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Alberta Over/Under 1800
The 2019 ACA sponsored Alberta Over/Under 1800 featured the standard two section format and, as usual, produced a good number of fighting games. Steve Sklenka kept the event running smoothly, while Dale Haessel produced the pairings and distributed the prizes. The winner of the Over 1800 section was FM Ian Findlay from Banff, Alberta. Tied for second were Edmonton's Ralph Arruebarrena and David Miller. FM Dale Haessel's lukewarm recent form continued as he unexpectedly lost a total of three games.
In the Under 1800 section Frank Knoll was the leader going into the last round. Unfortunately for Frank, he lost his last game to Jose Luis Bruna, the eventual winner. Frank's performance however was good enough for a share of second place with Arthur Milne, who has probably played more games than anyone else at the Calgary Chess Club. Plenty of complimentary refreshments and no major mishaps made the tournament a pleasant weekend event!
Diary of a Woodpusher
I have decided to change my approach to chess studies a bit. An experiment if you will. To put it bluntly, and kindly, in the past my efforts were rather scattered. I would look at a little of this and a little of that, but bouncing from idea to idea does not allow the targeted concepts to take root. Which, perhaps, has resulted in the broken expert player you see before you today!
And so I am resetting the table. Instead of flitting from topic to topic, it is time to immerse myself in one aspect of the game for a prolonged period of time and really understand the concept in full. The topic in question is pawn structures.
I have confessed before to having holes in my chess education and, frankly, the biggest gaps involve my understanding of pawn structures. The whole game revolves around whatever skeleton of pawns we dangle out there, and the more familiar you are with them the better.
Instead of flitting from topic to topic, it is time to immerse myself in one aspect of the game for a prolonged period of time and really understand the concept in full.
Some well known formations, like the Carlsbad for example, I actually understand really well. I know the basic plans and ideas and can generally find my way. Other structures are a complete mystery, or at the very least leave me struggling as to discovering the most promising plans both players should follow. With some patience I believe I can close these gaps, become better aware of the typical middle game tactical shots associated with them, and even learn how to keep pressing for a win in the endgame.
Of course Black could have played better, but that's not really the point. The game well illustrates what happens when you do not have that d5 push as well covered as you thought.
My library of chess materials contains a treasure trove of seemingly useful material to assist me in that quest for knowledge. Among them are no less than seven ChessBase DVDs on pawn structures, including an excellent series by Sam Collins and a separate volume on isolated queen pawn formations. In the more traditional dead tree format, located on the bookshelf behind me, I have the classic Pawn Power In Chess by Hans Kmoch, the rather slim The Power Of Pawns by Jorg Hickl, and Pawn Structure Chess by the ever prolific Andrew Soltis.
I am a great collector of books, and media in general, but a terrible consumer of them. If you also count two pawn structure guides I acquired at chessable.com then I currently own enough instructional material on our topic to last well past the end of this year and into the next! If nothing else, in the short term, I am being introduced to some remarkable games such as the following...
Of course Black could have played better, but that's not really the point. The game well illustrates what happens when you do not have that d5 push as well covered as you thought. It introduced the idea of a timely exchange on f6 to gain control of the d5 square, and a timely pawn advance to clear that same important square d5 for a minor piece just a few moves later. Among the structures I plan to examine are the Carlsbad, Caro Kann, French, Slav, Hedgehog, and a bazillion Sicilian formations. And I will be sure to share with you examples that leave an impression.
Effective study does not take place in a vacuum. You need to apply what you have learned, otherwise the concepts and plans do not take root. What I plan to do, as I work through this material, is to save the games in a special database and play training games against the computer. That way the newly acquired ideas are practiced without competitive risk at a tournament, and the extended exposure becomes more immersive than mere passive reading.
Effective study does not take place in a vacuum. You need to apply what you have learned, otherwise the concepts and plans do not take root.
Recently I was able to play several games against titled opposition. And while I did not exactly distinguish myself, lessons were learned from the three losses. The first was a fairly lifeless game against IM Justin Sarkar. Afterwards I found FMs Dale Haessel and Alex Yam examining an endgame option I rejected. Alex felt that perhaps White can grovel for some time, but Dale demonstrated one or two ways for my opponent to turn the screw.
The challenge I present to you here is: set the endgame position presented here up with a friend or on your computer, and play it out. Black to move. Most importantly, whatever you do, no peeking at engine evaluations please! The computer is a ferocious defender and will put up stiff resistance. However, practicing how to win positions like this against a strong engine puts you well on a path to a nice fat rating. Getting better at chess requires a little work!
Canadian Seniors Championship
The 2019 Canadian Seniors Championship took place August 2-5, in Kitchener Waterloo, at City Hall. Two sections of 50+ and 65+ were joined by a sectioned tournament going on at the same time.
Victor Plotkin took the 50+ section with a score of 6/7, while Ian Finlay won the 65+ section with 5.5/7. Both will represent Canada in Peru later this year at the World Seniors Championship. But before anyone congratulates yours truly, please note the slight difference in spelling between my name and that of Ian Finlay, who resides in Brampton, Ontario, and in fact won that 65+ section! I managed only to finish in a tie for second in the 50+ section, shared at 5.5/7 with IM David Cummings.
The tournament was very well run thanks to the great organizational efforts of Patrick McDonald and Hal Bond. The playing site was air conditioned, and located in a separate room with very good lighting.
But before anyone congratulates yours truly, please note the slight difference in spelling between my name and that of Ian Finlay, who resides in Brampton, Ontario, and in fact won that 65+ section!
After winning in 2018 with a perfect 7/7 I knew I had my work cut out for me, given this year's 4th seed ranking compared to 1st seed at last year's tournament. The event gets stronger every year, marking this year the strongest field in the history of the 50+ section.
I have briefly annotated my entire set of seven games, all replayable in the game board below. Probably the two most interesting games are those against Victor Plotkin and Michael Barron. There were lots of mistakes, and no one can accuse us of using illicit engine help!
Bobby Fischer Memorial
The second annual Bobby Fischer Memorial tournament concluded with a familiar FM Dale Haessel victory, scoring 4.5/5, which is in fact a perfect result considering he took a bye in order to compete at the Canadian Open in Regina! Second went to NM Kim Nguyen with a solid 4/5 performance, dropping his only game to Dale in the 4th round.
Top U1700 was a split between relative newcomer Roham Eslahpazir and unrated Nerio Sibulo. A great showing from these two with a 3/5 points tally each.
Our next weekly club event is the Eric Hansen Classic, which starts on 2019-08-13 and runs until 2019-09-10. Also close is this year's edition of the long-running Alberta Over/Under 1800, coming up on the weekend of 2019-08-17 to 2019-08-18. See Events for details and online registration!
Calgary International IM
The 12th edition of the Calgary International is underway, featuring this year a six player double Round Robin consisting of four Albertans and two foreign players. The highest rated in the field is Alberta's newest International Master Bitan Banerjee, who lives in Edmonton but represents India. The two visiting IMs are John Daniel Bryant and Justin Sarkar, both from the United States. Bryant in fact has three GM norms to his name, while Sarkar can count no less than four!
Games from the event can be viewed live on chess24.com and followchess.com, while the Calgary International Open side event takes place starting 2019-08-03. And finally, the Calgary International Blitz will happen on 2019-08-05 at 17:00. Expect tough opposition from the attending IMs! Visitors and spectators are welcome...
The hopeful norm seekers in the field include Alberta Open and recent Canadian U14 champion NM Ian Zhao, three time Alberta champion FM Dale Haessel, and current Alberta Closed champion NM Omid Malek. In the first round FM Haessel was able to hold IM Banerjee to a draw in a rook ending. IM Bryant conjured a rook and pawn endgame up material against IM Sarkar, while Zhao defeated Malek after breaking through with a queenless middlegame attack on the king.
IM John Bryant has a perfect start with 3/3, defeating second seed IM Justin Sarkar in the first round, followed by Omid Malek and Dale Haessel in rounds two and three, respectively. Calgary's top junior Ian Zhao went undefeated, and after comfortably drawing his third round game against IM Banerjee landed on an impressive 2.5/3. Omid Malek's speculative piece sacrifice was refuted with accurate play by IM Sarkar.
In an Alberta vs the IMs battle, our boys managed well with 1.5/3. FM Haessel held a draw against IM Sarkar, while Ian Zhao came out on top in the fight for first place against IM Bryant! Ian looks in top form with one round to go in the first leg of the event.
Ian Zhao kept up the momentum by defeating two IMs in the same day, thus proving that his strong early performance was no fluke! With the norm requirement set at 7/10, Ian's pace of 4.5/5 at the conclusion of the event's first half puts him on track for scoring that first IM norm. Great job, Ian!
Ian Zhao kept up the momentum by defeating two IMs in the same day, thus proving that his strong early performance was no fluke! With the norm requirement set at 7/10, Ian's pace of 4.5/5 at the conclusion of the event's first half puts him on track for scoring that first IM norm. Great job, Ian!
IM Bitan Banerjee is suffering a rough patch, and lost a long endgame to IM John Byrant. With 4/5 John still has a chance to catch up with the leader in the second half. Meanwhile, FM Haessel scored his first victory against a struggling Omid Malek today.
Newly minted FM Ian Zhao disposed of NM Omid Malek with characteristic precision. The other games in round six were extremely hard fought, lasting more than five hours in the event's longest session yet. At the end, IM Banerjee won over FM Haessel, while Sarkar was triumphant in a very important encounter over fellow IM Bryant.
Ian Zhao turned on God Mode today, crushing his opposition with ruthless efficiency and crowning yesterday's FM title with his first IM norm after scoring 6.5/7 in the event so far. Ian's dominating performance makes him the youngest FM in the province. With a 1.5 point lead over his nearest rival IM John Daniel Bryant, the juggernaut leading the field seems unlikely to topple in the remaining three rounds.
Just when it seemed that Ian could do no wrong, he suffered two consecutive defeats, leaving IM Bryant in the lead with 7/9! Sprinting out of the gate as Ian did, securing the FM title, followed at once by scoring an IM norm with three rounds still to play, can become a psychological burden. Mission already accomplished, with the finish line hardly in sight? What comes next, how to prepare and how to maintain that early momentum can be difficult questions to answer! Ian now faces the herculean task of regrouping by tommorrow morning in order to have any chance of winning the event.
After a slow start, IM Banerjee bounced back with two wins, and finds himself late in the event at 6/9 and in contention for top spot. Although clearly in trouble in both games, Bitan managed two spectacular swindles in objectively lost positions to take full points from his opponents. Finding such tricky resources time and again speaks to his class as an International Master.
Although clearly in trouble in both games, Bitan managed two spectacular swindles in objectively lost positions to take full points from his opponents. Finding such tricky resources time and again speaks to his class as an International Master.
Dale appears to suffer from IM Syndrome, where the lower rated player is intimidated by his opponent and plays at a level far below his competency. Despite reaching a very promising position against IM Sarkar, Dale let his opponent slip away with a draw by perpetual check. As former World Champion Emanuel Lasker quipped: "The hardest game to win is a won game!" The rest of us, to be sure, have all been there and done just that!
After much drama and adventure, young Ian Zhao finally landed in second place with 7/10 and a 2538 performance! Along the way he collected a FIDE FM title, and a first IM norm on his path towards the International Master title. A fantastic performance at any age, and one that we most heartily congratulate him for!
The final round left three players in contention for top spot, including of course Ian Zhao, as well as IMs John Daniel Bryant and Bitan Banerjee. Ian managed the sunny side of a safe draw from a quiet Italian Game, but the IM battle Banerjee-Bryant was anything but quiet or peaceful!
Edmonton's Banerjee played an aggressive line against the American's Modern Benoni, which resulted in a prolonged tactical skirmish and a number of big changes in fortune. White's attack crashes through by move 24 with a nearly impossible and counter-intuitive pawn capture by the dark squared bishop, but the shot goes unnoticed by both players.
The tide has now turned, and just a few moves later in an apparently completely winning position Bryant agrees to a draw. There is nothing obvious about the evaluation of the final position - engines have a way sometimes of making mere mortals feel completely inadequate to the task - and we can hardly blame the winner of the tournament for sealing the result with a handshake...
Canadian Youth Championship
The Canadian Youth Championship has always been a very challenging event, and this time was no different. The tournament took place in Regina, Saskatchewan from July 7-10, 2019. One thing we definitely noticed was that players from Alberta are now competing on at least equal footing with their counterparts from the larger and formerly dominant centers of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver etc.
Ian Zhao for example remained unbeaten, won first place in the U14 Section with 6/7, and showed great maturity in dominating tough opposition.
The previously apparent knowledge gap between our players and those from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia has been bridged successfully. Ian Zhao for example remained unbeaten, won first place in the U14 Section with 6/7, and showed great maturity in dominating tough opposition. Anand Rishi Chandra shared first place in the U12 Section with 5.5/7, playing one age group above the U10 Section he was still eligible for.
Aditya Raninga came second in the U18 Section, losing only to FM Joshua Dokanjas in the decisive matchup. Other Alberta representatives included Hemant Srinivasan and Kevin Qin, both at 4.5/7, also in the U12 Section, and Maxim Vasic with 4.5/7 in the U16 Section. All managed to defeat strong opposition.
Overall, Alberta players showed that now there is no gap in quality between them and players from Toronto or Vancouver for example. Recent programs at the Calgary Chess Club like the Kings vs Princes exhibition matches seem to be working well, based on a series of excellent performances from our young players when they step onto the national stage! Clearly they are now better prepared to handle tough opponents and hopefully they continue to improve on this front.
Kings vs Princes
The Kings, consisting of a selection of the city's top players from years past, and mostly retired from competitive play for many years, proved they are legit by rolling over the Princes in the first of two sessions with a score of 5-1. Only Hemant Srinivasan and Andrew Chen managed to draw their games while the rest of the Princes lost.
The experience gained by the juniors should be a valuable one, as they had a relatively rare opportunity to face quality opposition without travel to a distant event.
The experience gained by the juniors should be a valuable one, as they had a relatively rare opportunity to face quality opposition without travel to a distant event. Session two takes place tomorrow evening, with the juniors on deck with the White pieces and a chance for revenge in all games. The event's matchups consist of Srinivasan-Brebrich, Vasic-Lapides, Raninga-Neven, Chandra-Haessel, Chen-Perron and Wang-Yearwood.
The Princes achieved a measure of redemption for the drubbing they received in the first session by equalling the Kings 3-3 in the second session. Still the Kings were victorious 8-4 overall, with the final match tallies consisting of Yearwood 2-0 Wang, Perron 1.5-0.5 Chen, Neven 1.5-0.5 Raninga, Haessel 1-1 Chandra, Lapides 1-1 Vasic, and Brebrich 1-1 Srinivasan.
Young and old alike clearly benefit from the games and newly minted friendships, each in their own way, and with everyone agreeing to continue with Phase #2 of the exhibition. They will meet over the next few weeks on Wednesday nights for a Scheveningen style event where all Kings play all Princes.
The Calgary Chess Club is working hard on several ideas to present even more new and exciting types of tournaments. Plans possibly include teams consisting of 4 or 6 players contesting an Olympiad style event. Captains would recruit team members based loosely on nationalities and with average player ratings and ages that are similar. Probably there should be a prize for Best Team Name!
Steve Sklenka is also in talks with a Saskatoon club that would send a selection of junior players to Calgary this summer for a Youth Festival against our junior talents. If plans firm up quickly, our provincial neighbours to the west may also participate. More announcements to come soon!
The Kings vs Princes exhibition continued tonight with four Kings and Princes matches. The result was another stalemate, this time tallying 2-2. Anand Rishi Chandra, after suffering for a good part of the game, received an unexpected gift when Branimir Brebrich missed a check and allowed his opponent to convert for the full point. Maxim Vasic made his vastly more experienced opponent Roy Yearwood suffer and won relatively quickly. The Kings turned the tables however, with Knut Neven defeating a mild mannered and pleasant Andrew Chen, while Andrew Lapides played with authority in defeating a fast improving Hemant Srinivasan.
In turn, additional youngsters interested in gaining valuable experience facing strong opponents are also welcome to join. Your rating should be at least 1800 Elo.
The event is an ongoing one and continues each week on Wednesday at 18:00. Anyone rated 2200+ at one time or another during their competitive chess career can join the Kings and play some friendly G/90+30 unrated games against strong junior opposition. In turn, additional youngsters interested in gaining valuable experience facing strong opponents are also welcome to join. Your rating should be at least 1800 Elo. Blaise Evans, as usual, has provided the translation of game sheets to online database. Thanks!
The Kings vs Princes continued with another slugfest and an outcome that not many predicted. The Kings once again showed their class by defeating the Princes 3-0 even while defending the Black pieces in all games.
Hemant Srinivasan came within a whisker of avenging his loss to Andrew Lapides, who in the end demonstrated that his former 2300+ rating was no accident en route to defeating the young warrior.
Roy Yearwood offered a forest of transpositions that ultimately gave the veteran a superior position out of the opening against Maxim Vasic. Hemant Srinivasan came within a whisker of avenging his loss to Andrew Lapides, who in the end demonstrated that his former 2300+ rating was no accident en route to defeating the young warrior. Knut Neven's game against Andrew Chen was the last to finish, but featured a thematic exchange sacrifice that led to a difficult defensive task for his young opponent.
Pat Moore, who kindly filled in for a missing King, saw his London system fall well short of overpowering the Alberta U10 champion Anand Rishi Chandra. Anand's father Vikas has been pioneering live broadcasts of our events on twitch.tv with tonight's games featuring again on live stream.
Only two matches took place this session, as both Andrew Lapides and Knut Neven weren't available due to illness and a prior commitment, respectively. Both will be back next week when all matches resume as usual. So the Kings win yet another session with a perfect score, whereby Dale Haessel defeated Maxim Vasic and Roy Yearwood collected the full point against Anand Rishi Chandra.
At this writing, the total scores for all participants find Knut Neven at the top of the leaderboard with 3.5/4, tallying results by winning percentage that is, followed by Roy Yearwood at 4/5 and Andrew Lapides at 3/4. Sean Perron is at 1.5/2. Dale Haessel at 2/3 rounds out the players with a positive score total.
Anand Rishi Chandra is the sole player splitting the difference with 2/4. Then come Maxim Vasic with 2/5, Branimir Brebrich at 1/3, Hemant Srinivasan with 1/4, Aditya Raninga at 0.5/2, Andrew Chen with 0.5/4 and of course Paul Wang with 0/2.
The Kings so far have been consistently willing to discuss ideas and mistakes with the juniors in sometimes very interesting and lengthy post-mortems.
Based on results so far it appears that our top juniors are collecting very valuable experience in these exhibition games. For them opportunities facing such strong opposition, retired or not, do not present themselves too often in your average local event. The Kings so far have been consistently willing to discuss ideas and mistakes with the juniors in sometimes very interesting and lengthy post-mortems. Some of them I have watched myself and can attest to their tremendous instructional value! I would like to encourage other juniors interested in participating to contact Steve Sklenka for your seat at future sessions.
The Kings prevailed narrowly with 2-1 over the Princes. Dale Haessel and Andrew Lapides collected the full point against Maxim Vasic and Andrew Chen, while Anand Rish Chandra narrowed the gap by defeating seasoned veteran Roy Yearwood.
Six sessions into the event, the Princes for the first time bested the Kings with a resounding 3-0 outcome! In total points it is now Andrew Lapides, Anand Rishi Chandra and Roy Yearwood who share top spot, while the best result in terms of percentage performance has Dale Haessel and Sean Perron at 75% just in front of Andrew Lapides and Knut Neven at 70%. Tallying results by way of two separate methods tries to take into account that participants have all played a different number of matches.
Infamous chess icon and legend Branimir Brebrich will be in Calgary on May 29th for a game against Anand Rishi Chandra. Other players rated 2200+ at one time or another are welcome to join the competition. Games are unrated, with a time control of G/90+30.
The Kings rebounded from last week's loss to re-assert their dominance over the Princes as Roy Yearwood won over Andrew Chen and Dale Haessel beat Hemant Srinivasan. The result extends the King's lead 6-2 on match points and 19-10 on games. Roy leads the pack on points with 5/8, followed by Dale Haessel at 4/5, and Andrew Lapides and Anand Rishi Chandra at 4/6. Dale is also the performance leader with 80%, trailed by Sean Perron at 75% and Knut Neven at 70%.
Several Calgary junior talents have been on a tear lately in various local competitions, plus exceptionally strong performances at the recent Canadian Chess Challenge.
Several Calgary junior talents have been on a tear lately in various local competitions, plus exceptionally strong performances at the recent Canadian Chess Challenge. The Kings vs Princes matches at the Calgary Chess Club have been popular and look to have contributed very positively to recent big improvements by the juniors!
The Princes posted their second match victory when Anand Rishi Chandra scored a nice win over a road weary Branimir Brebrich, and Andrew Chen drew with Dale Haessel in the other game of the night. The overall score remains in favour of the Kings over the Princes with 6-3 match points and 19.5-11.5 in game points.
The new leaders are Anand Chandra and Roy Yearwood with 5/7 and 5/8 respectively, followed by Dale Haessel with 4.5/6 and Andrew Lapides at 4/6. The performance leader is still Dale Haessel, although he has dropped to 75%. Anand Chandra and Knut Neven follow closely behind with nearly identical 71% and 70%. Andrew Chen and Roy Yearwood have played the most games at eight, while Maxim Vasic and Anand Chandra have one less at seven.
The juniors were distracted with school exams, allowing Branimir Brebrich to defeat Maxim Vasic in spite of first making a long 2.5 hour drive from out of town. Meanwhile Dale Haessel collected the full point against Andrew Chen. The Kings thus increased their lead over the Princes to 7-3 in match points, and 21.5-11.5 in game points. The most active players have been Andrew Chen who has played 9 games, followed by Maxim Vasic and Roy Yearwood with 8 games each.
As multiple participants are finding it more difficult to attend regular weekly sessions in the summer, I am exploring an alternative weekend format to be held once or twice over the next few months. More news shortly!
The Kings once again dominated against the Princes when they triumphed 3-1 over their younger opponents, thus extending their lead over the youngsters to 8-3 in match points and 24.5-12.5 in board points. Paul Wang registered the lone win for the Princes by defeating Branimir Brebrich.
FM Alex Yam, one of Alberta's best all time players with a historical Elo of 2396 has promised stepping up on a future date to support the Kings vs Princes initiative!
This week brought the sad news that Branimir has decided to withdraw from the Kings vs Princes competition, although perhaps he will rejoin in the future. Dale Haessel has taken the overall lead in the standings with 6.5/8. He is followed by Roy Yearwood and the best Prince so far, Anand Rishi Chandra. Hemant Srinivasan has posted the highest rating gain at 56 points, leaving him only 4 points away from not being the lowest rated competitor. Anand is the only other player who has gained rating points from his matches with the Kings. Paul Wang is now the highest rated Prince ahead of Maxim Vasic and Aditya Raninga, while also ranking above Kings Sean Perron and Roy Yearwood. The three best percentage performances belong to Kings Dale Haessel, Andrew Lapides and Knut Neven. Anand Chandra has the best percentage of the Princes at 63%. The busiest player is Andrew Chen ahead of Roy Yearwood.
FM Alex Yam, one of Alberta's best all time players with a historical Elo of 2396 has promised stepping up on a future date to support the Kings vs Princes initiative! Among other top results, Alex won the 2014 Alberta Closed ahead of IMs Edward Porper and Richard Wang, but has been retired since the fall of 2016.
The Kings vs Princes competition took a new turn when FM Alex Yam, one of Calgary's all time elite players, joined the competition. It is the first time Alex has played a classic game since 2016. He took on Maxim Vasic, who played a splendid game but in the end had to concede the full point. The "extra game" was played alongside the Calgary Chess Club Championship, one day before the regular Kings vs Princes evening on Wednesday, and attracted a fair amount of attention from the other players.
The only Prince to win this week was Maxim Vasic, who took out Roy Yearwood after two consecutive losses to the same player.
Georgi Kostadinov successfully kicked off his first participation in the event by beating Hemant Srinivasan. Dale Haessel notably defeated Paul Wang, who is the recently crowned Canadian Champion in grade 7. The only Prince to win this week was Maxim Vasic, who took out Roy Yearwood after two consecutive losses to the same player. The Kings' convincing 4-1 win takes their overall lead to 28.5-13.5 in game points, and 9-3 in match points.
In the overall points standing Dale Haessel has extended his lead to 7.5/9, ahead of Andrew Lapides at 6/8 and Roy Yearwood with 6/10. Anand Rishi Chandra has the most points among the Princes with 5/8. Dale Haessel also remains with the highest winning percentage overall at 83%, while Anand Rishi Chandra hangs on as the best Prince with 62%. The busiest players are Andrew Chen, Maxim Vasic and Roy Yearwood, who have all played 10 games.
The Kings prevailed in three games, while the Princes managed to draw two. Among the competitors were three new faces, all Kings, that included Ian Findlay, Georgi Kostadinov and Chris Demers. The latter had not played a competitive game since 2006.
On the Princes side Aditya Raninga returned this week and managed a draw against Ian Findlay, while Patrick Tolentino joined for the first time and promptly lost an interesting game to Georgi Kostadinov. Elsewhere Chris Demers drew with Paul Wang, Andrew Lapides defeated Anand Rishi Chandra, Roy Yearwood lost to Hemant Srinivasan, and Dale Haessel won over Paul Wang.
The competition still has Dale Haessel in the lead with the top overall points total, and Tournament Director Steve Sklenka was happy to count more games played in this session than any other since the first one back in the early spring. The momentum is positive!
In another first at the Calgary Chess Club, the Kings vs Princes Summer Classic is to take place on August 24-25. This weekend edition of our regular sessions should attract the usual suspects, and hopefully newcomers who have found it difficult to play during the week.
This week saw a record six boards playing at the Kings vs Princes exhibition event. FM Ian Findlay, FM Dale Haessel, Georgi Kostadinov, Andrew Lapides, Chris Demers and Roy Yearwood all dressed up for the Kings this week, leading to another by now predictable victory by the veterans with +3=2-1. Still the Princes are playing fighting chess, and judging by Hemant Srinivasan's recent success at the Canadian Open for example, they are making great strides towards reaching the upper echelons of Calgary's chess playing community thanks to the benefit of facing elite competition at the Kings vs Princes sessions.
In another first at the Calgary Chess Club, the Kings vs Princes Summer Classic is to take place on August 24-25. This weekend edition of our regular sessions should attract the usual suspects, and hopefully newcomers who have found it difficult to play during the week. Requirements are the same, with Kings currently or formerly rated 2200+ and Princes at 1800+. For additional event details, see Events or contact Steve Sklenka.
The new wrinkle in the weekend edition is a Swiss pairing format, which means games between Kings or games between Princes are possible rather than only games featuring experience vs youth. As always, games are unrated.
The Kings and Princes competition was joined this week by two more Calgary Chess Club legends. Fred South and Arthur Odachowski had been away from classical chess games for a long time, but both came out victorious in their first encounter with the Princes. Fred defeated Anand Chandra and Arthur had the better of Andrew Chen.
Hemant crossed the 2000 Elo mark this week, thus elevating him near top spot in the rankings among Calgary juniors, behind only Ian Zhao and ahead of Aditya Raninga, Paul Wang and Anand Chandra.
Former Alberta Chess Association president Vlad Rekhson also joined the competition, but ended up bested in a very entertaining battle by an entirely non-intimidated Maxim Vlasic. Elsewhere the ever consistent Andrew Lapides won another game, this time against our own national grade 7 champion Paul Wang. In the final match Roy Yearwood avenged his loss last week against Hemant Srinivasan by collecting the full point. Hemant crossed the 2000 Elo mark this week, thus elevating him near top spot in the rankings among Calgary juniors, behind only Ian Zhao and ahead of Aditya Raninga, Paul Wang and Anand Chandra.
After having played his first classical game in about two decades last week, Fred South continued his successful comeback by taking the full point from our most improved junior of the last month, Hemant Srinivasan.
Elsewhere Maxim Vasic could not solve Dale Haessel, losing yet another game to his titled opponent. Andrew Chen managed a hard fought draw against a strong and very consistent Andrew Lapides, but that was not enough to influence the final outcome in favour of the Princes as the Kings won the match easily with 2.5-0.5. With his win Dale Haessel extends his overall points lead to 1.5 over Andrew Lapides in second place.
With most juniors out of town competing at the 2019 NAYCC finals in Kingston, Ontario only Anand Rishi Chandra was on hand to face Roy Yearwood. This was effectively a rubber match as the players split the previous two games. Yearwood secured the win, and catches up with Andrew Lapides in a tie for second place overall. Since Roy has played two more games than Andrew, the latter is ahead on tiebreak. Next week's session will have Kings facing other Kings, a first in the competition, since the juniors are still away.
Congratulations go out to Fred South, who continued his run of wins with a point over FM Dale Haessel. Not at all a bad return to form for the long-time retiree, who was playing only his third classical game in about 20 years!
Recent results indicate Dale may be out of form right now, which is something that happens to all players periodically. Let's hope the slump is over soon, and Dale gets back to his patented winning ways. Fact is, sometimes a crisis in form is the prelude to significant gains soon thereafter! With Anand Rishi Chandra's win over Roy Yearwood the Princes won this week's match up against the Kings. Well done Anand!
Edmonton International GM
The 14th Edmonton International took place from June 18-23, 2019. Rafael Arruebarrena did a commendable job running the tournament, including the live broadcast of games on chess24.com.
American GM Steven Zierk won the tournament with 6.5/9 followed by Philippine GM Mark Paragua and Canadian IM Nikolay Noritsyn with 6/9 each. Top Albertan was IM Edward Porper with 5.5/9, while FM Ian Findlay was the top finisher representing the Calgary Chess Club. Ian notably scored the top upset of the event by defeating GM Alexander Shabalov. Shabalov, who has won or tied for first no less than seven times in the USA Open, was off form this time and had to settle for 4.5/9 and a tie for 5th through 8th.
Calgarian Bhavik Dave was out-rated by several hundred rating points in every game, but nevertheless put up valiant struggles in several encounters. Edmonton's IM Banerjee Bitan finished in the middle of the pack with 4.5/9, while the remaining players from the USA, IM Praveen Balakrishnan and FM Balaji Daggupati, both scored 4.5/9 and finished in that same tie for 5th through 8th with GM Alexander Shabalov.
Diary of a Woodpusher
Pins and Kisses
Greetings fellow chess players! First and foremost I'd like to extend a massive thank you to Calgary Chess Club President Steve Sklenka and our webmaster Neven ... for this opportunity to contribute to the site. Steve, you have been exceedingly gracious and accommodating. Neven, thank you for all the help and advice, for proofing the articles and publishing my drivel for all the world to see!
My origin story, as fascinating as any Marvel superhero, will come to light over the next few articles, but in a nutshell: I have been an irregular fixture at the club for 15+ years, but a player since my junior days. I have spent the majority of that time hunkered in the Expert category with a couple forays north of 2200 that did not last long. I had been inactive for almost five years before making a disastrous comeback of sorts last year at the Calgary International. I have dabbled in a few events since then and couldn't be happier to be back playing.
Initially I had selfish motivations for writing these articles. It would be a great way to keep my mind on the game and an excuse to flex my increasingly atrophied chess muscles. However, I thought I might also provide some insight into how a career expert thinks and prepares, discuss the material they consume and what they take away from it...
The crux of everything I want to discuss boils down to how we can improve? I would like to visit the topic of plateaus and how to push beyond them. From time to time I will wax philosophic about fantastic books I think the world should read, DVDs you should consider, chess software and setups, using tech in your preparation, reviewing games that made an impression, and so on.
As a man with more good days behind him than ahead - now there is a morbid thought - I am keen to apply lessons I have learned in ever more efficient ways.
Regardless of the topic I choose, one thing we can probably agree on is that chess is hard! Getting better means doing solid work. Raw talent gets you to a certain level, but eventually training is required to excel beyond the mediocre. I am the first to admit a lazy attitude, and I am willing to share some of the pitfalls I encountered along the way in hopes you can avoid them. Approaches I will use draw inspiration from a variety of sources. And not all of them chess. As a man with more good days behind him than ahead - now there is a morbid thought - I am keen to apply lessons I have learned in ever more efficient ways. There exists no one size fits all approach, so you will need to experiment and tinker to see what works for you.
You might be thinking "But Sean, can a ruggedly handsome career expert, just shy of kissing 50 and with decades of bad chess habits under his belt, flagging stamina and huge gaps in his chess education really get to 2200 and beyond"? I am relentlessly optimistic, so for me the answer is yes. But let's see what that journey looks like, starting today.
For improvement to occur you need to be able to take an honest inventory of your weaknesses.
Today I am far more objective assessing my own play than I used to be. Early on I would often brush aside losses with assorted excuses like having missed simple tactics or falling victim to someone else's opening preparation. The inference, somehow, is always that my opponent got lucky. That poor attitude has been replaced by an appreciation for the moment where I started to lose the thread in a position, where I waffled between competing plans, where my opening preparation ended prematurely, marvel at deficiencies in my endgame play, and spot the moments where my nerves failed me.
For improvement to occur you need to be able to take an honest inventory of your weaknesses. I have plenty! Don't worry, we will get to each embarrassing one in time. Let's take a peek at a couple of examples that illustrate a particular tactical blind spot...
Many sins mark this game, but I will focus on just one for this article, namely 24.Qh6+ which seals Black's fate. The idea lends itself to classification with the generic motif of a pin, but feels as though it deserves a name of its own. I am going to call it a "kiss", of a variety that I need to avoid getting blindsided by again in future outings!
The idea lends itself to classification with the generic motif of a pin, but feels as though it deserves a name of its own. I am going to call it a "kiss", of a variety that I need to avoid getting blindsided by again in future outings!
I can try several things. First, I can keep on doing work on tactics, either utilizing online trainers such as those available on playchess.com or chess.com or continuing with any one of the amazing tactics books I have in my library. A steady diet of tactical puzzles is good advice anyway. Examples featuring the newly minted "kiss" theme are bound to turn up, and those will be moved into a special database - or perhaps a notebook for the less technically inclined - featuring problematic tactical ideas in general. This is all about future work. My own working database contains tactical shots I had difficulties with in my own games, but also other random and impressive tactical solutions by strong players. Basically, any time I come across a move or idea that completely eluded me ... that game gets saved for later review. In time my hope is that collecting these positions will lead to clearing up specific holes in my tactical vision.
You could, and probably should, do this for all manner of tactical slips in your own games. I will be creating databases for missed wins, endgame blunders, converting winning positions, opening mistakes, and so on. But more on this in subsequent articles.
I would like to show one more example featuring the "kiss" motif, which was every bit as shocking to me as 24.Qh6+ in my game against Jake. Johan Hellsten's excellent book Mastering Opening Strategy features the move in the notes to the game Najditsch-Belov, Moscow Aeroflot op 2007, and is another idea I would never consider...
I could, and probably should, spend hours reviewing a game like this. It's a fascinating piece of chaos ripe with nuance and aggression. And for all of it, the move 21.Be6! (in the notes to 17...Rf8) is what resonated with me. White goes from nearly busted to completely winning. Great stuff!
This idea of creating small databases to house a menagerie of your weaknesses does involve some work. But this is work that will pay dividends. The act of annotating your games, collecting the games of others, and cataloging them like this should be enough to start cementing these patterns into mind. If I were to let a game like mine with Jake go by without trying to understand my play, how could I ever expect to improve?
These are my first tentative steps towards really trying to evaluate myself, take corrective action, and measure the results. You might find a different way, a better way that works for you, and that's great. As long as you do something, it's a step in the right direction. See you next time!
This year four players from Calgary and two from Edmonton are contesting the annual Alberta Closed, to be held at the Calgary Chess Club over the weekend from April 19-21, 2019.
The favourite by rating, albeit narrowly, is Calgary's Gary Ng, followed by Edmonton's Rafael Arruebarrena. Neither will likely have an easy time however, since the field also includes 14-yr-old Ian Zhao who has marked his arrival as an elite player by climbing the provincial rating ladder at record speed in the last year.
Defending champion Bitan Banerjee is away in India and unable to defend his title. None of the remaining contestants are without chances, since the top and bottom seeds are separated by only 200 Elo. The club is open to visitors for the duration of the event, so please stop by and take in some of the best chess likely to be played in the province this year. More tournament details, including start times for each round, can be viewed at Events.
Omid Malek persevered with an impressive 4/5 total to convincingly win the 2019 Alberta Closed! Along the way, Omid defeated top seeds Gary Ng and Rafael Arruebarrena as well as recent World Seniors Championship participant Dale Haessel. Alberta Junior and Alberta Open Champion Ian Zhao, who is just 14 years of age, came in second with 3.5/5 followed by Edmonton's Rafael Arruebarrena at 2.5/5 in third.
The event marks an astonishing improvement from last year for Omid, who collected a mere 1/5 in the 2018 edition of the provincial championship. The result was especially satisfying when a win by Ian Zhao over Dale Haessel in the final round forced Omid to prevail with Black over top seed Gary Ng in order to prevent a play-off with the junior talent.
The event marks an astonishing improvement from last year for Omid, who collected a mere 1/5 in the 2018 edition of the provincial championship.
With a number of the province's top players formally retired in recent years, the torch now looks like it has passed to the next generation with players like Omid Malek and Ian Zhao leading the charge. Mind you, the list of top players does not end here, with Gary Ng, Rafael Arruebarrena, Ian Findlay, Belsar Valencia, Dale Haessel, Agnieszka Matras Clement and others, plus junior talents Maxim Vasic and Anand Rishi Chandra certain to be in the mix in the coming years...
Calgary Seniors Championship
FM Ian Findlay won the ACA sponsored 2019 Calgary Seniors Championship with 4.5/5 after a crucial win with the White pieces over FM Dale Haessel in the fourth round. Dale, who late last year represented Canada with an impressive result at the World Seniors Championship in Bled, Slovenia, finished in 2nd place ahead of Brad Booker in 3rd. Gordon Campbell, the 1976 Alberta Closed and 1977 Alberta Open champion, ended in 4th followed by Arthur Milne who has shown good form lately.
Nine players showed up in total making this a friendly family affair, aided as always by complimentary refreshments provided by the club for all competitors. Ian received both a $100 winner's cheque and a $300 travel grant towards the Alberta Seniors Championship in Edmonton on May 11-12.
Tournament of Legends Blitz
The South brothers offered a suspicious sibling draw in the last round that is currently being investigated by a hastily established ethics committee.
The Tournament of Legends became a reality tonight when a friendly and jovial atmosphere prevailed over pizza and snacks prior to the tournament. But that all predictably changed once the games started.
Ted won the Best Hair contest hands down, while Rob Hawkes won Best Tie with Steve Sklenka offering the only competition. Probably Steve's decision to purchase this accessory at Woolworths had something to do with the outcome!
The South brothers offered a suspicious sibling draw in the last round that is currently being investigated by a hastily established ethics committee. Meanwhile the Deep Rust Award remains up for grabs, with Gordon Campbell claiming the inside lane after the first of two sessions.
Andrew Lapides scored only 2/6 points early, but decided to take matters into his own hands and went 5/5 in the closing rounds. Greg Huber proved the class of the field with 9/11 and a run of 8 consecutive wins! The Over Achiever Award went to Chris Demers who finished the first session in 3rd place in spite of his 9th place ranking.
GM Eric Hansen kindly stopped by for a look at the grizzled veterans. The average rating, based on the highest rating achieved, was an impressive 2297! Calgary clearly has some very good chess players that many people are simply not aware of. The event continues for one more session on 2019-03-14.
At the end of 22 exciting rounds filled with the inevitable ebb and flow of an event as long as this one, Gregory Huber emerged as the class of the field by posting ahead of Arthur Odachowski and Dale Haessel in shared second place. Robert South, Christopher Demers and Andrew Lapides came next, fractionally ahead of a cluster of players making up the middle of the table.
For any visitors who came to watch the play several trends soon became apparent. While any number of games were played at a high standard featuring creative ideas and brilliant tactical moments worthy of times long past, the extended competitive inactivity of the participants also took a toll. Perhaps an expected one, but not the sort you get used to easily. All of us suffered random streaks of tactical blindness, sometimes several games in a row, only to find the fog suddenly lifted in the next hour for seemingly no particular reason. Drop a piece in one game, and prosecute a smooth attack or subtle technical ending in the next. And so it went. Everyone understood, since all were equally afflicted. Sportsmanship was brilliant...
Steve Sklenka has devised a secret plan to wrestle the Battle of Alberta trophy back from our northern rivals. Enticing the strongest local players of the past to come out of retirement is merely the tip of the spear! Phase two might see mixed events between the veterans and a selection of strong juniors. Not a bad idea. Training is everything. So goes the theory. We wish Steve luck, as it may be more difficult than anticipated to translate his vision into action. We shall see.
Every single participant did express how much they enjoyed the special chess reunion, which prompted Steve Sklenka, assisted this year by co-organizers Gregory Huber and Knut Neven, to announce a likely repeat of the event next year. Tentatively the next edition is scheduled for March 10-12 of 2020, and might feature other accomplished veteran players from the rest of the province. An excellent idea indeed!
Early History 1930 to 1971
Looking for a chess club in Calgary, some fifty years ago, was an adventure! There was enough interest in playing chess with friends or family at home, but to play in a club, that was something different. Somehow, around fifteen brave players found each other and gathered every Monday night in Maccabees Hall on Fifth Avenue between 9th and 10th Street SW. This was the year 1968.
Much earlier than that, chess was also played at a club called Eagles of Britain all the way back in the 1930s. One of the players of that era still played the game into 1980, and regretfully we never heard the entire story from those days many years ago. Some day, perhaps, someone else can fill that void with records from local newspapers or stories heard through friends...
Once we started, back in 1968, we tried hard to promote ourselves. There were simultaneous chess exhibitions at Westbrook Shopping Centre, Market Mall and others. The club grew to number 50 members in just one year. Branimir Brebrich became our first president. This was the year 1969.
But just when the club looked poised to take flight in earnest, disaster struck in the prosaic but serious situation of a $27 debt owed in past rent!
But just when the club looked poised to take flight in earnest, disaster struck in the prosaic but serious situation of a $27 debt owed in past rent! Members were summoned to talk about options in case we were to be evicted. One interesting idea was to join the German-Canadian Club in Bowness, but that would mean losing our own identity. After much lively discussion the name stayed, and the rest is history.
The crisis had been averted, and the club now formally registered its existence with the authorities. Two letters, sent to the Government of Alberta and the Albertan newspaper, respectively, and signed by Branimir Brebrich, J. Kassay Farkas, R.C. Korpan, R. Gjesdal, and B. Van Wieren asked to sponsor Branimir Brebrich's appearance at the 1971 Canadian Open in Vancouver. That application was rejected. This was the year preceding the famous Match of the Century between Robert James Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in the following year. Chess finally made headlines!
Attacking the Scheveningen
White had a commanding lead after the opening only to give most of it back in one move. The advantage shifted, but Black's last mistake was too much to salvage.
Many players focus almost exclusively on opening preparation in their chess studies. The idea of catching an opponent in a prepared line and scoring an easy point is an appealing one, even if reality isn't quite so accommodating. That opening advantage and the final result are usually separated by several hours and dozens of moves where anything can happen...
The following slugfest, played at the 2013 Schleinich Memorial in Calgary, on a very cold day in January, proved entertaining enough to earn the Most Interesting Game award of the event, and was therefore published with analysis by up-and-coming Canadian talent GM Eric Hansen.
So did White's preparation prove decisive here? What about White's 20th move? Arguably much more important than an objective advantage from the opening was my inability to calculate a convincing finish. Lukas defended an inferior position very well for a long time and might have reversed the outcome when I overplayed my hand a dozen moves later in a risky attempt to regain lost ground. The 31st move was the final decisive turning point of the game, and it had nothing to do with opening preparation for either player. The Sicilian Scheveningen was tested but not breached, and neither player found all the right moves!
2018 Banff Open Armageddon Playoff
The 2018 Banff Open saw a 3 way tie for first place between IM Mark Ginsburg, FM Ian Findlay and Omid Malek with 5/6. Only after IM Thanh Nha Duong let a winning position slip into a lost position, moving him from clear winner to 4th place with 4.5 and out of the money. We were very fortunate to have an anonymous donor contribute $500 to the 1st prize, on the condition that if there was a tie, there would be a playoff for the extra cash! This certainly led to an exciting finish. There were many spectators who stayed behind to watch the playoff, but in honesty, most of them were waiting to collect their prizes.
As per the playoff rules, Mark Ginsburg who had the best tiebreak would get a bye into the finals. I had 2nd best tiebreak, so I chose Black. I would get 4 minutes to White's 5 minutes, but would get draw odds. Omid and I played a Closed Sicilian, which was a very close battle, until Omid blundered a piece around move 35. This did not matter much since the game was going to be decided on time. Omid being the gentleman that he is, called his own flag when I still had 9 seconds on my clock. This setup a final between Mark Ginsburg and myself.
Mark and I go back a long way. In the eighties, I used to stay at his apartment in NYC when playing in the New York Open. He shared an apartment with GM Michael Rhode, GM John Fedorowicz and GM at bridge, Michael Polowan. Since I have started playing chess again we have reconnected, and last year he stayed at my house and won the Banff Open. This year, he got his choice in the final Armageddon playoff. He chose Black.
We were very fortunate to have an anonymous donor contribute $500 to the 1st prize, on the condition that if there was a tie, there would be a playoff for the extra cash!
Our tournament has grown from 33 players to 41 players to 78 players. Hopefully in 2019 we will hit our maximum 100 entries. I would like to thank our sponsors, the Alberta Chess Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4318 and the Society of Chess Aficionados. Also many thanks to the Banff Centre for a great venue, with postcard picture views of the mountains and their well organized staff. A big thank you to our anonymous donor who made the tournament so exciting this year by donating the $500 bonus money. It will be hard to top next year, but we will try. Thank you also to our chief Arbiter, IA/IO Mark Dutton and his lovely wife Christine, the Assistant Arbiter and of course my wife, Janice, for all her hard work to provide a dinner reception at our house for the players and their significant others.
2018 World Seniors Championship
I recently travelled to Bled, Slovenia to play in the World Seniors Over 50 tournament. Although I didn't play well, I still managed to gain 27 rating points. Fellow Canadian Michael Dougherty gained 52 points. Overall the Canadians gained a tonne of rating points out of the event. I always remember GM Joel Benjamin saying he was underrated. When asked he stated that everyone is underrated in North America. I can definitely concur with such a statement and anyone who wants to have a rating boost just has to play in foreign tournaments because hundreds of rating points are available for free.
My tournament was marred by an extremely slow start and an opponent who failed to show up. The organizers used a 30 minute forfeit rule compared to the standard 60 minute rule in North America. The tournament was extremely well organized and featured top notch accommodations. I definitely recommend the tournament for anyone who is over 50 or 65.
The tournament was extremely well organized and featured top notch accommodations. I definitely recommend the tournament for anyone who is over 50 or 65.
There were many GMs playing, however no one really famous except GM Evgeny Sveshnikov. I was expecting people like John Nunn and Jan Timman to play. I managed to struggle to 7.5/11 to finish 11th in a field of 106 including nine GMs. The Canadians who played included Alberta's IM Edward Porper, Ian Findlay, Steven Peters, and myself. Also attending from Canada were David Cummings, Michael Dougherty and Victor Plotkin.