Sunday, December 5, 2010

Australasian Masters Round 1

The tournament got under way yesterday at Box Hill Chess Club. It is a strong field with an average rating of just over 2300 and 9 out of the 10 players have titles. I am the only one without a title, but I have been invited to play as I represent a foreign country (England) and I make up the requisite number of overseas players needed for the tournament to qualify for norms. The IM norm is set at about 6.5 which will be tough to reach in this field.

The Players:
1. FM Max Illingworth 2304
2. IM James Morris 2240
3. FM Vladimir Smirnov 2379 (Russia)
4. FM Eddy Levi 2228
5. Carl Gorka 2179 (me!) (England)
6. IM Mirko Rujevic 2296
7. FM Erik Teichmann 2388 (England)
8. FM Mike Steadman 2285 (New Zealand)
9. FM Bobby Cheng 2316
10. IM Stephen Solomon 2397

This is the playing order for the tournament and I was lucky enough to get 5, giving me 5 whites. Stephen Solomon won't be here until tomorrow so his first 2 games have been rescheduled for Monday and Tuesday. By the end of Tuesday the tournament will be back on schedule.

The time limit is not the usual 90 minutes plus 30 seconds increment per move. Instead, the organisers have gone with the longer time limit of 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes to complete the game, with a 30 second increment from move one. It is a very generous time control which will probably stretch the games out to 5 hours.

The first round was swapped with round 3 to avoid Max Illingworth having to play 2 games in a day, so the first round pairings and results were actually:

Morris-Solomon (postponed until Tuesday)
Smirnov-Illingworth 1-0
Levi-Cheng 0-1
Gorka-Steadman 1-0
Rujevic-Teichmann 0-1

I didn't see too much of the other games, but Smirnov seemed to get a good position early against Illingworth and converted. Levi-Cheng was a long tough fight that lasted close to 5 hours. I have spoken to people who think Eddy could have held the position to a draw, but I didn't see it and the win goes to Bobby. Teichmann won an exchange against Rujevic after outplaying him in the opening. He was able to convert easily enough though he himself admits that he missed a number of quicker wins.

And then there was my game against the New Zealander, Mike Steadman. It was a strange game, I played 1.d4 but it ended up a French Defence. Mike got in a bit of a tangle early on, but I then started messing around with my queen and allowed him to take the advantage with a timely c5 advance. The position became a little messy with both of us unable to find decent plans until the position clarified into a double bishop ending where I was a pawn ahead.
It was interesting after the game that Mike Steadman, as black was trying to win this even though he was a pawn down. His reasoning was that if he could win the c5 pawn, then the ending would give him excellent chances with his connected pawn mass. Alas, he blundered his f7 pawn not long after this position and that left me with a fairly easy win as I had passed pawns on both sides of the board. It was an interesting game.

One of the interesting points of the game was after Black had played 28..Rxh2. White has a fantastic move that he never considered, because he forgot that he could do it!!! 29.0-0!

As white I had forgotten I could castle in this position!!

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