Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Victorian Junior Championship 2011

It is day 2 of the Victorian Junior Championship for the titles of U-18, U-16 and U-14. There has already been some speculation that the tournament is not particularly representative of the older age groups, and indeed, there are a number of younger (under-12's) players in the tournament hall. Perhaps a discussion regarding how best to attract older kids needs to be opened, and this may help with the wider issue of retaining players in the game generally, rather than the falling off at club level we see in the 16-25 age group. Funnily enough, some over 25's return to the game, and some of these become lifelong addicts, but they have lost some of the best chess playing years of their lives, and not as many return as give up.

Anyway, this is really a celebration of Junior chess rather than a condemnation. Chess Victoria and the Box Hill Chess Club have arranged the tournament. There are some issues with the format. It has been suggested the prizes are small, especially compared to the entry fee. However, I have certain issues with handing out anything other than nominal cash prizes in junior events, and if I go back to when I was a junior, there was no prize money on offer. Yesterday, Box Hill Chess Club had a clash with the tenants of the building they use, and the kids were squeezed into a small room, though it was sufficiently large to play, if not particularly comfortably.It is certainly not the worst venue I have seen used! Today there have been 3 games scheduled which seems a bit tough seeing the schedule is 75 minutes + 30 seconds per move. That could easily work out at 9 hours chess for some players today, and seems to be against the general guidelines of the Australian Junior Chess League for their staging of the Australian Junior Championship where even 2 games a day is deemed excessive.

The field in the end has turned out to be quite good. The late inclusion of James Morris and Michael Chan has bolstered up the top end of the field. The winner of the Under-12 event, Karl Zelesco, along with his arch rival Ari dale means that the tournament can claim to have strength at the top. All these players have made their way to 2/2, though not without some difficulties. Reports are that Karl Zelesco was a little lucky against Jason Chew in round 1 for example. The third round is currently under way, and about half way through. It is a fascinating round with some great match up's (the rounds will become more competitive through today), with perhaps the board 2 game between Zachary Loh and Karl Zelesco being the stand out game. The top games can be followed live at Box Hill's website.

Time to look at some games (there are already a few finished).

Some interesting endgames:
 Here it is white to play, and Oswald Lee on board 19 exchanged bishop for knight. Was this correct? The bishop is usually a better piece than the knight when there are pawns on both sides of the board, but white does suddenly have a passed a-pawn.
 White, Daniel Yuan, has got his rook stuck. Luckily, he knew the drawing pattern and played 1.Rxa6! as even if he loses his b-pawn, the bishop is the wrong colour for promoting the a-pawn! Well played!
One of the most interesting fights was between David Cannon and Nicolaas Schroeder, 2 pretty evenly matched younger players, and it has come to this. David has created a frontal defence to the passed pawn and should secure a draw.

Generally speaking, this is showing a pretty high standard of chess as juniors are usually weak in this part of the game, but Daniel and David are showing that good endgame knowledge can win a player valuable points and half points!

I spoke too soon in the last position. David Cannon had set up an excellent defence, but couldn't hold out. It was great to see 2 young players continuing their game to the death, and Nicholaas tried to win the position. Unfortunately, David didn't know the technique and succumbed.

I showed this to the boys after, and hopefully they have gained something from this ending.

The tournament hall is buzzing as James Morris just wins, and Ari Dale blunders a piece to Max Chew Lee. Max has a low ratin (1465) but already has some big scalps and is a dangerous opponent. Ari is going to find it tough to get a half point from this game.

Meanwhile, it has to be remembered that girls titles are also on offer in this event, although everything is run as one big tournament. Currently, Savithri Narenthran, the Australian under 18 girls champion is on 2/2 and is in a tough fight against Michael Chan. The next top seed is Denise Lim, but she is having her work cut out and Zhi Lin Guo in the following position.

This game has moved on somewhat, and white has made the most of the position. Black had a central king that was immediately hassled with 1.Rae1. After some exchanges, white has then fastened on black's backward b-pawn, and looks to be cleaning up the queen side. I think Denise will have her work cut out to hold on.

Meanwhile, Ari looks busted, Karl Zelesco has won a pawn against Zachary Loh, but I think Zach looked good earlier. Michael Chan looks to be winning a pawn in a double rook ending against Savi Narenthran. Will it be enough to win? Difficult to say. Kyle Gibson has a huge bind against Charlotte Dilnutt and is looking at breaking through, while the game between Dmitry Lee and Jack Puccini is a tough one. A perrenial favourite of openings at junior events is the 2 knights and this round was no exception.

There are just 3 of games left but none of them look like finishing soon. The next round is due to start in just under 10 minutes, which begs the question of whether the organisers have really considered the correct times for each round. It is an issue which tournament organisers need to look at. With 3 games in a day, the organisers obviously want to get the games finished as quickly as apossible, but not giving enough times between rounds is not the answer. This round will start 30 minutes late, and if the same is said of the next round, then some players could be subjected to over 10 hours play today. At the moment there is much hanging around which is not healthy for the players. Really, when there is a 2.5 hour basic time, and 30 second increment, it is obviously dangerous to give a 3 hour playing time. Are the last players to finish going to be given some time before their next games? Will this mean that the whole round will be delayed even longer? I don't know, and I'm going to have to go for a while. I will be back for the last round today, though I have no idea when it will start!

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