Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm back...

I have been in New Zealand for the past week and missed some action.

The Australian Championship was won by GM Darryl Johansen for a record 6th time! He took the lead before I left and never relinquished it winning the event by a full point from an elite group of players consisting of  GM Zhao, IM's Xie, Solomon and Smirnov. The contingent of younger players failed to breach this experienced group, and FM Junta Ikeda and IM Moulton Ly led the younger challenge a further point behind, and alongside IM Wohl.

The Reserves tournament was won by MCC member Justin Penrose. I have never played Justin but my impression is a tough fighter who is happy to play difficult positions with a dogged determination. He will cause problems for his opponents at any turn and does not give up on positions which others might think too troublesome to continue the effort. Another MCC member came second, and pleasingly a junior. Like most juniors, Ari Dale has good days and bad days, but he is generally moving forward at an alarming rate. This result confirms that the MCC has another young player of 2000+ strength. Joint third were Omar Bashar, David Spuler, and another MCC member, Frank Lekkas.

All the games from the Championship are available in pgn format and the latter rounds of the Reserves have been made available as well. This is a pretty good effort seeing there was such a small staff on duty. I haven't been able to go through these games yet, but I will see if any interesting things show up over the next couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, the Hastings Congress reverted back to the days when the foreign visitors dominated. The event was won by top seed GM Wang Yue of China half a point clear of GM Istracescu of France and IM's Lalith and Shyam from India. The top English players were a further point behind in joint 8th, the GM group of Howell, Hebden, Flear, Williams and Nick Pert. This group on 6 points also included Icelandic IM G Kjartansson who seems to have had a very good tournament, scoring 2/3 in the final rounds against GM's Howell, Hebden and Istratescu!

So I have got back just in time for the start of 3 tournaments of interest to me. There is the SuperGM event in Holland, the Tatasteel Wijk aan Zee starring World number 1 Magnus Carlsen. The Australian Junior Championship started yesterday as well and runs until next weekend. And the Queenstown Classic started today and runs until next weekend. This last tournament is especially interesting to me as I've just been on holiday in Queenstown. This beautiful new Zealand town is a perfect holiday destination and I hope that the players will get some chance to experience some of the beauty of their surroundings!

Bob's Peak from Queenstown beach

OK, I suppose I better put my head on the block and throw out some tips for these tournaments:

Wijk A: Aronian
Wijk B: Potkin
Wijk C: Sadler
Aus Junior: Justin Tan
Queenstown: Jones

But good luck to all, and great to have so much interesting chess around!

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