Sunday, 29 December 2013

Roadtrip to Melbourne

My participation in the Australian Chess Championship was by no means a foregone conclusion a few months ago, in fact I was choosing between several other options, all involving the northern hemisphere. Frontrunner for a long time was India, while European tournaments featured strongly in my contemplations. Combining those ideas, with a possible stopover or two in Malaysia, was tempting and I spent many hours searching for appropriate flights. I came very close to booking one.

So why am I still in Australia? Many factors influenced my decision, like Fukushima radiation, but the beach and mango season were the deciding factors. The living is definitely "easy" in "Summertime" in Australia. Here are some pictures from my roadtrip down to Melbourne. 

My first stop was in Nambucca heads. My "sis" Kathy and her family have been holidaying here for many years and I know why now. After feeding me a great lunch Greg took me for a ride in their boat 
Kathleen + Greg 
The campsite is next to the lagoon

By crossing the lagoon one can park the boat on the other side and walk to the beach.

The beach facing north

Apparently the Terns come from Siberia!! 

After a nice cup of tea it was time to hit the road again and as luck would have it my Chess colleague Ben Ingram had just arrived at his farm near Port Macquarie. He has abandoned his promising chess career to become a cattle baron. I am not sure if he has perfected the art though. Here he is dusting his field. 

It is a very green and fertile part of Australia. The river is just behind the tree line.

Sheds and water-tanks are a must

The next morning Ben took me for a walk down to the river. As you can see from Ben's back, we had plenty of company. 

It was not easy to take photo's while swatting flies.

Free range cattle. Quite shy though.

After a 4 egg country breakfast, I hit the road again in the direction of Canberra.

I lived in the nations capital for a year or two as a teenager and spent a fair amount of that time living with my Uncle and Cousin. Good times, fond memories. 40 years later my cousin Ludwig "Digger" Misner is a Grand-dad! Here he is with the youngest of his four kids, Jasmin.

Digger + Jasmin
                                   Due to geographical and scheduling considerations we rarely get a chance to catch up Digger now has a thriving crane business and the children have all grown considerably. It had been nearly 5 years this time. Far too long.

After mutual promises not to let as much time pass before we meet again, as we had done last time, we parted company and I resumed the drive to Melbourne. Surprisingly the highway south of Canberra was nearly empty, in stark contrast to the Pacific highway between Brisbane and Sydney. The countryside changed radically from green pastures to rolling straw coloured plains.

One of the towns along the way is Australia's OK corral, where our famous bushman Ned Kelly met his end. Glenrowan is located just off the Hume highway a few hours north of Melbourne. Well worth a visit.

And finally, a Statue of the Rascal himself.

That's all for today folks, I am now in Seymour, a little country town an hour north of  Melbourne. The tournament starts on the second of January so there should be plenty of time before that for some sightseeing :-)

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Champions Advocate

Often one feels the pressure of history in the making pushing events towards their inevitable fate. Pundits trip over themselves to predict the anticipated result and give various reasons for their pick.

Few contests have been as anticipated as the current world championship contest between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. Magnus is without doubt the anointed one. New years day 2010 he became the highest rated player in the world having just turned 19 a month before and now the world waited for him to assume his rightful place on the chess throne.

Vishy was also a prodigy but grew up in the era of the two K's. Anatoly Karpov dominated chess like no other after claiming the title in 1975 when Fisher chickened out. Not until Garry Kasparov came along, a decade later, did he have any serious competition. These two legends battled each other for the crown in several nail biting matches until 1992 when Karpov lost the final of the Candidates to Nigel Short.

Nigel got butchered by Kasparov in an unofficial world title match while Fide gave the title back to Karpov via a match with Timman.

Enter Vishy. He got his first chance in 1995 against Kasparov. The match looked close to start with but after losing a game Garry put the foot down winning 4 out of the next 5, match over. Next chance was against Karpov in 1998 but even a Tolya well past his prime was too good.

He did become Fide world champion in 2000 but none of the K's was playing { now there were three, Kramnik }. Topalov meanwhile took the number one spot and won the 2005 WCh tournament in St Luis, Argentina. Vishy was second.

In 2007 he won the Mexico world championship tournament. A year later he defended his title convincingly against Vladimir Kramnik and has since defended it against Topalov in 2010 and Gelfand in 2012. This rather long history lesson is meant to show how hard the road has been for Vishy. He has never been more than the best amongst equals, never a class above the rest like Karpov, Kasparov or Carlsen.

So obviously I am predicting a Carlsen victory? No I am not! No doubt Magnus is the finest tournament player on the Planet today. His superb positional feel and relentless technique coupled with the energy of youth make him a formidable opponent. How many times has he won must win games in final rounds to clinch victory?

The world championship is another story. In 2004 he was the youngest player to qualify for a WCh tournament but was knocked out by Levon Aronian, the current number 2. Since then he has not competed in the cycle citing issues with the qualification system. Fide succumbed to the pressure, got rid of its ridiculous knock-out format and re-introduced the Candidates tournament format. This tournament was one of the most exciting ever and Magnus only just squeaked home on tiebreak after both he and Kramnik lost the last round. Not smooth :-)

So now the long awaited moment is upon us. The shining star against the old warrior whose best days seem to be behind him. The handsome, marketable (!!) young westerner coming to claim his crown from the aging world number eight rated nearly 100 points lower. We are all looking towards the new era of chess where sponsors flock to our game while the new champion elevates chess to the popularity not seen since Bobby Fisher took the title from Boris Spassky. Standing in the way is the World Champion.

The first two games have revealed a lot already. In game one Magnus was forced to grovel a draw with white in 16 moves. Vishy could have played on. Game two was also drawn by repetition this time in 25 moves. If Magnus's strategy was to tire Vishy out with long protracted positional struggles, it's not working so far.

So what is Vishy's game plan? I think it is to have Magnus step on one of his opening "land mines" like Kramnik did. He has them scattered around in many openings and it's just a matter of time until Magnus finds one. Until then he will annoy him with short draws. The further Magnus goes in trying to find an opening where he can just play, the more likely he is to step on one.

I predict that Anand will win this match. If Vishy wins one early Magnus will take more risks and then it will be a wipeout. Carlsen will learn from this match how important openings are in matches. If he qualifies a second time then he will win the title. But not this time. His opponent may not be as strong a chess-player but he is an incredible match-player and psychologist. Go Vishy :-)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Queensland Inter-schools Chess Final

After many years of coming second, Churchie finally won the Inter-schools and goes through to the final. As usual the competition was quite tense and was not clear until the final round. In the end Churchie cruised home with a two point margin. Full results here.

The Junior competition was just as hard fought with Robertson State School and Somerset college fighting it out for the title and a spot in the nationals. Robertson squeaked home by half a point.

Above Kevin Song faces his former student David Liu who now represents TSS. Kevin beat Leon Lee, board one of Robertson earlier in the event but lost this crucial game. Moral of the story, don't teach anyone how to play chess :-)

Jakob Chan, board one for Kings. They came third and are a team to watch out for in the future.
Pictured below is Jason Wang, collecting his gold for best performance on board two.

Earlier in the week Morningside state school had their first chess competition and it was a roaring success. Not only did the home team win but a lot of their fellow GLC learning schools turned up and had a great time by all reports.

I teach at Morningside once a week so was allowed to stand in the group photo.

Alex Rohweder, pictured below, is the highest rated player at MSS and his parents are instrumental in promoting chess at the school. Here they were busy in the tuck-shop feeding the ravenous hordes. 

Tyson Walker,the D.O.P, patiently explaining that since both sides have many legal moves it cannot be stalemate.  

More to come folks, I have just been a bit busy since my New Zealand "holiday" and in 75 minutes my next class starts... at Morningside :-)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

South Island Championship/Nelson Open 2013 Final report.

Just a quick report today, the Internet is painfully slow and some stupid automatic update stole most of my remaining data. 

The players below won some section prizes. The ceremony started early as some people had to get to the airport.

Quentin "bony chicken" Johnson, who won the upset prize by beating yours truly, got the South Island champions title as well. Deservedly I may add.

Puchen "Pooch" Wang took first prize with a picket fence 9/9.

Ok, so with the formalities out of the way we got to do some tourism. Here we are at the local brewery.

The Cafe was great inside. There was a selection of different ales all made on the premises. We started with a Three Berries Cider and moved to a Vanilla and Coconut Dark Ale. The first one was better.

While we were drinking a musician called something like "typhoon panda" was playing in the background. He was quite good. Perhaps he'll play in Mullumbimby one day. He would fit right in :-)

So then Pooch needed to catch a flight and I was the only one left interested in seeing the sights! Chess-players! Sometimes I am ashamed to be one of them. Tell me if I am exaggerating but is this not one of the most beautiful places on earth? Is resting, checking  your emails or analysing your games really the best thing to do on a sunny day in this area?

Mapua got settled by Europeans in the 1840's.

The pier has a long history, detailed on a noticeboard. Come and read it yourself.

There are several places to eat and/or drink. Tourism is the major industry here now.

We chose this place for some fish and chips. My recommendation, buy the fish and eat it raw or cook it yourself. New Zealand fish is the best...until New Zealanders batter and deep fry it.

Now a few words about my last round game before data runs out. Not much to say. Bruce was not on form this morning and gave me all his pieces. Maybe he also is not a morning person.

I'm back in OZ tomorrow, so I'll try to fix remaining issues and post some more pics if I take any nice ones. Thanks for following and a special thanks to former Kiwi Jonathan Sarfati for proofreading and informing me of errors :-)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

South Island Championship/Nelson Open Rounds 7+8

Today was a nice sunny day for a change. Nelson, I am told is the sunniest town in New Zealand but I guess they are getting all their rainfall this week. I went for a long walk to recover from my morning round but more about that later. This is the Maitai river. I always thought a Maitai was some sort of alcoholic beverage.

At the end of the river and the town lies a nice cove. It probably has a name too :-)

A nice statue, titled something like "dreaming about endless time"

A view back to town from the mouth of the Maitai.

Anzac park. We are back in town.

Ok, now to the horror story. My opponents 5th move, d5 is already a serious error that I have put away before. There are many ways to get a nice advantage. Probably just castles and Na6-c5 is the easiest. I knew that, had played it before but....

Trying to understand my pre-noon thought process is an exercise in futility. Instead I spent 3 moves chasing a weak pawn. If one of my students played like that I would give them a stern taking to. The game is worth playing through for the final combination. Quentin did polish me off nicely. 

I was still seething at my weakness by the time the next game rolled around. Out came the Doubleroo. It was now the afternoon and I was paying attention. White did not make any huge blunders, just small ones and blacks pieces just snuck in.

Later we went to a restaurant, waited an hour and a half for food and had a few drinks.

One more round and its over. Nine rounds in five days is not enjoyable for me. Fanatics only can stand that kind of pace. Anyway, only one round tomorrow and then back work :-)

Friday, 11 October 2013

South Island Championship/Nelson Open Rounds 5+6

Before we get to the games I would like to announce that Doubleroo is going to be presenting a new award. It will be called the "Wonderful Human Being" award for incredible kindness to me. Instead of useless tin medals, wine or chocolate will be presented.

The first winner is Kaye Duncan, co-owner of the Carmel Court Motel. Because of the tight schedule, long games and rainy weather I had trouble finding the time to do my washing. Kaye kindly offered to help. I put it in the machine before leaving and when I got back it was in our flat, all dry. Thanks Kaye, your wine is on its way :-)

So, on to the games. The match of the day was Steven Solomons game against Puchen Wang. It was a Gruenfeld where black snaffles the a2 pawn. White seemed to get all his pieces on perfect squares but black somehow managed to defend. Unfortunately the game is not available. I am curious what happened.

As for me, I played the other Rains brother, Edward. These boys have a lot of talent and great concentration but it seems they are not getting the training they need in Christchurch. I won a pawn in the opening and despite blundering it back white was always well on top. One funny moment occurred on move 26, where I had intended and nearly played Ra6, only noticing just before moving that Rb1 wins a rook instead of a pawn. That might have saved at least an hour!

So now it was time to again meet my "eternal opponent" as Kasparov once described Karpov. I was still smarting from the thrashing Steven gave me in Auckland and was eager for revenge. Be that as it may, I got nothing or slightly less from the opening but got a nice tactical shot in with 28.Bg4. The ending was played awfully by both sides according to my engine { Stockfish } and I agree completely. But we are mere humans playing our second game of the day with little time on the clock. I made the second last mistake. The last one was 48...Bd4. Bc3 draws easily.

So one more double round day to go. I am too old for this ****  :-(

Thursday, 10 October 2013

South Island Championship/Nelson Open Rounds 3+4

Today was the first sunny morning in Nelson so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures for you. The venue is directly across the road from our Motel, the Carmel Court, at the Hampden street school. This is the entrance,

then we walk a few minutes along this park

past a playground

and the entrance is just behind this tree.

The view from the outdoor analysis area. Planning this location cost Hilton Bennett his d pawn in the first round. It was worth it...for us :-)

The Arbiters throne.

Children's artwork decorates the walls.

A closer look

The kitchen and the aforementioned Hilton Bennett { left }

The players gather for the start of round three.

On to the games. I was not able to get the game re-player today because the site I use,  seems to be down today. I will edit this post when it is back up. Meanwhile, for the really keen follower I have pasted the pgn.

I got what I deserved in the morning for a half-hearted effort. I got a good position but spent hardly any time at the board, making a few superficial moves, in particular 15.Nc5. As Puchen pointed out, 15.e3 makes life unpleasant for black. Blacks extra pawn was not so great but I misplayed the ending badly culminating in 42.Rb7, forgetting that the knight covers the rook on a5.  

[Event "South Island Championship/Nelson Open 2013"]
[Site "Nelson"]
[Date "2013.10.10"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Wohl, Aleksandar"]
[Black "Wang, Puchen"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2364"]
[BlackElo "2436"]
[ECO "D30i"]
[EventDate "2013.10.09"]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.d4 Nc6 7.O-O Be7 8.
dxc5 Bxc5 9.a3 O-O 10.b4 Bb6 11.Nc3 Re8 12.Bb2 a6 13.Rc1 Ba7 14.Na4
Qe7 15.Nc5 a5 16.Nd4 axb4 17.axb4 Nxb4 18.Ncb3 Be6 19.Nb5 Bb6 20.Bxf6
Qxf6 21.Nc7 Bxc7 22.Rxc7 Bg4 23.Qd4 Qxd4 24.Nxd4 Nc6 25.e3 Re7 26.
Rxe7 Nxe7 27.Rb1 Rb8 28.Rb6 Bd7 29.f4 Kf8 30.Bf3 Ke8 31.e4 Nc8 32.Rb2
dxe4 33.Bxe4 Nd6 34.Bxh7 g6 35.h4 Bg4 36.Nc6 Ra8 37.Ne5 Be6 38.g4 Ke7
39.f5 gxf5 40.Bxf5 Bxf5 41.gxf5 Ra5 42.Rxb7+ Nxb7 0-1

 And again I get to take on f3 and am allowed to play 6....Nc6! Rick didn't want to suffer a backward d pawn so he just gave it to me, hoping to get counterplay for it. 15.g4 just makes a bad position hopeless. GM Rogozenko seems to have quite a following :-) To long time followers this must seem like another action replay.

[Event "South Island Championship/Nelson Open 2013"]
[Site "Nelson"]
[Date "2013.10.10"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Hothersall, Rick"]
[Black "Wohl, Aleksandar"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1947"]
[BlackElo "2364"]
[ECO "A10"]
[EventDate "2013.10.09"]

1.c4 b6 2.Nf3 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 Bxf3 5.exf3 c5 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.O-O Nge7
8.f4 Nf5 9.b3 Be7 10.Bb2 O-O 11.Ne2 Bf6 12.d4 Nfxd4 13.Nxd4 Bxd4 14.
Bxd4 cxd4 15.g4 Qh4 16.Kh1 f5 17.f3 Rad8 18.Qe2 Qe7 19.Rae1 Qd6 20.
Qd2 a5 21.Rg1 fxg4 22.Re4 gxf3 23.Bxf3 Rf6 24.Bd1 Rdf8 25.Bc2 d3 26.
Re3 Qxf4 27.Qxd3 Rg6 28.Rxg6 hxg6 29.Rg3 Qf1+ 30.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 31.Kg2
Ra1 32.Bxg6 Rxa2+ 33.Kh3 Rb2 34.Be8 Ne5 35.Re3 Kf8 36.Rxe5 Rxb3+ 0-1

Thanks to Jonathan Sarfati and Jeff MacWain for pointing out the error in the second game yesterday. I cannot correct it until is up again. As for Trevor Tao's suggestion that I was testing my audience, thanks for ascribing cleverness to my incompetence but the latter is and will usually be the case :-)

A demain mes amis :-)