chess does not attract the same level of sponsorship as many other professional sports do.
3. Computers and Cheating: Self explanatory
4. Opening Theory Too Advanced: Theory has perhaps advanced too much leaving less room for creativity than say 50 years ago. Many opening variations have been analyzed to death.
I would add a fifth problem. 5. White has an inherent advantage due to the first move.

Some of the proposed solutions are as follows:
Bigger Board and More Pieces: This was Capablanca's proposal, a fresh start. This is the most radical solution. The problem is, it is difficult to agree on the new rules..
Random Start Position: This was Fischer's proposal, which enjoyed a modest success. The problem is, not all starting positions offer the same chances to both players. Some gives white a huge advantage, some are too drawish.
Random First Moves: This is Dvoretsky's proposal, which has the same problems with Fischer's.
Sofia Rule: This is a modest change that forbids draws by agreement. It enjoyed some success, but it addresses only the problem of grandmaster draws.

My thoughts on these issues are as follows

1. I am not bothered as much as some others with the drawing percentage of chess. It has to be accepted that draws are a likely outcome of high level grandmaster chess. (which makes Fisher’s run through the candidates series to the world championship in 1972 even more remarkable). I also don’t have a huge problem with players agreeing to a draw. If a player thinks his best chance for a good result in a tournament is helped by a draw in a given game and he plays accordingly by choosing a safe but drawish opening line and his opponent feels the same way why should anybody force them to play in a way that may hurt their chances. My only concern would be if the game was prearranged or if both players were paid an appearance fee and then played a 8 move draw in front of spectators. In that case the Sofia rule seems like a modest rule change that helps reduce this problem.

2. The only way sponsorship in this country will improve dramatically is if another “Fisher” emerges from North America. Without that, I can only see chess attracting a much smaller funding base compared to other more traditionally “Canadian” activities. Maybe if chess was offered at all elementary schools it would have a chance to grow from the base up but that has been talked about for years and still I can’t see it happening any time soon.

3. Computer cheating never used to be a problem until just a few years ago when the chess programs became stronger than grandmasters and small enough to hide. Tournament directors will soon need to control entry and exit from the tournament hall. In the distant future, when I believe most humans have computer interfaces implanted in their brains I’m not sure how a TD would ensure they have been turned off.

4. Chess should be a game that promotes and rewards ingenuity and creativity but today’s ever-expanding depth and breadth of opening theory makes this harder and harder to produce at the board. At the grandmaster level, games sometimes go through thirty moves of theory before any new moves are played. In fact, at this point the whole middle game, where the most creative chess should be played, may have already passed. At the very top level nowadays all the novelties seem to have been produced by computers, or at least vetted by computers before being played in a tournament. Even at the club level, this abundance of opening theory means that average players must spend hours studying openings to be competitive. This discourages many casual chess players who don’t have the time for this study. In my opinion chess should not just be a memorization test followed by an endgame, but instead should be a creative struggle from start to finish.

May players including Fisher have come up with chess variants that try to solve one or more of these problems. My solution would be the following. The game would start with only the pawns on the board.

White’s first move would then be to place his king anywhere on the back rank. Black would follow placing his king anywhere he wanted. Then the Queens would be placed followed by the Bishops (one on light squares and one on dark squares), then the Rooks and finally the Nights. Black would then have the advantage of knowing the placement of his opponents pieces prior to placing his own pieces which would help offset the white first move advantage. I think my solution is very similar to “Transcendental chess” but some modification would be necessary to allow for a castling move. The advantage of my variant over others is that a traditional player could still set up his pieces in the classical arrangement and maybe his opponent would do likewise. Other players could become experts at their own designed set-ups.

I must say that I myself have never played any chess variant game (other than the one time 20 years ago when I tried Siamese chess, or is it called bughouse, but I found it too confusing). Maybe I will try out Fisher chess online and see how it goes.

I believe that someday there is going to have to be radical changes to chess laws but it has to come from the very top players and have FIDE support or it will never be accepted by the average chess player and general public.

The Calgary international is taking place this long weekend and my prediction is that Kovalyov will win and Hansen will get at least an IM norm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Meteorite Stuff

When I started this blog last year I had only planned to make entries about chess, mainly my own games but also other chess topics that might be of interest to local chess players. Over the course of time I only made a couple of exceptions. The first time was last November when I saw the sky light up when the meteor streaked across the sky above Lloydminster, and the second time was last Friday when I went on a meteorite search for pieces of that same meteor, and I guess this will be the third time.

Today I joined my second search party with the University of Calgary group. It was much busier today, mainly because it was a weekend. Last time I searched was on a Friday and there were only 5 of us trampling through the fields. Today Buzzard Coulee was teeming with activity. The U of C group itself had 15 searchers and other organized search groups, who had apparently made an agreement with a different land owner, were searching nearby. I also saw a couple of other searchers who looked like they were walking along the roadways or tracks. I’m not positive of the legalities, but it’s my understanding that: if it’s a public road, you can keep anything you find; if it’s a private road or property, it belongs to the land owner; if it’s train tracks I believe it belongs to the railroad company. I don’t think I would have searched with any other group than the U of C because a university institution has a level of status and a reputation for doing scientific research. They are not in it to make money.

Today I was only available to search in the morning because I had to be back in Lloyd in the afternoon for my son’s birthday party. The field chosen for us this morning was farther along the trajectory and as such was expected to produce fewer, but larger pieces. We split into two groups and proceeded to inspect every inch of the stubble field. Our determined efforts went completely unrewarded as both groups were unable to locate even one meteorite. I was a little disappointed as I headed back to town but I have another couple of days this month that I might be able to search so maybe next time will be better.

Later in the day my wife was telling me she was talking to a friend who asked her about our meteorite hunt. Initially she was confused about how this person knew we had gone searching, until they told her we were in today’s paper. Sure enough when we looked on the front page of the local paper there was a story about the meteorite search and my name and parts of my comments from last weeks blog were included. Here is a link to the web version of the paper.

While there was a comment after my previous blog from the reporter saying he was looking for my thoughts, comments and pictures, I hadn’t seen them right away because I was in Calgary this week for meetings. After seeing his comment, I hadn’t replied yet, mainly because the Wednesday deadline he had mentioned had already passed and partly because I was reluctant to be in the paper. I mistakenly assumed that before my name and thoughts were used somebody would contact me. It’s a lesson for me that what I put on the web is no longer in my control.

I am now feeling a higher level of responsibility when I write something and am even more reluctant to express opinions that might be misconstrued. But hey, I am not a journalist and shouldn’t be held to that level of accountability. I just write what I see from my own perspective and I don’t necessarily verify every fact. In the past I have deleted posts after having second thoughts and my wife and kids have requested that I not write anything about them without their consent.

So take what I write for what it is, a blog, and I hope I haven’t offended anybody I have mentioned in any of my previous posts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chess in Calgary - Not

I am in Calgary this week for meetings and planned on stopping by the chess club Tuesday night. Thay are in the middle of a team tournament but I was hoping I would be able to find somebody to play a few games. Plans sometimes get changed though and at 4:00 my co-workers and I decided that tonight would be a good time for "teambuiding". Teambuilding is just another word for going out for a few drinks. Needless to say by the time the teambuilding was complete it is too late and I am no longer in the mood or condition to play chess. I need some sleep.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meteorites Under Lloydminster

On Friday I had a chance to go search for meteorites just south of Lloydminster. Last November a large Meteor exploded over Lloydminster and lighted up the evening sky over all of western Canada. The University of Calgary, Department of Geology and Geophysics has been studying the event and has been organizing the search for pieces of the meteor. After a long break over the winter, they have just re-started their search efforts and were looking for volunteers. I eagerly signed up and surprisingly my wife also wanted to give it a try so on my Friday off, my wife and I travelled down to the Marsden area and spent the morning trudging though a farmer’s field looking at the ground for a rock that appears slightly out of place.

The method used is similar to CSI in that a line of searchers, separated by about four feet, walks back and forth looking straight down. When a suspected rock is spotted it is not touched, but tested with a magnet and tagged and bagged by the search leader. The two previous days had produced 15 and 31 meteorites but the field that was picked for search that day was a bit west of the main area and only one meteorite was found. Luckily I was the one who spotted the metallic rock.

The Geologist verified that it was indeed authentic and was also a nice sized meteorite. She estimated it to be over a hundred grams and worth over $3000! Unfortunately, we did not get to keep the rock as all rocks found belong to the land owner and University as per some agreement between them.

I enjoyed the experience as I have always been fascinated by astronomy and space. Now I can say that I found part of the large meteor I and many other saw on Nov 20, 2008. My wife did not have the same enthusiasm so we called it a day at lunch time - just as the team was about to move to a more promising search location.

All of the volunteers so far appear to have travelled large distances just to be part of the search. Two from Calgary, two from south of Saskatoon and two drove all the way from Ontario! For more info, or to volunteer you can go to the website set up by Dr Alan Hidebrand