Thursday, March 28, 2013

Australia's Premier Event

Annually, the top event in Australia is the Easter long weekend Doeberl Cup in Canberra. This year, the organisers have assembled perhaps the strongest field to date for their premier tournament with 75 players listed of which 11 are Grand Masters, 10 are International Masters, 3 are above 2600 and 18 are over 2400. Besides the Premier there are 3 other sections, for players rated below 2000 ACF, below 1600 ACF, and below 1200 ACF. The numbers of participants in each of the fields is good, with 72 in the U-2000, 50 in the U-1600, and 43 for the U-1200.

I really like tournaments with rated sections, rather than one big open tournament. I feel they are more inclusive, and allow players to step up into a harder section, or to try to win a prize within their rating group. As a promising player in the UK a long, long time ago, I spent a year playing in weekend tournaments sometimes playing in open's for the experience and sometimes trying to win limited rated sections. Eventually I had to play only in open sections, but the value of working my way through 'novice', then 'minor', then 'major' sections built my strength gradually and assuredly. My improvement was constantly being challenged by others rated above me, and by those who were improving with me as we tried to progress faster than one another.

Unfortunately, there are few tournaments in Australia that offer ratings limited sections, especially in Victoria and I wonder if this is a deterrent to some players. As a 1400 strength player I'm not sure I would be happy about continually being pushed into events where I was a bottom seed by a long margin. I would be happy to step up once in a while, but I would also like to try to win a section designed for players around my ability, say for instance, an under 1600 tournament.

I have fond recollection of playing as a junior and a lower rated player in tournaments where Grand Masters also competed, but in different sections, the annual Hastings Congress being a prime example. My first Hastings saw me playing in a minor, but I eventually progressed to the top amateur section. Meanwhile, next to me Masters and Grandmasters competed in the "Challengers" and "Premier" sections. This meant that I was able to compete at a comfortable level, while also rubbing shoulders with some of my heroes, and learning about other players who would become players I would be continually trying to match myself against.

I will be keenly following the events in Canberra, and not just the strong Premier event. I have friends and students playing throughout the sections so each tournament holds a special interest for me. There are live games which actually start about now. There will be the top 4 boards of the Premier which starts today, and from tomorrow there will also be the top board from the U-2000 and U-1600 sections.

Good luck to all the competitors. I will be following this closely as I'm sure many other Australians will be, and I will be especially cheering along my fellow Victorians and MCC players who have made the trip to Canberra.

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