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).


  1. Zelesco is 15? Smirnov is 13? Really??

  2. Yes, really, and the funny thing is they seem to have been around th chess scene for ages already!

  3. Chessplayers are like horses, they all have birthdays on January 1.

  4. I think you did not get my point.:) I would claim that Zelesco is 13 and Smirnov is 11 and my claim is as correct as yours.

  5. No, sorry I didn't get your point. If you're trying to tell me I got their ages wrong, then you should have just said it, and I could easily have corrected things. Sarcasm doesn't tend to translate messages well in written conversations :)

  6. Ok, as you wish...:) Zelesco is 14, Smirnov is 12, Illingwroth is 21.