Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Playing v Watching MCC Ch 2012

Last year I got a real buzz from watching games of chess, especially while they were happening live at my club, the Melbourne Chess Club (MCC). I could analyse, kibitz and even blog about the games as they were happening. I've always felt great respect for players who can do that while they are playing. Some players have the ability to play a pretty decent game while also wandering around and examining the other games that are being played in their tournament. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those players! I spend the majority of my time at the board, and get pretty engrossed in my own game, leaving little time or energy for much else. I do get up and wander around, but it's usually just to stretch a bit or maybe get a drink. I might look at some games, but it will generally be the most cursory of glances and sometimes I can look at a board and not register anything that's happening in the game!

As such, I've played 2 games in the current MCC Club Championship and haven't seen very much of the action. I'm aware of the results, but they don't always give a full picture of how players are performing. A bad result can be achieved in a number of ways (as can a good result), such as a simple blunder, a not so simple blunder, taking excessive risks, being outplayed by a weaker (lower rated) opponent, arriving late and getting into time trouble and probably a whole load of other things. When a player wins a game they were expected to win, did they do it with ease, or did they struggle to put their opponent away?

I don't have the answers to these questions, though I do have the results and they point to a couple of interesting things. First, the tournament has just under 50 players, which is a pretty reasonable amount. Although not as strong as last year's tournament, on paper this year's event is pretty good with 2 IM's, 2 FM's and about 13 players with FIDE ratings above 2000. After 2 rounds there have already been some high level casualties. First and foremost is top seed IM Guy West who has started the tournament with 2 draws against opposition averagely rated some 800 points below him. I'm not sure what is happening here, but I don't really want to get in Guy's way when he finds form and starts trying to overhaul the leaders! Thai Ly, who is normally a pretty solid performer also couldn't get past his first round opponent, Brad Ashlock, but then won in the second round against a player rated higher than Brad! Thai sits just behind the leaders who are a pretty big pack of 9 players all rated 2000+. The other 2 players rated above 2000 who are not there are John Dowling who found himself at the top of the second half of players on 1/1, and therefore playing FM Dusan Stojic on board 1. John lost but I don't think it was any means easy for Dusan. The other missing player is Justin Penrose, who was taken out in the first round by Alex Kaplan. I didn't see any of this game, but I know from experience that Alex can be a bit tough to crack with his ultra solid style.

The tournament is still taking shape, but the next round promises to bring some top quality games as players are beginning to find a place among their peers. The draw comes out later today, but the top four boards should all see 2000+ clashes. After that Thai Ly is the top rated player on 1.5, while Guy West leads a very talented bunch on 1 point including juniors Ari Dale and Karl Zelesco. This group will be going for wins so the play should be pretty exciting. I'm on 2/2 and amongst the top guns. So far I've played ok, not really missing much and taking risks where I felt they were justified. I've outrated my opponents by 300 and 200 points so I guess I'm not making any great shakes by winning these games. Still, these guys can play pretty good chess so I'm very happy to have won, and I should find myself playing one of the very top players in the next game. The arbiter Kerry Stead has written about the tournament and will continue to do so, so I'll be following his blog closely.

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