Melbourne is a big, sprawling city of around 4 million people. It is situated around Port Phillip Bay and has various mountains surrounding it to the east and north making it a picturesque area to live. Chess in Melbourne is vibrant with a number of clubs situated around the town, as well as less intense venues to play. There is a healthy tournament scene and the city is lucky to be resident to a number of strong players including a Grand Master and a number of International Masters. At the other end of the scale, coaching organisations work throughout the schools network in Melbourne ensuring that a new crop of club players start to come through.
The flagship event of the year is the Victorian Championship, which is traditionally a round robin event. This year the tournament is pretty strong with top seed being 2400+ FM Bobby Cheng. Bobby is so far on 2/2 and is leading the event along with new IM Ari Dale. Of course there is a long way to go, but Bobby is certainly the player to beat. The tournament is held over a number of venues across the city in order to bring the top players to the chess playing public, and in order to not favour one club too much. While this can be inconvenient involving a deal of travelling around the city, and playing at different times of various weeks (clubs are open on different days) it is also an interesting format that doesn't seem to detract from the general strength of the field. One strange development is that one of the players in this tournament has recently been banned from one of the venue clubs and I'm not sure how that will be accommodated. The Melbourne Chess Club have banned David Beaumont at a rather inconvenient time as he is to play at the venue tomorrow night. If David is not allowed on the premises then that will throw the Victorian Championship into disarray and I don't know if the MCC have made allowance for David playing in this tournament or not. Of course, David could play at another venue, though this seems to me to detract from the Premier Victorian chess tournament. Hopefully, someone from MCC or Chess Victoria can clear up exactly what will be happening here.
***Addenda***: Apparently David Beaumont is not banned from the MCC yet. MCC Secretary, Sylvester Urban, informs me that David is still welcome to play at the MCC and therefore the Victorian Championship can go ahead as planned, at least for now.
Meanwhile, the MCC is running the City of Melbourne Open on Monday nights, a 9 round FIDE rated event which has attracted a mere 23 players. Rating favourites IM Mirko Rujevic nd Malcolm Pyke share the lead on 2.5/3 and the half point they dropped was against each other. If these 2 start winning against lower rated opposition then it could be a high winning score for the tournament, and a gap between 1st-2nd and the pack. But again, there is a long way to go, and a group of players will fancy their chances of halting the progress of the two top seeds. Box Hill/Canterbury Chess Club is currently about half way through its Club Championship. FM Chris Wallis is leading this event with 5/5 with a decent sized field of about 50 players. The other major chess club in Melbourne, Noble Park is also mid way through an event. The Noble Park Open currently has 3 leaders on 3/3, FM Dusan Stojic, Eugene Schon, and Michael Chan. One of Melbourne's newer clubs, Noble Park has consistently grown its numbers till now we see a good sized field of about 50 player with players of all strengths represented. Noble Park are to be congratulated on their growth, starting small with a definite aim at providing quality chess, developing slowly but surely so as to encourage new members and to eventually create a weekend tournament held in September (this year will be their second weekender), and now taking on the role of hosts of the next Australian Championship. Noble Park Chess Club can certainly be seen to be the new success of chess in Melbourne.
However, all clubs are doing a great job of providing local (and sometimes not so local) players with a venue to play their beloved game. Melbourne has a number of events coming up:
Victorian Open: Canterbury Chess Club will be hosting this one over the Queen's Birthday long weekend of June 7-10.
Victorian Junior Championships: Canterbury Chess Club are again hosting this over the school holiday period of June 28-July 12.
Croydon Chess Classic: Croydon Chess Club will be holding their annual weekender on July 13-14, and with only 52 places available, I'd hurry to enter this excellently run tournament, run by an extremely friendly suburban chess club.
Frankston Allegro: Frankston Chess Club is one of Melbourne's biggest in terms of membership, but not in terms of tournaments. So it is good to see them putting on events that may attract others down to their Southern venue. The tournament is being held on 20th July.
Best in the West: this is Hobson's Bay Chess Club's annual weekender, but I have heard nothing about it this year so far. It is usually held around August/September and is another tournament with a friendly atmosphere, held last year in the Western suburb of Altona.