Monday, January 27, 2014

MCC Australia Day Weekender

I was in the vicinity of the MCC today and dropped in to check on the Weekend event being run there (and to get a good coffee in nearby Brunswick Street!). Weekenders at the MCC have been a bit of a let down over the past few years, but this one seems pretty good. There are 35 players (I remember playing in this weekend event a few years ago when there were about 12 players!) with 2 IM's at the top of the rating order. However, for fans of the underdog, neither IM is in a position to take the tournament victory.

In the final round the top pairings are:

Zulfic (2152)-Schon (2195)
Stojic, S. (2029)-Chew Lee (1900)

Eugene Schon took the scalp of IM James Morris earlier in the tournament, while Max Chew Lee caused an even bigger upset by taking out IM Igor Goldenberg.

The tournament is being played in really good spirits, and there are plenty of spectators, including Australian Champion IM Max Illingworth, IM Guy West (looked in yesterday, apparently) and the women from the WOM Women's Masters which is entering it's final stages with WGM and top seed Irine Sukander (Indonesia) 1.5 ahead of the field. Unfortunately, following the forced withdrawal of WCM Vineetha Wijesuriya, another competitor had to withdraw due to health and personal reasons. I hope that WIM Katherine Jarek also has a speedy recovery and receives the support she deserves from the chess community should she choose to return to the game.

Eugene Schon on board 1 in the final round

IM Igor Goldenberg off the pace, but still happy

WIM Narelle Szuveges-IM James Morris

Dmitry Partsi with IM Goldenberg photobomb in the background!
And the winner is....

South Australian youngster, Fedja Zulfic! Fedja beat Eugene to take outright first and $350, while the board 2 game was a draw meaning that Svetozar Stojic and Max Chew Lee came equal second, a magnificent result for both of them!

MCC Australia Day Weekender winner, Fedja Zulfic

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Frankston Sand Sculpting Festival 2014

Frankston Sand Sculpting Festival 2014

It is Australia Day and Caroline and I took a trip to Frankston to see the annual Sand Sculpting Festival. It was quite appropriate to see this waterside festival on Australia Day, the celebration of the creation of Australia as a nation. Surprisingly, it wasn't as busy as I was expecting, especially as it only cost $12.50 per adult. Anyway, it made things better, as photography wasn't impaired by hordes of tourists. 

The theme of the festival this year was StoryLand, and the sculptures represented well known children's characters. There were timeless classics such as Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, to modern classics such as J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, which was, not surprisingly, a very popular attraction. The detail was fantastic, and the depictions were unbelievably realistic, or at least true to the literary and film characterisations. Like last year, this festival is a precursor for the Australian Sand Sculpting in Surfer's Paradise on Queensland's Gold Coast. Besides the fact that it was a beautiful sunny day, in the mid 20's C, and with barely a cloud in the sky, there isn't really much to add without photographic evidence. So here's some pictures to marvel at and enjoy. The festival goes on until 27th April, and it really is worth the trip down the peninsula.

Are we sitting comfy, then I shall begin

Jumanji...dare you roll the dice?

A tower of Mr Men and Little Misses

Discovering Dragons

Dumbledore from Harry Potter

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit
Charlotte's Web

An Angry Bird!

Was that a good story?

Friday, January 24, 2014

WOM Women's Masters

Girl Power at the MCC
I just so happened to be in the vicinity of the Melbourne Chess Club today, so I thought I'd head in, pay my membership for the year, and check out the Women's Masters' tournament currently being held there. Well, I managed to pay my membership and my entry for the 2014 Club Championship (so there is no backing out of it now!) before hearing some of the grief of the organisers of the WOM Women's Masters. Apparently, organisers Gary Bekker and Jamie Kenmure have been criticised for clashing their event with the Australian Junior Championships, something which may have had an effect last year, this year and possibly next year. Of course, organising a tournament in the busy summer schedule without clashing with the Australian Championship or Australian Junior is going to be difficult. In fact, this year, senior and junior championships even clashed with one another! To be honest, I find it a bit odd that a quality event should receive criticism. I remember GM Ian Rogers saying that he wouldn't advocate giving the Junior Championships qualification status for attendance at the World Youth Championships, saying that selection is preferable. His reasoning for this was that if a strong young player decided to play at a super tournament like Wijk aan Zee, then this would be preferable for them than playing in the Australian Junior Championships. A bit like MCC's IM Ari Dale is doing at the moment! Of course, the same standard should apply to the Women's Masters and if our strongest girls are selected to play in this event, like WFM Savithri Narenthran, then this should be a preferable experience for them than playing in the Australian Juniors. I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with this, but it would seem a consistent theme.

Graffiti opposite MCC. Is this how the critics of the Women's Masters see the organisers?
The organisers were also beset by a withdrawal, which is never an easy thing to take in a round robin. However, WCM Vineetha Wijesuriya is currently in hospital with appendicitis which is something that couldn't have been foreseen. As a friend and work colleague of Vin, I wish her a speedy recovery and hope to see her back on the chess circuit soon.

So far, before today's games, English WIM Heather Richards was leading the event with 3/4 points, though 6 players are just half a point behind, WGM Sukander (top seed, Indonesia), WFM Sengeravdan (Mongolia), WFM Vahtra (Estonia), WFM Brokko, and Aussie WIM's Alex Jule and Katherine Jarek (last year's winner). However, there is a long way to go and anything can happen, as top seed Irine Sukander found out in the last round when she was held to a draw by the lowest rated player in the tournament, WFM Savithri Narenthran, the 2011 Australian Girls Champion.

The MCC are doubling up tournaments over the weekend with the annual Australia Day Weekender taking place (but I'll be blogging about that in a couple of days time) so the women are moving their games from the afternoon session to a morning session for the next few games. Now while I'm pretty happy to see such a strong women's event being played in Australia (I have reservations about women's only events, as regular readers of this blog will probably know), but I find it infuriating that women should have to play second fiddle to men in chess. As a norm providing round robin, this should be seen as one of the most important events in Australia this year, not a aside to a junior championship, or a weekender.

Anyway, I want to finish on a positive note, so well done to the organisers for bringing this event together, and for the players for their combative play, and their tolerance of circumstances.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tata Steel 2014

Well, as a spectator I'm certainly getting value for money from the annual Wijk aan Zee tournaments, as there has been plenty of action. There are 2 GM sections compared to 3 for the past few years, and an IM section as the top tier of the amateur festival. Actually, I remember this Dutch system of assigning players to small groups as I played in a similar style event at one of the OHRA Amsterdam festivals in the late 1980's/early 1990's. It's an excellent system where you get to play a series of games against players within a close rating range to yourself, making the tournaments very competitive without the typical swiss yo-yo of winning against fairly easy opponent's, and then losing to much higher rated opponent's.

The top section is being led by world number 2, Levon Aronian who has scroed 6/8 for a 2900+ performance. However, he is closely followed by Sergey Karjakin and these 2 play in these 2 will play in the next round. There have been some great games, but yesterday saw some amazing stuff. The move of the tournament so far must have been Dominguez' 19th against Wesley So:
To an untrained eye like mine, the black king looks a bit open, but how to exploit this? Try to double, or treble on the h-file? Try 19.Rh7!! wow, what a move to play! 19..d4 [19..Kxh7 loses to 20.Qxf7 when Rh1 will eventually mate] 20.Bc4 [Now 20..Kxh7 loses to 21.Rh1+ when Qxf7 will be mate] 20..Qe7 21.Qh4 and Black resigned
White is threatening to triple on the h-file and then play Rh8 with mate to follow. There is also the threat of Rxg7 and Qh6+. A very nice attack by the winner of last year's Grand Prix event in Thessaloniki.

The second Grand Master group has been no less exciting. Ivan Saric is half a point ahead of Baadur Jobava, and for fans of past greats, Jan Timman is in joint third. The tournament has had a very low draw rate so far (36%) and while things haven;t always been perfect, they have been entertaining such as the game between the top 2 seeds, Wojtaszek-Jobava:
White decided to kick the annoying central knight with 19.f4, but must have been surprised when it didn't move 19..Rad8!! White's king will find itself badly trapped in the centre after 20.fxe5 dxe5 21.Qb2 f4 22.Bf2 fxe3 23.Bg3 to prevent checks on the e1-h4 diagonal. What a position this would have been, check out white's king!
As it was white didn't take the knight, and still got smashed soon after!

The amateur events are headed by a round robin section with 6 IM's and 3 FM's among the 10 players and an average rating of 2375. Currently this tournament is being led by MCC member, Australian IM Ari Dale on 3.5/5. This is a fantastic performance by the young Aussie who is the lowest rated player in the tournament. Ari's younger brother Finley is also playing in Holland, albeit in a lower section and is currently tied for first, while another Australian, Arianne Caoilli, is on a plus score in the section just below Ari's master group. Good luck to them all in finishing their tournament's strongly.

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Old Friend

This post might sound a bit Sheldon Cooperesque, but I'm writing it from an old laptop that I've not used in a couple of years. This Acer Extensa was an excellent value portable option when I bought it, but it soon became superseded by by a slimmer, lighter, faster, more powerful option, which itself has found competition from my smartphone. Saying that, I've enjoyed looking through this old laptop again today, much like I enjoy looking through old photographs, or browsing book titles on a bookcase.

One of the last photo's stored on this laptop, taken in the Grampians 2012. Caroline and I haven't changed too much since then.
I've worked out that this computer became obsolete about November 2012, so that's less than 2 years. It's strange that it should seem longer than that and a reminder about how fast technology is moving. This computer is running Windows 7 while my newer laptop is on Windows 8 (I haven't downloaded 8.1 yet), I'm using Chessbase 10 here compared to Chessbase 12 on the newer model (There are actually a number of features on Chessbase 10 that I really like that don't come on Chessbase 12, so I might have to use this one a bit more from now on!), and I have a Microsoft Word suite on this that I don't have on the newer comp which I miss at times (I just haven't quite fully cottoned on to Google Docs yet).

So am I suffering from a nostalgic view of my old laptop, or am I just trying to resist the pace of changing technology around me? There's actually been a lot of research done into resistance to change among humans, though this has been primarily associated with business. Still, the common reasons people resist change in the workplace can be related to everyday life as well. We do spend much of our adult life in the workplace after all! (Damn, I've forgotten there's a right and left click button!). Kanter's list of reasons oppose change certainly have a few points that ring true to me, such as not liking new things which means doing things differently and having to break habits, or not knowing what new technology involves and being lost and confused and even embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. This last point certainly isn't helped when I go into shops and young staff talk to me in jargon that they believe everyone knows about and I am clueless as to what they're talking about, phone shops being a big case in point there.

However, change is inevitable in our current environment so we'd better just get used to it. I saw this excellent little article about dealing with change. There's some great advice, and information and just thinking about change and being prepared for it can ease our transitions in life. Actually, if you think about some of the big changes that have happened in your life, you can see that the experiences have shaped you to who you are. For instance, I've emigrated, moved house/location many times, bought and sold properties, and changed employment many times, and these things haven't done me any lasting harm. In fact, although the stress that some of these changes brought to me was significant at the time, I can now look back and laugh at some of the experiences, and accept that if I hadn't have made the changes that I did, and took the opportunities that I was offered, then I wouldn't be in the situation that I'm in now, that is a very happy one.

So I'm pretty happy to be writing this post on an old computer, and I will work on this 'old friend' again, but I can see what is good about the newer technology, and am even thinking of upgrading again! I'm more than happy to embrace change (just as well, as my work is likely to be somewhat different this year), and seeing the words of many great authors before me fills me with inspiration about this.


We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!--yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.--A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.--One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability. 

Percy Bysshe Shelley

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom" - Confucius

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" - Darwin

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow to new heights" - Pauline Kezer

"The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions" - Ellen Glasgow

Friday, January 17, 2014


Ok, so there are 2 weeks left of my summer holiday period so I'd better take stock of what I have to do before then. First I've got to keep an eye on some tournaments around the World. Here in Australia the Junior Championships is still being held in Sydney, and I have to admit that I haven't really been following it too closely because I've felt pretty bad due to the intense heat we've had in Melbourne. I did notice that a student of mine, Jay Landau won the Under 8 and under 8 Lightning Championships so that was good. I also noticed that a Tasmanian girl who I've helped a little, Yuvini Perera has been doing well, coming equal first in the U-12 girls Lightning, and is equal second in the U-14/U-12 girls event. Hopefully she can do well as she has not been well the past year, but has still been a remarkably positive young girl. Nearer to home, the Melbourne Chess Club is running its annual Australia Day Weekender next week. I'd have really liked to play this, but it looks like I'll have to miss out, though I hope to drop in sometime over the weekend.

I also haven't been following the GM tournament in Holland as closely as I'd usually do either. I've heard that the Budapest Gambit has been used a couple of times successfully, but I haven't seen the games. One game that did impress me came from the second group. The game was from an Open Sicilian where white set up a Maroczy Bind (pawns on c4 and e4) and then played f4 as well to build up an imposing centre. He then just developed his pieces behind this pawn mass and walloped his opponent on the kingside. What makes it more impressive is white (IM Benjamin Bok, 2560) was much lower rated than black (Yu Yangyi, 2677).

In the top group it is early days, but Aronian is already in front with 3/4. Then in just over a week the Gibralter tournament starts with 9 players over 2700 in a field approaching 200 players.

Following chess isn't the same as playing it though. I did have great intentions of putting in a ton of work into my game this week, but 40+ C temps put paid to that, and virtually everything else I wanted to do! So I've got to get back to work on my game. I do have some incentives to work hard. First I'll be playing in 2 tournaments, the MCC Club Championship which will run on consecutive Mondays from the start of February. This tournament always attracts a strong filed and I see that already IM Ari Dale and FM Dusan Stojic are in the field. I'll also be playing on Friday nights at Glen Eira Chess Club. After setting up the club last year, we want to pick up things a notch or 2. We are going to run 3 x 7 round swiss events through the year with each event qualifying 3 players through to a final club championship. The qualifiers will be low entry fee and no prize money events, but the end of year tournaments will have big prizes, including a $1000 prize for club champion. We tried to drum up some interest at the Australian Championship for the club, and were lucky to get a "probably" from IM James Morris who lives just a few blocks away from the venue.

I've also got my work cut out teaching chess this year. I'm taking on some stronger students, which will test my ability to take players from the 1200-1500 range through towards 1800-2000+. While I'm fairly clear on how the curriculum is going to run, it never hurts to have tons of material, so my work will also hopefully help with my teaching. Because of this higher level coaching I've agreed to run a lecture at the MCC on February 1st at 6.30 pm. Come along, it should be fun and a critical audience will help me to hone my advanced teaching skills!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Englishman Abroad?

Iconic Brighton Beach Huts. People already swimming at 8 am as the temperature hits 30 C. Later it will be too hot to be outside!
The question on my mind today is to what extent do expats assimilate to their new countries. Or how much do they keep of their old country with them? This is on my mind as Melbourne hits temperatures that I'd never encountered before leaving the UK. I have been in 40 C temperatures before here in Australia. I moved to Australia in 2005 during the drought years in Victoria, and have lived through the 2009 season which is the worst on record. February 7th 2009 has been dubbed "Black Saturday" in Victoria when a combination of intense heat (47 C) and strong winds which brought down power lines and fanned flames, caused widespread devastation throughout Victoria and resulted in over 170 deaths.

The view from Elwood at 8 am this morning. A hazy 30 C temperature
This week has seen 40+ C temperatures in Melbourne, and it is something that I don't think I'll ever get used to. Today has seen a high of 42 C (108 F), yesterday was 41 C and tomorrow promises to be 44 C (112 F). Friday will also reach 40 C, but there is a cool change promised later in the day. Perhaps even more of a problem for me is the heat accumulation and the fact that is stays unbelievably warm at night. Tonight for instance, the low temp will be 26 C. To me that is a beautiful daytime temperature!

Personally I feel very Australian, I love where I live and fully embrace Australian culture in its multicultural dimensions. There are some things that I think I'll never get used to, but that doesn't deter from the fact that I feel totally at home here. As much as I love travelling to different countries, I always enjoy coming home to Melbourne, a feeling that I didn't really experience in the UK.

So while I might sound English, and have come from England, and still exhibit some English traits (it's difficult to throw off 40 years of social upbringing just like that), I don't consider myself an Englishman abroad. I am living where I want to be, which makes me more Australian than English!

My windswept Aussie look!

How Australian am I? Well, I scored 14/18 for a Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oy, oy, oy. How'd ya do, mate? Performance on this quiz: see if you are more Australian than me? :D

Monday, January 13, 2014

Summer's Here!

While the USA and UK are under severe polar conditions, here in Melbourne we are in for a week of soaring temperatures. Today is a pleasant high of 35 C, but from tomorrow we're due 4 days which are likely to top 40 C. While the daytime temperatures are searing, it is probably the nighttime that is difficult for an expat from the UK to get used to.

Fabulous photo of Niagara almost frozen at night (Donna Brok)
Funny that the heatwave here in Melbourne should coincide with the start of our Australian Open Tennis Championships. I was wondering today how many players would be happy for an early exit rather than having to play in 40 C conditions later in the week. The temperatures are also likely to play havoc with my exercise regime and my eating and drinking habits. I've managed to get up to about 30 km running a week at the moment (3 x 10 km runs), but I'm prone to heat stroke and wary to run much this week. If I do get out it will be very early or very late as it appears as if it may be reaching high 20's C by 7 am, and staying up to 30 C through till midnight.

Of course, hydration is important and so it is vital to get the right diet for this kind of weather. Unfortunately, this means coffee should be drunk sparingly, if at all (and it will be drunk!). It'll be plenty of water, fruit and salad for me this week. I'm thinking of trying some new food stuffs but some things seem to put me off, even just the name...
I'm not sure I could bring myself to eat something called Knackwurst!
Probably the best thing to do is find a cool place to sit quietly and just read a good book. While it might not be easy to find a cool place, there are no shortage of good books on my to read list, and I'm going to be spending some of time off this week losing myself in a good novel. So what will I be reading? It'll come from these choices:

I've recently read some amazing novels (in my opinion) and am always looking out for more, so if you think there is a novel that I should read, then please tell me. I'm open to any genre. For instance, I've recently read a Lee Child thriller, Isobelle Carmody young adult fantasy, Booker Prize winner Elizabeth Catton's historical mystery The Luminaries, and the cutting English comedy, The Yips by Nicola Barker.

And while I'm sitting around in the heat my thoughts might stray to things which I plan to do in the future. The most immediate of these is a trip to Hong Kong in March. Apart from catching a connection at the airport, I've never been to Hong Kong, but I'll be there in March. I can't wait to experience a new culture, and travel to a place I've never been before. I'm not too sure what Caroline and I will be doing there, but some sightseeing will definitely be on the cards, and especially checking out the cultural heritage of Hong Kong.

Can't wait to experience Hong Kong's cultural heritage

After the Australian Chess Championship

It's time to think about me. I've rejoined the English Chess Federation and have paid the fee to restore my FIDE rating. I should be relisted in the FIDE list by the end of the week. Which means I can play chess again! I didn't really play much during the Australian Championship, but rather was looking at games and analysing. Anyway, I'm pretty bad at blitz chess. Saying that I did manage to win a blitz game against IM Guy West. I won't say how many games I lost :D

IM Guy West
What's it like to start playing again after a year? I guess my calculation will be a bit slow for a while, though it probably wasn't my strongest point anyway. Openings I'm not too bothered about as no one seems to know enough about them anyway. I have a secret plan to do with opening preparation anyway which I'll mention on this blog once I've discovered the secret. As for middlegame planning and endgame technique, that's what I've spent the last year looking at anyway, so I guess I won't be too weak in that department either. I'm hoping that once the rust falls off, I won't be too different in strength to what I was before, and am even hoping to jump back to 2200+. I intend to start playing chess again at the start of February at the MCC Championship.

I'm also helping to start a new club near to where I live. I will write more about Glen Eira Chess Club in this blog in the future, but for now I'll say that we are seeking affiliation with the state body, and are looking to run our first rated event starting at the end of January

I'm also following the World of chess again. I have to say that I found the World Championship a let down, but generally speaking I enjoy tournaments more than matches. After the Anand-Carlsen match I was quite busy and not particularly motivated to follow international chess events, and funnily enough, it has been the local Championship in Melbourne that has reawakened the desire to follow top class events. Currently the annual super tournament in Holland is being played, and I will be following this closely. Like the Australian Championship it is a relatively young field and it is interesting to see how things will go, especially as the Candidates tournament for the World Championship isn't too far away.

Here in Australia, the summer season of chess goes on. Currently the Australian Junior Championships are being held in Sydney. There was a ridiculous timing clash with the Senior Championship that meant the 2 events overlapped. Anyway, the Under 18's, 16's, 10's and 8's are all under way and I'm glad to see a boy I've helped coach leading the under 8's. For a 7 year old, Jay Landau has a pretty good tactical eye, and he is a rare child who likes to checkmate rather than take material (though he can be pretty greedy too!)

Jay as black saw a mating pattern that his opponent didn't see, winning after 1..Rh5 2.Ne5 [Hoping for the greedy 2..R8xe5 3.Rc8+ Re8 4.Rxe8#] 2..Ng3# Next time I see Jay, I'll have to tell him that he could have been even more forceful by reversing his move order: 1..Ng3+ 2.hxg3 Rh5#

I was very saddened to see the death of 27 year old Grand Master Vugar Gashimov. It is tragic when people are taken so young. He had to cope with epilepsy (which I have quite some knowledge of) and eventually a brain tumour. Peter Doggers article about Gashimov on the Chessvibes site is possibly the best I've read.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Australian Champion

It was a grandstand finish to the Australian Championship dominated by Australia's youth, The big game was between 22 year old IM Max Illingworth, and 13 year old FM Anton Smirnov, with the winner being crowned champion. In the event of a draw, a play off would have ensued and could have included a number of players in the chasing pack.
Board 1 in the final round
In the end a play off wasn't necessary as Max Illingworth won the game and took the title. Anton found himself leapfrogged by a group of players and dropped to =5th place, still an excellent achievement for the schoolboy. Equal second were GM Tu from Vietnam, IM Moulthun Ly and 15 year old Melbourne star, Karl Zelesco who beat GM Johansen in the last round, attracting a big crowd of onlookers into the bargain.
GM Papin and IM Goldenberg drew in the final round

Neither ex Champion IM Solomon, nor Zonal Champion IM Bjelobrk could catch the leaders
This Championship was certainly a victory for youth, with 6/7 of the top Australians under 25 years of age (40 something IM Igor Goldenberg flew the flag for the more mature age groups), and 3 of these still teenagers (Zelesco, Smirnov and 17 year old Bobby Cheng). Perhaps we are on the verge of a bright future for Australian chess?

The Reserves tournament had alreaady been decided before the final round with Doug Hamilton taking out the title. There were still the minor places to be decided. In the end 2014 Victorian country Champion Oladoyin Fasakin from Nigeria came outright second, while Marko Grabovac, Milenko Lojanica and Kevin Sheldrick came third.

Chess equivalent of a "runner"
The organisers did their best to accommodate all players. For example, a number of players had no intention of finishing this event, but wanted to play before leaving to play in the Australian Junior Championship which overlapped this tournament. This requirement was accepted by the organisers, and hopefully this ridiculous situation is something that future organisers will not have to contend with! There was also byes allowed for players, and players with religious observations (such as in the picture above) were allowed assistance (I was one of the helpers pressing a clock and writing down moves, but not as photogenic as Aryn in the photo above). Splitting the Reserves and Challengers into 2 different events was a great success, and this should be continued in future Championships.

Besides the tournament and title prizes, there were also awarding of the annual medals.

2013 Player of the Year: IM Bobby Cheng
2013 Young Player of the Year: IM Ari Dale
2014 Koshnitsky Medal (organiser): Andrew Saint

There were also brilliancy prizes awarded in the Championship and Reserves. The Reserves winner was Max Chew Lee, which matches his sister's win in the Challengers tournament. The Championship brilliancy prize was awarded to Andrew Brown for his victory against Jason Tang. A nice game where white sacrifices a couple of pawns to open lines on the king side. He then scrambles his king, and comes up with excellent piece play to attack black's king (and queen).

Friday, January 10, 2014

The First Winners

The Australian Chess Championship continues in Springvale, though yesterday I didn't stay long to see the action as I was still feeling pretty weak. A shame, as it was an action packed day. It was the final round of the Challengers tournament, a 9-round swiss for players rated below 1600. Before the round started there were about 8 players still in contention for a top 3 finish. In the end the board 1 match Calixto Dilag-Zhi Lin Guo ended in a draw which gave Calixto the title on 7.5/9. He could have been caught by Mark Stokes, but on board 2 Mark was beaten by Alanna Chew Lee, which pulled her up to equal third with Stokes and Carl Loucas who also won his last game against Jamie Kenmure. This was a great little tournament that I hope becomes a permanent feature at Australian Championships.

2014 Australian Challengers:
1. 7.5/9 Calixto Dilag
2. 7/9    Zhi Lin Guo
3. 6.5/9 Mark Stokes, Alanna Chew Lee, Carl Loucas

Zhi Lin Guo and Alanna Chew Lee laughing before the final round

2014 Challengers winner, Calixto Dilag
While the Challengers was finishing, carnage was happening in the Championship with both the leaders going down, and a big change in the standings. Max Illingworth beat Vasily Papin with the black pieces to leapfrog into first place on 6.5/9. He was joined in first by Igor Bjelobrk who gave Bobby Cheng his second successive defeat. Papin is just half a point behind the leaders as was the other overnight leader, Moulthon Ly who also lost. Moulthun lost to Darryl Johansen who joins the group on 6/9, as does Stephen Solomon, Anton Smirnov and Tu Hoang Thong.

IM Cheng-IM Goldenberg Round 10

IM Lane-Zelesco Round 10

All that happened yesterday, and the situation clarified somewhat today. IM Max-Illingworth drew with Vietnamese GM Tu leaving Max in first place on 7/10. Max is joined in first this time by 13 year old FM Anton Smirnov who defeated IM Igor Bjelobrk on board 2.

Championship Standings (before the last round):

1. 7/10 Illingworth, Smirnov
3. 6.5   Tu, Papin, Johansen, Bjelobrk, Solomon, Ly, Goldenberg, Zelesco

The title will come from these players, though the players just behind can still claim a high position. One controversy was the withdrawal before this penultimate round of Brodie McClymont. I don't know why the talented young player from Queensland withdrew but it threw the tournament organisers, and created a bye. As far as I know, this withdrawal was not sanctioned by the organisers so Brodie may face some punishment for this action. Hopefully for chess in Australia and particularly Queensland, the ACF will not be too hard on Brodie, though his future behaviour at tournament will have to be good.

The Reserves event has been wrapped up with a super performance by FM Doug Hamilton. The veteran, and 3 times Australian Champion has powered to 9.5/10 and now cannot be caught. This, of course, adds fuel to the fire concerning whether Doug should have been admitted to the Championship (see Alex Wohl's blog, for a more detailed take on this subject), and the validity of the 'equal proficiency' clause for admitting players into the Championship. I'm going to stay sitting on the fence regarding this issue, but I will say that Doug's weakness tends to be in tournaments that have many games over a short space of time nowadays, whereas the one game per day is much more to his taste. His understanding of the game is as good as most of the players in the Championship field, even if his calculation and energy levels may not be as good as they once were. I'm not saying here that he should have been selected for the Championship, just that it is a shame that he wasn't in the event. Anyway, the rest of the Reserves field is playing for the minor places with the standings before the last round being:

9.5 Hamilton
7.5 Beaumont, Fasakin, Grabovac
7    Sheldrick, Yu, Burke, Lojanica
6.5 Hain, Holland, Schmidt, Girgin, Chew Lee, Fan

Where's Brodie McClymont?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Australian Chess Championship

Chief Arbiter Kerry Stead doing a great job at the 2014 Australian Chess Championships
I was feeling somewhat wiped out today. Don't know what the matter was with me, but I've felt unbelievably tired the past 24 hours. So it was with less enthusiasm than normal that I went to Springvale to watch the Australian Chess Championships today. I spent quite a bit of time in the analysis room, chatting and then analysing games with players when they finished. One subject that cropped up in the chatting was concerning chess organisation in Australia. I said that I'd prefer to see a more centrally based administration with direct membership and genuine organisation coming from the ACF in regards to the Australian Championships and Junior Championships. Perhaps I was speaking to people with a similar outlook as myself, but no one seemed to disagree. I think I'd walked into a conversation concerning the overlap between the adult and junior championships this year, and the probable worse congestion next year with Queenstown likely to be on the Calendar. I guess things won't change and talking about them in an analysis room isn't going to get them changed either, so I'll move on to the chess.

The leading 3 players in the Championship turned into a leading 2, as Bobby Cheng lost to Max Illingworth. The other leaders, Papin and Ly both drew and are half a point ahead. Max comes up alongside Bobby half a point behind the leaders and also on that score is Igor Bjelobrk (drew with Papin) and Hoang Thong Tu (drew with Ly). There are then a further 11 players within 1.5 of the 2 leaders so with 3 rounds to go, much could happen. Top pairings in the next round:


Perhaps my mind wasn't fully on the chess, but the game that caught my eye today was Morris-Charles. This was nothing to do with the position which was some kind of King's Indian Attack, but the fact that the clock times were about 1:05-3.20 at one stage (or 1 hour 5 minutes to Morris, and 3 minutes 20 seconds to Charles).

Meanwhile in the Reserves, Doug Hamilton continues to dominate with another win taking him to 7.5/8 and a point clear of the rest of the field. David Beaumont and Marko Grabovac are on 6.5 while Milenko Lojanica (Doug's victim today) is on 6. Doug has played all 3 of these players and drops to the group 2 points behind him with Colin Savige his next opponent.

The Challengers also has a clear leader in Calixto Dilag who won again today to take his score to 7/8. Tomorrow is the last round of this tournament and it will be a tense affair as 2 players (Mark Stokes, Zhi Lin Guo) are only half a point behind, and the top pairing sees Dilag-Guo in an exciting tournament decider. Stokes will be working hard on board 2, and hoping to win and a share of the title.

Spectators today included MCC stalwart Elie Beranjia in his best Hercule Poirot pose :)
Outside of Australian chess, I'd just like to mention a couple of things. A big thank you to Mark Crowther at TWIC who has just produced his 1000th edition of the FREE weekly news round up of world chess. That's 20 years of dedication to bringing the world of chess to the internet. And the other thing is that the 10th January doesn't just see the start of the Australian Junior Chess Championships in Sydney. There is also the little matter of the Tata Steel festival starting in Holland where there will be some Australian interest. IM Ari Dale, his borther Finlay Dale and WIM Arianne Caoilli all play in sections at the festival and I wish them luck in their games and also in staying warm during the Dutch winter.

Spectator vs Player

I have to say that watching the 2014 Australian Championships has been far harder for me than any tournament I've played in. After today, I arrived home, went for a run, showered and then promptly fell asleep. It's close to midnight now and I'd better post or it will be back to bad days of procrastination.

Australian Blitz Champion 2014, IM Bobby Cheng. Can he do the double?

So yesterday there was a the Australian blitz championship which holds little interest for me. Bobby Cheng won the title though Vietnamese GM Hoang Thong Tu won the event. There was also an ACF AGM held, but this holds about as much interest for me as the blitz event. Apparently, the ACF have decided to sponsor the Australian Championship to the tune of $5000 in the future, as averse to offer $5000 as a guarantee against losses. Personally, I think the ACF should be directing the running of the event anyway so while this is a welcome step, I guess I'd still like to see more central involvement from the ACF in organisation of the Championship.

And talking of the Championship, 3 rounds have happened since I last wrote. At the top we have 3 leaders on 5.5/7 and they've all played each other: GM Papin, IM's Cheng and Ly. They are followed on 5/7 by IM Bjelobrk and GM Tu, so the top 2 pairings of round 8 are:


Bobby Cheng is floating further down to meet IM Max Illingworth who is one of 7 players on 4.5, while a further 5 sit on 4. I know a lot can happen in the last 4 rounds, but I can't see anyone from below this group taking a high position (though I'd be happy to eat my words if this happens).

3 times Champion, Doug Hamilton adjusting his pieces against Derek Yu
The Reserves tournament is being led by the popular Doug Hamilton. Doug has won the actual championship 3 times, and there was some controversy over whether he should be playing in this year's Championship or not (check out Alex Wohl's latest blog post). Whatever, he is playing and leading the Reserves, ahead of a pretty strong field. The Challengers is the third tournament for players under 1600. It is only a 9 round event (compared to 11 for the Championship and Reserves) and tomorrow will see round 8. There is a large bunch within striking distance, but a single player, Calixto Dilag currently leads by half a point. Today I'll leave you with some images from the event :)
Springvale Town Hall, with great viewing balcony

WGM Sukander-GM Johansen (a win for the WGM)

Karl Zelesco-Max Illingworth

WCM Vineetha Wijesuriya

WIM Alexandra Jule

Zhi Lin Guo

Alanna Chew Lee

David Beaumont