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.

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