The 51st annual Easter long weekend tournament in Canberra, the Doeberl Cup, will be long remembered by members of Victorian club, the Melbourne Chess Club. A large group of players traveled north to compete in the country's premier event, some hoping for norms, some for victory, and some just for the experience. Those of us that didn't go followed the fortunes of our friends as well as the action on the top boards which were broadcast live. The tournament was split into 4 sections, a Premier (9 round swiss with norm possibilities), a Major (under 2000 ratings), a Minor (under 1600 ratings) and an under 1200 event. There was some MCC interest in all these sections, but that is not what will be remembered most by the MCC membership about this year's tournament.
The Premier was probably the strongest event in Doeberl history. Pre tournament favourites were GM Li Chao (2686) and GM van Wely (2684). These 2 satisfied their high seeding by finishing first (Li Chao 7.5/9) and equal second (van Wely 7/9 tied with GM Stocek). The top Aussie was Queensland IM Moulthun Ly 6.5 while the top Victorian's were GM Daryl Johansen, FM Bobby Cheng, FM Chris Wallis, FM Dusan Stojic, and David Garner all on 5.5. These are all members of the MCC showing just how strong the club is. Luckily for Victorian chess, these players don't limit themselves to just one club and are also members of other Melbourne based clubs such as Box Hill and Noble Park. Other members of the MCC represented us in the Premier event: FM Domagoj Dragicevic (was going very well early with a win against GM Varga followed by a draw with GM Laxman), Ari Dale, IM James Morris, Karl Zelesco all scoring 5, Justin Tan, David Beaumont 4.5, Laurent Michaille 4, Svetozar Stojic (ex member), Jack Puccini 3.5, Tony Davis (non member, but regular at the club) 3, Felix Wyss 1.5. All in all it was a great turnout for the MCC and some highlights for me were Domagoj's win against GM Varga, Bobby Cheng's excellent effort against top seed Li Chao ending in a draw, Justin Tan's brilliant victory against GM Czebe and watching the game between Li Chao and James Morris live while messaging to James Mum who was desperately willing her son to hold on to the draw against the super GM.
The limited rated tournaments also saw MCC interest. The under 1200 saw Sophie Davis, Tony's daughter playing. While she is not an MCC member, Tony is often seen in the club. Young Sophie scored 2/7. The Minor was a toughly competitive event, which saw Victorian Junior David Cannon take first alongside talented NSW junior Kashish Christian. MCC's Daniel Dobos scored 4.5, Hannibal Swartz 3, and Paul Cavezza 2 (though he withdrew before the last day so it was from just 5 games). But the main triumph for the MCC was the Major under 2000 section. The tournament was won by MCC Treasurer Andrew Saint on 6.5/7. In the last round he had to play another MCC member, Dmitry Partsi with the winner of that game being the tournament winner. Andrew won the game, and took out the tournament. Other MCC participants were Gary Bekker 4.5, Richard Voon, Jason Chew, Anthny Hain, Sarah Anton 4, Finley Dale 3.5, Rad Chmiel 3, Angelo Tsagarakis 2.5 and Ray Yang 2.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. Driving back from Canberra to Melbourne, a group of MCC members were involved in a car crash which claimed the life of Andrew Saint so soon after his joy of winning the prestigious Doeberl Major. Stunned members of the Australian chess community have reflected on how great a guy Andrew was, and I can confirm from my own brief time of knowing him, that Andrew always had a smile on his face, a positive outlook, and a will and energy to make things happen. The car crash cruelly also saw another fatality. Hannibal Swartz is a relatively new member to the MCC, and I hadn't met him before, but again by all accounts he was a positive, and genial member of the club. Both these young men will be sorely missed, and their fate will be long remembered by those of us who knew them.
The car was travelling on the Hume Highway, the main freeway between Melbourne and Sydney with 110 KPH speed limits. A tyre blew out and at those sort of speeds it would have been difficult to maintain control of the vehicle. Apparently the car turned over and no one in the car avoided injuries. The least injured were MCC committee members, Paul Cavezza and Anthony Hain though how minor their injuries are remains to be seen. Two others were in the car, and both were in critical condition and had to be taken by helicopter to major Melbourne hospitals. Dimitry Partsi, who had played the final game against Andrew Saint, is apparently conscious but sore, and awaiting surgery at the Royal Melbourne hospital. The biggest worry was 18 year old IM James Morris who was flown to the Albert with head and body injuries and was induced into a coma. Apparently, James has recently woken according to IA Gary Bekker, who reports that he has multiple bodily injuries, but has escaped without any serious head injuries. James is still in a critical condition according to his mother, and the next 48 hours will be crucial.
I am sure I speak for the whole of the MCC, and the Australian (and international) chess community when I pass on my condolences to the families of Andrew and Hannibal and wish those injured in the accident a fast and full recovery.
The accident made both local and national news.
Here is that final round game from board 1 of the Doeberl Cup. Both players were seeking glory, while soon after they would both be sharing a part in a terrible tragedy.
edit: as I was writing this post, the MCC President Grant Szuveges was writing his own piece on the facebook page of the Melbourne Chess Club. I asked him if I could post it here, and he agreed.
RIP ANDREW SAINT
I first met Andrew when he moved to Melbourne for work. He came along to the MCC and after a short time we found out that he had been involved in chess administration in South Australia. He quickly accepted an offer to join the MCC committee and put in some great service to our club.
He was a very generous person and would always offer others a coffee when he went to buy one - even if he didnt know them that well. He was also generous with his time, putting a huge amount of effort into the very difficult job of being the Melbourne Chess Club treasurer, despite working long hours in his day job. Andrew was a shining light as a very generous and giving person amongst a chess scene of "individuals". He gave more to chess than he took out of it - both at MCC and back in Adelaide.
Andrew was also a wonderful person away from chess. He liked fine food and dining out. At a Bunnings sausage sizzle to raise funds for MCC, he bought all of us some Wagu beef steaks just to share the gourmet experience with all of us. After the sizzle he showed myself, Pano Skiotis and Paul Cavezza one of his favourite restaurants "Laksa King", a Malaysian restaurant in Flemington. It was so good that I went back there the next night too! Andrew was also the brains behind the free lunch at Cup Weekender and wouldve enjoyed cooking good food for all of the players in the event. As well as food and cooking, I also enjoyed talking to Andrew about travelling, football and his other interests - in fact we really didnt talk very much about chess!
When someone passes away, it is customary to talk about the persons attributes and generosity, however with Andrew its simply so easy to remember countless examples of these things - they are not hard to find with him and even after we all discuss the great things he did, there will still have been another 1000 generous things he has done that have simply gone unnoticed - that was just the sort of person he was.
After hearing that Andrew had won the major at Doeberl, I immediately sent him a rather cheeky email suggesting that he should use his prize money to buy an MCC life membership. Had he read it, Im sure that he wouldve known that I wasnt completely serious, yet it wouldnt have surprised me either if he had actually said "yes ok"! Unfortunately the next thing I heard was that he was gone. He will be looking down now and giggling about that email I think...
In losing Andrew, Australian chess has lost a great great person who did so much for other people and so much for chess itself. Andrew thankyou for the work you have done at MCC and for the friendship, happieness, coffees and restaurant tips you have given all of us - you are already deeply missed! Well done on a magnificent performance in your final tournament - not many people get to go out on top, but you certainly have - in both chess and in life in general!
Rest in peace my friend.