Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Worst Tipster

The next time I  say someone will win something, then pick someone else to win it! It's official, my predictions are very poor. However, self knowledge is a great thing, and I know that this is a weakness of mine so I don't gamble. In fact, I don't even buy lottery tickets! Let's see my last set of predictions and assess their progress so far....

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

Well 1/5 is not so bad, is it? Levon Aronian took the lead in the Wijk A group yesterday, after Magnus Carlsen suffered a defeat to World Number 7 Karjakin. So this leaves Carlsen in joint second place with Ivanchuk and Radjabov, but a whole point behind Aronian. There are 4 rounds to go, so nothing is clear yet, though Aronian is in the box seat.

In the B-group, I chose Potkin, the 2011 European Champion, but he has played well below that form and currently sits in the bottom half of the field. Indian GM Harikrishna is a point clear here of L'Ami, Bruzon and Motylev, and these are well clear of the rest. In the C-group, Matthew Sadler has been really disappointing in my opinion. He is at plus one but doesn't seem to be able to win games. With a strong finish he may still end near the top of the table, but he is too far back to win (2.5 points back with 4 games to go). After his comeback successes before Christmas, I thought Matthew would run away with this tournament, but 2 other GM's, Turov and Tikkanen lead the field.

Queenstown seemed like a great swiss event this year, but my prediction didn't live up to expectations. In the early rounds Jones was in with the leaders, but in consecutive rounds he faltered against young Victorian players. First he could only draw with IM James Morris, who produced a nice exchange sacrifice to stabilise the position, and then in the following game, he was outplayed by FM Chris Wallis. This game ended with the unusual material imbalance of rook and 4 pawns versus rook, bishop and knight. Chris had no pawns, but managed to exchange rooks and win all the pawns, finally showing he knew the technique to win with knight and bishop.

The tournament was won by Melbourne GM Darryl Johansen who was backing up from the Australian Championship that he also won. In Queenstown, he finished joint first but won on tiebreak ahead of Chinese GM's Li Chao and Zhao Jun. It's a great effort by Darryl and good to see him at his very best form. With the current crop of strong young players around Australia, it is important that older players retain their strength and force the youngsters to stretch themselves to overtake them.

The Australian Junior Championship concluded at the weekend and was certainly affected at the top level by the absence of players competing in Queenstown. However, there were still a group of talented players and there was no clear favourite for the under 18 Championship. All the results can be seen online at the site of the tournament management software, tornelo. It was a close affair in the end, but finally, South Australian third seed Alistair Cameron won by half a point from Justin Tan and 10 year old Anton Smirnov. All of these are very good players, and Alistair was a worthy and popular winner. The 9-round format which was used for the first time last year, again proved sufficient and all the age group championships were hard fought. On the tornelo site, there is a database of 1142 games, most of which were uploaded by the kids themselves during the event.

Australian Under 18 Champions, Miranda Webb-Liddle and Alistair Cameron

As the worst tipster, I thought it best not to predict any more results, bringing my kiss of death to players. However, I couldn't help myself when a friendly debate at the Australian Junior occurred between IM's Leonid Sandler and Vladimir Smirnov reagrding the upcoming World Championship. The upshot is that I have now officially tipped Anand to win, which I guess must dramatically increase Gelfand's chances in this match!

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