Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Australia - Iraq 2.5-1.5 round 4 report.

How nice it is to coach a team that ask advice and then follow it to the letter! The extraordinary thing about this team is how well they get on, as well as the parents. In my 30+ years of chess comps, I have never seen such a harmonious group. 

This is a key factor in team events and has helped Armenia win 3 Olympic Gold Medals in recent years. Does that also explain why Russia has failed to win a Gold for a generation? I don't know, just idle speculation on my part :-)

Hughston smiling at the start of his game against Iraq. 

Isaac, who seemed a bit uncertain the first few days now seems to feel as if he lives here.

Gordon feeling quite at home as well.

No comment necessary :-)

Match against Iraq

It is so nice to see Iraq, a country with some challenges, past and present, competing in this event. They also seem to be more organised and better funded than Australia, but then again we are a low bar to jump.

They outrated us on every board but the fighting spirit of our youngsters bore fruit this time. 

Hughston was a tiny bit careless in the opening, allowing a central break that looked nasty, but then dived deep into the position and found a spectacular exchange sacrifice ( lad seems a bit frivolous with his rooks ) which gave him more than enough compensation in the form of two bishops, an imposing central structure and an attack. The position demanded great accuracy though and at some moments he played second best moves eventually winning the exchange back but at too high a price. Fortune does not always favour the brave.

Isaac played his role perfectly. As black, he occupied the centre, traded pieces and drew effortlessly. In other words, he did his job. This was also the only game not to give the coach palpitations.

Gordon didn't play the opening perfectly and came under quite some pressure. He has also shown himself to be a bit of a time trouble addict but his play seems to improve the less time he has!
His opponent was visibly annoyed that he had not won yet and blundered a King-Queen fork to a night. After a forced sequence Gordon was a piece ahead, which he quickly gave back for two pawns. It was the best way to reach a Bishop+3 v Bishop+1 ending, which required no thought, just pushing.

Brigitte was up against it, black on board 4 against a 1755. amazingly enough, she played the opening perfectly, reaching a winning position before move 20, and had double her opponents time on the clock. Then she dropped a piece. Oops. But she didn't resign or get depressed but kept making threats even as pieces got swapped and her situation got more and more hopeless. This finally took its toll on her opponent, who was playing on the increment and she overlooked quite a transparent mate in 2. Miracles do happen if you don't give up! 

All games are on the Chess24 website as well as Chessbomb. Link below.

As a reward for this spectacular fighting effort, the Australian team gets to play Armenia!

Double Barrel Day rounds 2&3.

Double round days are never easy but yesterday was particularly taxing on the Australian team. In the morning we were paired with the talented young Kenyan team and in the afternoon, with the Canadians who outrated us by hundreds of points on every board, more than a thousand on board 4.

 The morning round started at 9.30am which left little time for breakfast let alone preparation because we had to leave the Hotel before 9 because the venue is some way from the Hotel. we also had only a few games of the Kenyan players to peruse.

Most of the games went the distance so there was not much time to take another long Bus journey back for lunch.

I was not able to join the team because I had to attend a meeting of coaches/ non-playing captains to discuss a pairing issue. This was particularly annoying because of the subject discussed.

Politics raised its ugly head because the Iranian team was issued a directive by either its government or chess association that they couldn't play against Israel. The organisers were not prepared for this so no announcement was made before the start of the tournament. Therefore the round 2 pairings had to be changed. This now affected everybody else and some countries got easier or harder opponents than the ones they had prepared for and were understandably a little perturbed.

Apparently, as I understood it, the organisers had received a phone call from FIDE that the two countries were not to be paired. Another country wanted to see the instruction in writing because they had spent considerable resources to attend. 

My thoughts were, this is why I am not having lunch and preparing with my team?

By the time I returned, had a quick bite, the team was already on their way back to the venue.

Between rounds, our team was busy getting photographed with organisers.

Brigitte Watkins is all smiles before her first Olympiad game.

Hughston Parle focused on getting his scoresheet filled in properly.

Gordon Yang getting himself in the zone.

Sophie Watkins gathering memories.

The Kenya match

We outrated Kenya on the top three boards but they were no walkovers. Hughston answered the Petroff defence with 3.d3, preferring to just play chess. Black launched an early attack but was quickly repulsed and the game was the first to finish.

On board 2, Isaac played the Sicilian, got a nice opening, went slightly astray in the middle game but once queens came off, ground down his opponent efficiently.

Gordon won a piece in the middlegame with a tic tac but not in the most accurate manner so his opponent got sufficient compensation. A rook blunder helped end the game quickly.

Brigitte started her first international game rather nervously dropping a pawn early but then settled and launched a sacrificial attack on her opponents King. After a few inaccuracies by both sides, this position was reached with black to move. Brigitte swapped Queens and won the endgame. Can you spot what she missed?

So we won 4-0 but not without some anxious moments.

The Canada Match

We were definitely the underdog on every board and things looked bad early on but the entire team fought like lions. late in the evening when most matches had already finished; all four players were still fighting.

 Hughston had an equal, symmetrical position until the late middlegame. Then, in an attempt to go for the full point, he sacrificed the exchange for a central pawn and attack. It nearly paid off but an inaccuracy and great defence by his opponent thwarted his ambitions.

Isaac let his opponent control the centre and despite dogged resistance, he too went down eventually.

Gordon also sacrificed an exchange but couldn't get quite enough for it.

Sophie went wrong, in a Sicilian middlegame, early, as many of us do, but then just as we were all expecting imminent collapse, she found incredible resources and forced her opponent on to the increment, even getting to threaten mate. Eventually, the start she gave her opponent proved to much. 

 So a 0-4 defeat but one the team can be proud of. These youngsters know how to fight and if they can do so on equal terms the result might be a lot different. 

That's actually my job but I was unable to do it yesterday, partly because of the double round and partly because I was asked to attend a meeting caused by political stupidity.

Well, its understandable. If you let young people from warring countries meet each other, they may make friends and then its much harder for the idiot politicians to make them hate each other.

Did I mention I hate politics and warmongering politicians?

Bus waiting, gotta go. We are playing Iraq today. Speaking of......

Monday, 11 December 2017

World Under 16 teams Championship. Opening Ceremony & round 1.

1979, I was 16 years old and had the privilege to represent my country for the first time in this same event in Viborg, Denmark. Now, 38 years later I have the privilege of supporting this marvellous group of youngsters as the coach. Will one of them be the coach in a few decades time?  

One thing I am certain of, they will remember the event just as I remember my participation. One difference is that we were all unaccompanied, neither by parents or a coach whereas the whole team has a parent along, as well as yours truly. Different times.

One thing remains the same. Whereas most countries (if not all) are supported by their respective countries, Australia still does not recognise Chess as a sport and all our players are self-funded. Definitely not the clever country.

Luckily India, a clever country, sponsors not only their own youngsters but also hosts the teams in a truly luxurious Hotel, the Aloft  and is holding the tournament in the prestigious 

The Hotel, playing venue, food and organisation are all truly first class.

Opening Ceremonies in India are always attended by the who's who of not only the chess community but local politics and business. They make us and what we do feel really special. 

After some light entertainment, the ceremony kicked off with the ceremonial lighting of the lamp. Being chessplayers they did not run around the city with it first :-)

This was followed by a real cultural experience. Several groups of local musicians and dancers showed us the local traditional dances. We were also told the significance of said dances. The first one has to do with fetching water if I understood correctly.  

This one, hailing from the indigenous villagers has something to do with the harvest (I think)

Round 1.

Being one of the lower seeds we were immediately thrown into the deep end and had to face the powerful India Red team. We were heavily outgunned on every board, and despite our low ranking, they fielded their top 4 to my surprise. 

This meant that Sophie Watkins on board 4 faced a player with more than double her rating! After not playing the best moves in the opening she settled down and played superbly in the early middlegame, even outplaying her opponent to reach a position where at one point she could have assumed the initiative. Unfortunately, one rash move put her back on the defensive and was not allowed back in the game.

On board 3, Gordon Yang outplayed his much higher rated opponent with black to reach a nice edge but one inaccuracy let the white pieces in. A tough fight.

Isaac Zhao on board 2 put us on the board with a vicious kingside attack that ended in a perpetual. The engine confirms that this was a good game from both sides.

The entertainer of the day was Hughston Parle on board 1.  As black, he sacrificed a piece, then another to force his opponent into a close quarters slugfest which drew a massive crowd. Both sides ended up queening pawns and the position, in the end, was tantalisingly close to a miracle stalemate. Do play through this game. The king march alone is worth it. All games are on the link below, another testament to the hard work of the Indian organisers.

So tomorrow we are paired with Kenya, a team slightly lower rated than us. Let's see if we can get back to the pack.

Hasta manjana amigoes :-)

Thursday, 7 December 2017



Well folks, here I am again after an extended absence, which I will explain a bit later, escaping the Australian summer, to coach the Australian World under 16 team in India. I decided to arrive a few days early to acclimatise and because I had never been to Mumbai before.

In the end, I spent most of the last few days sleeping as the journey was quite taxing at my age. My flight left at 7am which meant no sleep the night before. 

I did, however, take a few walks around the city and the sights and sounds were a feast for the senses. Here are a few examples.

The "Gate of India"  is quite a spectacular monument even though the police and military presence did not make it so easy to move around. Let us not speak of the traffic.

Directly across the road is this architectural wonder.  

And this is the Railway station or one of them to be exact. The name is too long to remember.

I'm not sure how to read this restaurant's name. If you order the chicken, good luck?

Anyway, now to semi-explain my absence. Back in July I got persuaded to sacrifice my weekend, normally devoted to the beach, to play in a weekender. The first day went smoothly with all four games finishing well before the second column of the scoresheet. All against juniors and none worth publishing. Then in round 4, I was paired with my eternal opponent, Steven Soloman.

He didn't play any better than the juniors in the opening and by move 12 I was +3 according to Stockfish. Unlike the juniors, he then stopped blundering and put up fierce and desperate resistance as always. Regardless, 23.Ne4 would have finished the game but playing on general principles I decided to swap as many pieces as possible and so we reached an equal ending by the time we were both down to the 10 second increment. Here are the moves for those interested.

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.h3 Be6 5.Bb5 f6 6.d4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Ne7 8.
dxe5 fxe5 9.Qh5+ Ng6 10.Nf3 e4 11.Nd4 O-O 12.Nxe6 Qf6 13.O-O Qxe6 14.
Qxd5 Qxd5 15.Nxd5 Bd6 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Nc3 Rae8 18.Rad1 Re6 19.Rd4 
Rfe8 20.Rfd1 Nh4 21.Rc4 Rg6 22.g4 h5 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Nxe4 hxg4 25.
Nxd6 gxh3+ 26.Kh2 cxd6 27.Kxh3 Nf3 28.e4 Kf7 29.Bc1 Ng1+ 30.Kh2 Nf3+ 
31.Kh1 Rg4 32.Be3 a6 33.c4 Ke6 34.c5 dxc5 35.Bxc5 Ke5 36.Bd6+ Kxe4 

Having reached this position we started playing like two drunken sailors jabbing at each other with broken bottles until this position occurred.


Bg7 would be spotted by a blind monkey from a plane but I played Kg6?? which leads to a draw...if white does not place all his remaining pieces on the a1-h8 diagonal, and even then more blunders were necessary.

Well, this led to a brain melt from which I am just starting to recover. The following round I played suicide chess, only to have my opponent, Yi Liu, outdo me. The last round was just pitiful. All credit to Tom Maguire, who played an excellent game but against a shadow.

The next day I got a call from the GC hospital telling me to come in for an Iron infusion because my last blood test showed extremely low Iron. I did feel a bit better after hearing that because now I had a fixable reason. This is, however, a recent development so it doesn't  explain my other blunders over the years but for now, I'll just let that slide.....

Anyway folks, time for me to check out and visit the South Mumbai Chess Academy!


Monday, 17 July 2017


This wonder of the world was one of the last things I saw before leaving Delhi. It is a huge rubbish mountain that one drives past for about 10 minutes on the way to the airport on the outer ring road. Why am I showing you this? To let you know that India is not all sunshine and roses. Whereas the school I visited,  people's homes and businesses are very clean and tidy, the same cannot be said of public places and especially roads. Garbage is everywhere. This is one thing I won't miss. Locals put the blame squarely on local councils.

A few hours later I was in Kuala Lumpur and did not feel like spending the weekend there as I would know it well enough to drive around if brave enough. Anyway, Malindo has a cheap ticket to Langkawi and that sounded much better.

I booked a hotel online and took an UBER to the Grand beach hotel. Honestly, the only thing this hotel has going for it is location, but that is so good that I would stay there again. OK,  it's reasonably clean.

I really wasn't up to too much tourism as I was really tired after the intense last few weeks. There is heaps to do though, like diving, jet boating, Eagle feeding, caving etc etc. Just Google and you'll see. I settled for sleeping, swimming  and seafood.

Sunday was my exploring day.  After a long walk down the beach I stumbled across the harbour where all the tourist boats take people around the Islands for the various activities.

By the time I got here the sun was setting but before having a snack at the local eatery, I thought I'll just walk to the end of the peninsula to check out the resort.

The security guard had no interest in me when I went to ask if it was public access so I just walked straight in. While there I got a message on my 0hone telling me I can grab a special there right now for only $500  a night. Wow! How did I resist? 

This place was truly 5☆ with its own marina, several swimming pools, restaurants and bars, and even a lighthouse!

I'll leave it at that otherwise I may miss my flight home! I love Malaysia but not that much 😂

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Hectic day in Panipat part2

The Director of Doubleroo Chess Academy Panipat, Gaurav Chhabra, founded a company,, ( email ) that brings together retailers from around the world with manufacturers in India. After our Seminar we visited one of the factories.

 The bag featured at the end of part one was made in Panipat by RVcollection, a company that can make virtually anything as I'll show you below. Mr Pradeep gifted it to me upon hearing the sad story of how my passport pouch mysteriously disappeared from my room in Delhi. 

The bright side, now I can carry my Samsung tablet, my phone and my passport all in one bag. Ideal for travelling.

Including this seat which caught my eye immediately. 

Bags are their speciality. They make them to order for retailers the world over including the USA and Europe. Now they are looking to expand to Australia with an order currently in  production.

Lots of bums required around here. Lucky we came 😂

Pradeep showing off his wine coolers. 

Mr Pradeep Kumal
Raj and Gaurav showing off a bag that's bound for the US. Can you tell?
Note the t-shirt :-)

Mr Raj Kumar Mr Gaurav Chhabra
The workstations where the real heroes turn cotton, leather, silk, hemp and all other materials known to man into anything one can imagine.

All meetings, conferences and seminars end the same way in India. With food of course. We received a call ordering us home, where Gaurav's mother's and wife, amongst others, had spent many hours slaving over a hot tandoor to make us a delicious Linner (meal between lunch and dinner).

It was our fourth meal of the day and the sun was still up.

Two types of Roti, two salads, three curries, three pickles, including my favourite, chilli, yogurt and all topped up as soon as a dent had been made.

After a few hours Raj and Pradeep made their way home, presumably for the dinner their wives had made, and our possy went to town for first sweets. I had to try the local Kulfi 😉

Between meals we made a stop at a very talented six year olds place, a young prodigy Gaurav has been teaching. His name is Sambhav. You'll hear it again in the years to come.

He had been taught properly, the Doubleroo way 😉, developing all his pieces, castling and fighting for the centre. This young man also has qualities that can't be taught, like being suspicious. He never took material without checking if there was a trap, something some of my older, much stronger students still haven't fully developed. I won't mention them by name, they know who they are 😂

He could have played all night but after more than an hour we left him with a difficult pawn ending and headed to our next appointment. Yep, you guessed it, second dessert.

We ended up at Rajat Chanana's place, a fellow chess enthusiast and friend of Gaurav's. 

By this time however, we were all bursting at the seams to the five of us shared three desserts. We got home just after midnight. Work had not quite finished yet and now Gaurav and I spent a good hour working on the Doubleroo curriculum. We finished well after 2am with the intention of going to a special breakfast place at 7am. Not surprisingly we all slept in.

Gaurav's mother Sharda, wife Sumiti, nieces Mishika and Janisha, and sister in law Sheetal.

Yesterday morning after breakfast it was time to say our goodbyes with a photo. The ladies of the house had spent all their time tending to our every whim and I have to say I felt slightly guilty not helping in any way. I was promised that next time I'll be allowed to do some cooking. And washing up? We'll see ☺

Gaurav was also answering calls from schools and students from across Haryana state for seminars and lessons after the Commonwealth. Chess is very popular in India and the chess in schools initiative by the Haryana chess association cannot begin to meet the demand. I hope to return at the end of the year to help out.

Doubleroo has also ordered some of those t-shirts we wore to the seminar and other chess paraphernalia. Panipat is a real manufacturing hub and the skilled tradesmen here can make anything out of any material so if there is something you have always wanted made but didn't know how to go about it just email Gaurav.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hectic day in Panipat part1

I have been meaning to come to Panipat for many years. This year finally everything fell into place. Even so I was only able to spend one full day there. we arrived late in the evening on the 12th after driving from Mathura, with a stopover in Delhi to look at some chess sets. India'sure craftsmanship is renowned. 

As always relatively short trips take all day because not only are the roads slow but one has to socialise on the way of course! Not that different from Mediterranean culture actually. We arrived rather late yet Gaurav's family had stayed up to greet us. After the obligatory midnight snack I was shown to the guest room, decked out like a fine hotel, with kettle, tea&coffee and everything else a guest could wish for.

I was able to write my previous blog post because, as any fine guest room, there was WiFi ☺

Yesterday morning started with Gaurav's mother's home made stuffed Parantha's with home made butter, chutneys yogurt etc etc. They get their milk delivered fresh twice daily and make all the dairy products themselves. I of course stuffed myself stupid.

We then headed into town to collect some things we would be needing later like the new "Doubleroo" t-shirts. (Soon available) 😉 we arrived at the school where our seminar was scheduled and we were immediately ushered through the gates and into the principles office where we were introduced to the department heads and teachers.

The first thing that struck me about the school was how gleaming and spotless it was. Not even a scrap of paper could be seen anywhere. The gardens were tended like in a botanic garden and pavements had cute little drawings on them. So what you may say. Well, despite all the positives, India is not the cleanest country on earth. Bins are few and far between and rubbish is everywhere. Every pavement, street, get the picture. Everywhere except this school. Not one single scrap. I'll stop now.

There is also a strong commitment to sports as can be seen by this prominently placed poster.

I was quite taken aback when I saw the assembly hall filled with students. We expected about 20. Apparently they had to turn 50 away due to lack of space!

Then came music, three garlands of flowers and a painting by a former student.  An overwhelming reception. After the seminar, which the students followed with great enthusiasm, I was mobbed for autographs until I got writers cramp. Photo's followed in many parts of the school with students, teachers and administrators, and then, can you guess. Yes of course. Food! Lots of food and delicious food.

I will have to leave the afternoon adventures until later as I'm about to board a flight to KL soon. But first....

I don't think I told you yet that my passport pouch mysteriously vanished from my room in Delhi with a few Euro, some Malaysian ringgit in it. Luckily noyes my passport so it was just a flesh wound. 

Well, it has now been replaced by this bag, which holds my passport, tablet and mobile perfectly! Silver linings 😉

Story to follow in part two!