Thursday, January 5, 2012

Last post before holiday

This time tomorrow I will be in New Zealand and within 48 hours I'll be on a trek around Milford Sound out of phone range, or internet accessibility. So I'll miss out on the end of the Australian Championships and other assorted events that I've been following at the start of this year. I will be back in time for the Australian Junior Championships, Wijk aan Zee, and ironically I will be able to follow the Queenstown Classic online as I will be leaving Queenstown just as it is about to start. In a way I do envy those guys who will be playing Queenstown, but given the choice of a holiday abroad or a chess tournament abroad, at the moment a holiday is more important to me. Unfortunately, playing chess would be too much like a busman's holiday for my liking!

On Tuesday I travelled down to the Australian Championship in Geelong. I must admit that while the tournament is strong, as a spectator I didn't get the 'Wow Factor' that I would expect from the National Championship, which was a bit of a shame. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but perhaps the playing room is a bit small and dark round the sides, there is hardly any space between the Championship and the Reserves so it looks like one big open. There is a stage area, but it isn't being used which is a shame, and there is no commentary of the games, or even displays of the games by monitor or the old fashioned demo boards. I would expect a bookstall, but there isn't one, and there isn't even a table with info and flyers about other events.

Ok, so I've had a whinge, now on to all that is good. That is the tournaments themselves and the organisation which is smooth.

IA Charles Zworestine (left) and FA Peter Tsai running the Champs smoothly

The Championship has kept taking twists. Darryl Johansen and Vlad Smirnov drew their game to stay half a point clear of the George Xie who was the only player on the day to capitalise on their draw by winning his game against Bobby Cheng.

George Xie with arms folded, facing the camera. The main winner of the day.

The tournament clarified a little the day after I left. Johansen had to play Xie, and the Grandmaster gave a display of his true ability grinding his opponent down relentlessly. This victory leaves Johansen a point clear, and in the drivers seat as he has played most of his main rivals. Darryl has a wealth of experience, and I wouldn't imagine him losing his grip on this tournament now. His nearest rivals, a point behind, are Zhao, Smirnov and Solomon. The last of these, Stephen Solomon had a slow start to the tournament, but is now in top gear after a victory in the last round against second seed George Xie in a long game with a difficult queen ending to finish off. Stephen's renowned tenacity saw him through in a game that many would have been happy to draw.

Back to back Champions, Solomon to the left, Johansen to the right.

The draw for the next round sees:

The Reserves tournament is also interesting, and that was an enjoyable part of my visit, seeing players I know who are playing in the events. From my club, the Melbourne Chess Club (MCC), it was good to wish Happy New Year to players like Domagoi Dragicevic, James Morris, Frank Lekkas, Michael Addamo (interesting fact of the tournament was seeing Michael sat cross legged on his chair while deep in thought), Elliott Renzies, John Beckman and many more! The reserves is currently being led by a player who we in Victoria know little about. David Spuler from Queensland is a mystery man, but there is no mystery to how well his chess is going. He is currently half a point clear of ex-Australian Champion (3 times!) Doug Hamilton, and the 2 will play in the next round. 4 players are a further half a point behind, Savige, Lekkas, Penrose and Omar Khaled who like Solomon in the Championship has started to come good at the right time. Omar had a tough event just before Christmas when he played the round robin Australasian Masters, and that experience will no doubt leave him a stronger player. Also picking up steam but a further half point back are Dowling, Kordahi and Dale who join Kinto Wan and Wenlin Yin. I would say with 3 rounds to go, the tournament winner has to come from the one of the players I've named. The minor places are still up for grabs, and anyone who puts in a good finish is in with a chance.

Some great coverage of this particular event can be found on Kerry Stead's blog. Getting the view of one of the competitors is always a unique view of the tournament.

 IM James Morris planning strategy

 Frank Lekkas awaits mystery man David Spuler

Box Hill Chess Club VP Frank Cheng and Chess Victoria President Leonid Sandler

 Kerry Stead faces Vineetha Vijesuriya in the Reserves tournament

From left: Jason Tang (wearing red), Justin Tan, IM Stephen Solomon (drinking water), GM Darryl Johansen, IM James Morris, IM George Xie, Karl Zelesco

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