This was the round where the top seeds all started meeting. On top board, the second seed in the tournament, Dusan Stojic was playing the 2008 MCC Champion Malcolm Pyke. My very brief glances through this game gave me the impression Malcolm was doing ok, but the last time I looked the game had spiralled out of control and it looked as if anything could happen. I'm not sure if this is what happened but if so then I sympathise with Malcolm, as I've had plenty of games spin so wildly out of control where a semi bad move from either side can lose the game. Actually, I felt that it could happen in my game last night at one point, but I decided to try to maintain a more balanced approach and not go "all in". My game with third seed Domogoj Dragicevic was a tense battle with little advantage either way until Domogoj let a-pawn go. It looked as if he could get into a drawn rook endgame with 2 pawns each on the king side, while I had an out side a pawn. However, his pawn structure was bad and I was able to win. Sylvester Urban played the Dragon against Mirko Rujevic, and I was expecting a massive slugfest, but funnily enough Mirko restrained the position and an endgame was reached where he had a knight against Sylvester's bishop. Mirko won the endgame, though I don't know where the game was won or lost. After being away for a year it is good to see Pano Skiotis back at the club (well, sort of, as he always beats me!) and he did his best to hack Chris Wallis in a Stonewall Attack type of thing. Chris was up to the task of defending, though I think he may have had a few scary moments along the way.
Any tournament brings about moments for the underdogs. Usually it's a win or draw against a high rated opponent, but the MCC Championship has seen 2 players on a big high. David Beaumont is hardly a novice, but is sometimes overlooked as a contender. His FIDE is a respectable 2065, though I think he has every intention of pushing it higher and he will readily admit that his biggest problem is one of consistency. I know David intends to work on his game over the next 12 months, so we'll see if it pays dividends. So far he has played excellent chess in the Championship and he came up with a nice tactic to put away Thai Ly last night. I was sat next to this game and I was pretty impressed, especially seeing how strong Thai is. However, David's achievements are completely pushed aside by Anthony Harris who has started with the tournament of his life. So far, the 1444 ACF rated youngster has beaten Gary Lycett (ACF 1819), drawn with top seed IM Guy West (ACF 2309) and last night beat Rad Chmiel (ACF 1736) for a massive performance improvement. Anthony will be looking for more big scalps to take out, and to my horror, I have a terrible feeling that I will be dropping down to play him in the next round.
A number of the players lower down bounced back, including Guy West who won a crazy looking game against Felix Wyss and he now heads a group of elite players 1 point back from the leading group which includes Dragicevic, Pyke, Urban, Dowling, Skiotis, Dale and Zelesco. With only 1 point separating the top 18 players, there should be some fighting chess and a general sorting of positions over the next couple of weeks, before the week break over Labour Day when the Championship adjourns for the traditional Ballarat weekender.
So here's my game against Domogoj from last night. I will admit to knowing little about the opening, and just trying to get to a position where I could play. I think I was too optimistic about my position through most of the middlegame, and while I wasn't worse I now understand that I wasn't really better. Of all the openings that I've ever played in chess, I think my judgement is probably worst in the Grunfeld, and would gladly accept anyone's advice on a simple system to play which doesn't take too much effort to learn, and offers white a playable position and can be understood by grunfeldaphobes like myself.