Sunday, 23 March 2014

AFL Fantasy Season 2014

So round 1 of the AFL has now finished (yes, I'm one of the many who are somewhat annoyed at the split round start to the season) & the various fantasy competitions are underway.
With the apparent falling out between Virtual Sports & the AFL, there are now three big AFL fantasy competitions running in 2014 - the official AFL Fantasy comp, the Herald Sun run AFL Supercoach & the Virtual Sports run Real Dream Team.
I had a decent start in all three competitions,  AFL Fantasy 2144 (rank 10837/166604); AFL Supercoach 2233 (rank 12835/230702); Real Dream Team AFL 2114 (rank 2458/31632); Glad I scored over 2000 in all three comps (a good benchmark score to aim for), though a little disappointed with a few of my scores in AFL Fantasy, which is the main comp I am playing.
Here is the team I went into round 1 with & how they scored:
With the 'free hit' in round 1 (unlimited trades until the start of round 2) I decided to load up the midfield in an attempt to get a big round 1 score & all my selections (with the exception of Brandon Ellis) did fantastically. I was also happy with the cheap ruck options I went with - Aaron Sandilands & Shaun Hampson combining for just under 200 is a good score for such cheap rucks! Many of my premium forwards performed well - Chad Wingard, Tom Mitchell & Josh Caddy, however Patrick Dangerfield was a bit of a let down & my cheap option of Gary Rohan & Matt McDonough were decent for rookies, but in hindsight I should have played a few mid rookies, who can score big for a relatively cheap price. The Defenders were a bit of a disappointment though, with 85 being the top score there, with Sam Mitchell & Luke McDonald being the disappointments.
I'll be re-vamping my team prior to round 2 & I think it will look much more like my Real Dream Team side, but with a few changes.
My Real Dream Team round 1 team (with scores) was as follows:
Much happier overall with this side - the lack of standout forward rookies means my choice of 6 premium/breakout (non-rookie) players is probably the way to go in fantasy competitions this year. Rucks were solid, although I expected a slightly higher score from Ryder (have Hale in the Forwards as my 'Sandilands insurance' in case he picks up another injury, so I can avoid a trade & still have 2 solids rucks on the ground). I think Langdon will have to move onto the field this week after his week 1 performance & I also like the look of Langford from Hawthorn (though not in my team at present). Happy with many of my midfield selections too - Liberatore scored a little under what I was hoping for, but it was still decent & MacRae was fantastic. Rookies were all solid & I obviously would have scored higher if I had Dunstan on the field over Ellis or Michie, but its really hard to pick which rookie will have a big week in advance!
I think my round 2 AFL Fantasy team will be something similar to the RDT side, but with the extra trades, I will probably take a few more risks as it is easier to correct them with the additional trades.

I should also mention my AFL Fantasy league - use the code 2K5XUSVE to join & take me on!
I'm hoping to do an occasional update on my fantasy progress (which may become more frequent if I have the time or inclination), so feel free to check back later for more thoughts (or have a look at a few of the AFL-related pages on the right column of the blog).

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Ballarat Begonia Open

So I finally decided to play a chess tournament ... and hopefully I will play a few more this year than I have in recent years (Doeberl Cup & Sydney International are the next big weekender-type events I'm planning to play in). 
This year the Begonia Open moved from its previous home of the School of Mines, with its infamous 'pit' to Ballarat Clarendon College to accommodate for the growing number of entrants to the tournament. I found the new playing hall to be generally very nice, although the lack of air conditioning (albeit with a 'passive cooling' system being used in the building) still being a little issue. It was also a bit out of town compared to the previous venue, however when travelling that far from Melbourne, an extra kilometre or two isn't that much of a big deal (although it does make a car more desirable during the tournament).
 A few different views of the new playing hall
Overall the tournament finished in a tie for first between FM Chris Wallis & FM Kanan Izzat from Azerbaijan with 6/7. I finished further back in the field on 4/7, scoring 3 wins, 2 draws & 2 losses. Although I felt I played OK, the loss to Russell Murray in round 6 was particularly disappointing, as I felt that the position was very good for me (later confirmed by various engines), but I couldn't find the knockout blow to finish the game off!
Anyway, easing my way into looking at my round 6 game, can you find the finish to my round 4 game against Geoffrey Barber?
The game finished 25. Rg1+ Kh8 (25... Kf7 26. Qxh7+ Ke8 27. Bh5+ Rf7 28. Qxf7#) 26. Qxh7+ 1-0 (26... Kxh7 27. Rh3#)

In round 6 I played the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit against Russell Murray & he played the tricky Ziegler Defense, which has many similarities to the Caro-Kann & is considered to be one of the toughest variations against the BDG. I played the Alchemy variation & Russell played what should have been a losing move, but I didn't find the best follow-up & went on to lose rather quickly!

1. d4 Nf6 2. f3 d5 3. e4 dxe4 4. Nc3 exf3 5. Nxf3 c6 6. Bc4 Bf5 7. O-O e6 8. Ng5 (The Alchemy Variation)
8... Bxc2 (Apparently a losing move according to Scheerer) 9. Qe2 (9. Nxf7 Bxd1 (9... Kxf7 10. Qxc2 Qxd4+ 11. Be3 Qxe3+ (11... Qxc4 12. Rf4 Qa6 13. Ra4) 12. Kh1) 10. Nxd8 Kxd8 11. Rxd1 Nd5 12. Re1 with an endgame edge for white) 9... Qxd4+ 10. Be3 Qg4 (10... Qe5 11. Nf3 Qf5 12. Nd4 is the line given by Scheerer)
11. Rf3?! (11. Qxc2! Qxc4 12. Rf4 & black's queen is trapped! Best is to get a few pieces for it ... 12 ... Bc5 (12... Qa6 13. Ra4) 13. Rxc4 Bxe3+ 14. Kh1 Bxg5) I think I simply didn't calculate the position at all, stopping things after seeing the bishop exchanges & thinking that it would not be favourable to exchange pieces, rather than looking at the resulting position & seeing I could trap the queen! 11... Bc5 12. Bxc5 (12. Nxf7 Bxe3+ (12... Kxf7 13. Bxc5) 13. Kh1 Rf8 14. Ne5 Qh5 15. Qxe3) 12... Qxg5
13. Bd6? This move looks natural, but it leaves the bishop vulnerable & this was ultimately the final nail in the coffin! (13. Ba3 Bf5 14. Qe5) (13. Be3 Qe5 14. Qxc2 Ng4 15. Qe4 Qxh2+ 16. Kf1 Qh1+ 17. Ke2 Qxg2+ (17... Qxa1 18. Rxf7) 18. Bf2 Nxf2 19. Rxf2 Qxe4+ 20. Nxe4 O-O with a rather unique endgame!) 13... Bf5 14. Rxf5 (14. Bf4 & 14. Rg3 were the main alternatives I considered, but I couldn't see anything positive in either line 14... Qh4 15. Rd1 Nbd7 (15... Bg4 16. Qe3 Qh6 (16... Bxd1 17. Bxe6) (16... Nbd7 17. Rd4))) 14... Qxf5 15. Rf1 Qg4
16. Rf3? (16. Qd3 Nbd7 17. Rf4 Qg5 18. h4 Qa5 looks promising, but soon runs out of steam, but is better than the game) 16... Qd4+ 0-1

 Maybe I can do better in 2015 ...

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Northern Star Chess Squad

This week in the Northern Star Chess squad, the focus was on mating patterns. As a result, we looked at a number of positions with a variety of checkmate themes. Let's see how you go with them (as with last week, the solutions are below the puzzles in white):

White to move:
Here white has a forced win: 1. Rd8+ Kg7 (or Kf7; Kh7 leads to a quicker checkmate) 2. R1d7+ Kf6 (2...Kh6 3. Rh8#) 3. Rf8+ Ke5 4. Re8+ Kf4 (4...Kf6 5.Re6#) 5. Rd4+ Kg3 6. Re3#

White to move:
The key move is 1. Re5, threatening 2. Rg5+ & 3. Qg7#. Black has a few defensive tries, which all fail: 1... Rd7 2. Rg5+ Kh7 3. Rh5+ Kg8 4. Rh8#; 1... Rf8 2. Qg6+ Kh8 3. Rh5#; 1... Qc7 2. Rg5+ Kh7 3. Rh5+ Kg8 4. Rh8#;
Black to move:
1. Ne2+ Kh1 2. Qxh2+ Kxh2 3. Rh4#
Black to move:
1... Rxf3 gxf3 2. Nd4+ 3. Kh1 (3. Rg2 Nxf3+ 4. Kh1 Rd1+ 5. Rg1 Rxg1#) Nxf3 with unstoppable mate, either by Rh2# or if white plays Rg2 to defend, then Rd1+ followed by Rg1#

White to move:
1. Ne7+ Kh8 2. Qxh7+ Kxh7 3. Rh1#

White to move:
This puzzle features a clearance tactic to win ... 1. Rh8+ Kxh8 2. Qg8#
 White to move:
This is another example of the Arabian Mate ... 1. Qxf8+ Kxf8 2.Re8+ Kg7 3. Rg8#

Black to move (though there is also a win with white to move):
This combines multiple ideas of discovered attack & interference ... 1... Nh3+ 2. gxh3 (2. Kh1 Qxh2#; 2. Qxh3 Bxh3, with the threat of Qxh2# which leaves black with a huge material advantage)  Qxh2#
Of course if it is white's turn to move, then the win is 1. Bg6+ Kg8 (Black could delay for a move with 1... Nh5, but after 2. Qxh5+ the finish is the same) 2. Qh7#

 Black to move:
This position also combines multiple ideas: Discovered attack, Anastasia's Mate & Smothered Mate ... quite appropriately it is from a game by one of the greatest early attacking players in chess history, Paul Morphy!
The win is as follows: 1...Ng3! 2. Qxd4 (2. Qxh7 Nde2#) Ne2+ 3. Kh1 Qxh2 4. Kxh2 Rh8+ 5. Bh6 Rxh6+ 6. Qh4 Rxh4#

After a break & games (which will be analysed during the week), we looked at the following game which had a number of themes to it - tactics, particularly in the opening stage; the concept of compensation & what it means; use of the initiative; as well as prophylaxis & paralysing an opponent's position.
In some ways its amazing to think that the player on the black side who appears helpless at the end of the game is in fact a 2600+ GM!

There are a number of critical moments in the game:
8. Bg2! is a stunning idea, as is the follow-up 9. 0-0! with white temporarily sacrificing a piece to quickly develop all of their pieces.
11.Nb3 as a way to maintain the initiative, which is an important aspect of the opening phase of the game.
17. Rxc5! as an exchange sacrifice, again designed to maintain the initiative, but also allow for thoughts about the idea of compensation to be shared.
21. Bd6! to keep black's bishop from getting into the game, using the concept of prophylaxis.
24. c5! maintaining the bind on the black queenside pieces & not allowing them to get involved in the game
Also the final idea of trapping the black queen & being on the lookout for these tactical possibilities, was also a useful idea from the game.

If you wish to attend future sessions, please see the details on the Northern Star Chess website. They are running for most Sunday afternoons for the remainder of the school term.