Sunday, September 1, 2013

Best In The West

Now this is a tournament I would have really liked to have played in, but I had to work for most of the first day so it wasn't an option for me. The turnout was fantastic from both a quality and quantity point of view. A great tribute to the organisers, Hobson's Bay Chess Club.

Tony Davis, player and organiser.
The tournament has been run since the early 1980's, but this must surely be the strongest and biggest of all so far. There were over 80 players competing this year and it caused a few comments about the fact that the tournament was only to be a 5 round swiss. This meant that there was potentially going to be more than one winner without them having to play each other, but in the end the tournament had only one winner, and some great games and upsets. Members of Hobson's Bay Chess Club were happy with the format, and chief organiser Tony Davis said that if more than one player finished on full points, then a play off match would be organised. It seems that no one who played was too bothered with the arrangements.

Top seed in the tournament was a real coup for the small Western suburbs club. GM Hrant Melkumyan from Armenia came to Australia straight from the World Cup in Norway and agreed to play in the event. This attracted some big names from Australian chess, with young guns Bobby Cheng, Max Illingworth and James Morris all coming along for the chance to play the 2600+ GM. In the end, the Armenain proved too good and won the tournament with a perfect 5/5, beating Morris and Illingworth among others.

GM Melkumyan taking his coat off as he arrives to play IM James Morris. Cheng-Illingworth is already underway in the background.
It was great to see the 3 young Aussie players competing in the same weekender, with Max travelling down from NSW. They represent, perhaps, the future of chess in this country, and already occupy top 10 positions  for Australians in the FIDE list (Illingworth 3rd, Cheng 4th, Morris 9th). These 3 stars finished on 4/5, Illingworth and Morris only losing to Melkumyan, while Cheng lost to Illingworth. They were however beaten to second place by FM Chris Wallis who finished on 4.5. Chris was held to a draw in the third round by Sylvester Urban, but won the rest. Knowing Chris, I'm sure he would have rather scored less and had the chance to take on the GM, but he proved too good for the rest of the players he had to play. The group on 4/5 was large, and Illingworth, Cheng and Morris were joined by another IM Ari Dale, FM's Bill Jordan, Dusan Stojic and Greg Canfell (last year's winner with another good showing), and Zachary Loh (the high school kid, had an unbeaten tournament including a draw with NZ FM Luke Li). However, it was a Hobson's Bay Club member, Dean Hogg, was the star of the show joining this elite group on 4/5. Dean's only loss was to Chris Wallis, and his scalps included IM Ari Dale.

Dean Hogg of HBCC with a great tournament performance.
And now on to the upsets. On the first day Marko Grabovac already produced 2 amazing victories and could be said to be the player of the day. In round 1, Marko rated 1560 beat FM Anton Smirnov (2328), and in the second round won against WIM Emma Guo (2018). He couldn't maintain this pace, and had to concede a draw to FM Bill Jordan in round 3! Unfortunately Marko's run only lasted the first day and he lost both games today, albeit to another 2 strong players, FM Stojic, and Noble Park club champion, John Nemeth.
Day one hero, Marko Grabovac writes his move down against FM Dusan Stojic
While Marko was the hero of day one, the upsets continued on the second day, and the biggest upsets were probably caused by Alanna Chew Lee. Alanna, rated 1206 first beat George Hua (1951), and then Anurag Sannidhanam (1663) to help her to reach a score of 3/5. In fact, the tournament featured many of Australia's top women players, Emma Guo (5th), Sally Yu (6th, and currently on vacation from her studies in America where she returns to tomorrow!) Savithri Narenthran (14th), Tanya Krstevski (22nd), Rebecca Strickland (26th) and Alanna (27th) were all playing, as well as some younger girls.

Sally Yu, playing the day before going back to America to study

Women's Olympian Emma Guo playing Youth Olympian Savithri Narentran. Second day hero Alanna Chew Lee fills in her scoresheet on the next board.
 The tournament was run by Hobson's Bay Chess Club, with support from International Arbiter Gary Bekker, and a live display board was operated by Noble Park's Phillip Drew. Seeing Melkumyan's game live was great, and more games can be seen through the tornelo operating system, which was provided by David Cordover of Chess Kids. All in all, this will be a tough tournament to top, but the guys at Hobson's Bay Chess Club are a pretty much down to earth bunch, and they will no doubt organise next year's event with the aim of producing a good event that all the competitors will enjoy, not one that will be bigger and better than previous tournaments. That is why the Best in the West is an enduring and successful event, and I hope it will remain so for many years to come.


  1. Thanks Carl for your generous summary.
    We have assurances of even more sponsorship for next year's event and will be trying for perhaps 2 GM's next year!

  2. Fantastic work by you and HBCC, Tony. Will you be looking for a bigger venue to accommodate more players?