Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rest Day at the Australian Championships

Happy New Year! It is the 1st January 2012, and there is no play in the Australian Championship today. An interesting feature of tournaments that span the New Year is that players ratings change during the event. The top players haven't changed much:

Zhao 2568 (+4)
Xie 2459 (+19)
Khamparia 2414 (=)
Wohl 2412 (+8)
Johansen 2403 (=)
Illingworth 2388 (-13)
Solomon 2375 (-9)

So there has been a slight rise in the average of the top players in the championship.

Big jumps have been made by:

Bobby Cheng 2375 (+30) and moving into the top 10 Australian players
Domagoj Dragicevic 2277 (+30) close to the FM title, and I guess he's getting closer with his championship start.
Laurence Matheson 2167 (+41) the 2150 minimum rating limit for the Aus Champs would have had Laurence missing out if there wasn't a proviso for improving juniors.

Currently Australia is ranked 51st based on the top 10 rated players on the active list. The current crop of great juniors on show in this Championship may be able to help push this ranking up. If players such as Illingworth, Ly, Cheng, Morris, and Ikeda carry on as they are and get the opportunities to play in strong events (they are all prepared to travel overseas to broaden their horizons!) then the 2421 average for the top 10 players will surely rise.

In the 4th round, Bobby Cheng came up against Indian IM Akshat Khamparia who tried the unusual Snake Benoni. Unfortunately, either Bobby was prepared or he played natural moves which led to an advantage. Whichever, it was the Indian IM who blundered early.

Bobby played the natural 6.e4 (6.Nf3 is the mainline where 6,,Bc7 is one of 3 main moves, the others being 6..O-O, and 6..a6, though there are quite some transpositions) 6..Bc7? (While this is a move against 6.Nf3, it is a known blunder against 6.e4) 7.d6! Ba5 8.e5 (white is already winning!) 8..Ne4 (there is no good move) 9.Qg4
Black has a horrible choice of dropping a piece or allowing Qxg7. Black castled and Chen took the knight on e4.

So far, I haven't talked about the Australian Championship Reserves Tournament at all which is a shame as I know so many players involved. Tomorrow I hope to be in Geelong to spectate directly, and I'll try to bring some impressions of this event, which is just as competitive as the Championship if not more. I'll also try to find out who is in contention for norms at the Championship, though it might be a bit early to tell yet.

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