Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fitzroy Skittles

Sunday Morning saw me drive to the inner city suburb of Fitzroy to the Melbourne Chess Club to catch up with some friends and watch some of the Fitzroy Skittles. It has to be said that Fitzroy doesn't appeal to everyone, and the MCC's location between the large thoroughfares of Brunswick Street and Nicholson Street just to the North of the city has it's detractors. But the club still has a healthy membership of over 150 and 30 players turned out today for the skittles.
Brunswick Street shopping is not to everyone's taste :D
Brunswick Street is a great eating strip with cafes and restaurants to suit everyone's taste. I turned up a little early on purpose so as to go for a coffee in one of my favourite cafes, Cafe Nova. However, Cafe Nova is now Cafe Ethos and it took me a little time for this to register. I walked in, looked at the place where I usually sit and it wasn't there, a booth  that had been replaced by an empty wall space. Still, I had a coffee which was ok and spent a pleasant time reading the novel "Peaches for Monsieur Cure" by Joanne Harris, famous for her novel "Chocolat".

It's been over 6 months since I'd been to the MCC, and walking round from Brunswick Street I was taken by how amazing the building looks. If you haven't seen it, then you should really go and look. Some local street artists undertook a job to liven up the outside of what is an essentially drab building. The back streets of Fitzroy are full of this 'art/graffiti' so the MCC is in keeping with the rest of the neighbourhood, but it is also distinct as a chess venue.

Street Art on the MCC
Street art on the MCC

Inside there was a great vibe, with a buzz of excitement as players waited around for the start of this unique tournament. I spent time chatting with people I hadn't seen for the best part of a year, and there was a really friendly feeling throughout the club today. President Grant Szuveges was running the show, and was acting as arbiter for the event. The event itself runs on the unusual format of a 'losing points' system. Every player is allocated a number of points depending on their rating, the top players starting with 1.5 and the lowest rated starting with 5 points. A swiss tournament is then played, and players are eliminated once they have lost the amount of points they started with. The top rated players in the event were IM's Igor Goldenberg and Ari Dale, but with only 1.5 points they both had little margin for error.
MCC President Grant Szuveges demonstrates what he'll do to anyone that touches his notepad! 

IM's Ari Dale (left) and Igor Goldenberg waiting for the first round to start
As the tournament is a swiss, the top players start to meet about the third round and then they start taking points off each other. The biggest fun is knocking someone out of the event, or "Skittling" them. The first players to be skittled don't usually happen until round 4 or 5, and by round 5 there were 5 players eliminated out of the 32 starters, and top seed Goldenberg was already down to just a half point left. In the end Igor survived until the very last match when he had to face fast improving junior talent Jack Puccini in the sudden death 11th round where both players just had a half point to lose (not sure what would have happened if the game had been a draw?). Igor Goldenberg won the game, and took the Fitzroy Skittles event for 2013.

The event was sponsored by the Red Triangle and life member Tino Fulgenzi who owns the Red Triangle was present at the start of the tournament. I had a brief chat with Igor Goldenberg before the tournament began asking him if he was making a comeback. He said he intends to play some chess in preparation for the 2014 Australian Championships which are being run by Noble Park Chess Club, and in which Igor wants to put in a good performance. The field of about 30 players may have been a bit disappointing, but there was a clash of events with Chess Victoria holding a Victorian Rapid Championship in the seaside town of Lorne over this same weekend. I believe they had about 20 players, so that makes 50 playing tournament allegro chess altogether this weekend. It's just a shame that it didn't happen in one place, as that would have made for a spectacular tournament. I asked FM Bill Jordan if he thought there was too much tournament chess happening in Victoria at the moment. His reply was simply that in the old days, the Skittles tournament would get fields of over 100 players, and it was probably due to the number of events in the calendar that many tournaments are getting smaller numbers. Is this what we want? Personally I'd rather see fewer events, but great numbers turning out for each one, but getting the right balance is certainly a matter of trial and error over the years.

Anyway, all in all it was a great fun event, and the MCC even ran a blitz tournament for those who were skittled early. It's these sort of things, giving the members some fun and something a bit different that can make a club more than just a tournament chess venue. So good on the MCC for hosting this and putting on a good show!

Tino Fulgenzi sponsoring the tournament walks around before the first round starts

The treasured notebook with all the players ratings and allocated points was not to be touched on pain of death!


  1. I guess if smaller clubs (such as Lorne) want to host events, who are we to begrudge them? Co-operative scheduling is a great idea, but I wonder how many players would travel out of Melbourne to play in a weekend tournament and also be available for another weekend shortly before or thereafter?

    Some no doubt would relish the opportunity but others would probably have to chose one or the other to attend anyway.

  2. Hi, I don't think there is a Lorne chess club, and I believe that the tournament was run by Chess Victoria. I am certainly a fan of each club running a weekender throughout the year, including smaller clubs. I guess the reason that Ballarat is so successful is that the club put all their efforts into that one tournament. But there is also the fact that there are no other Victorian events that weekend to draw other players away.