Thursday, March 19, 2015

MCC Championship

The Club Championship has traditionally been the flagship event for the Melbourne Chess Club. The tournament will often include some of the top players in the state in a 9-round swiss format. This year, a pretty decent sized field of 52 players have come together to compete for the prestigious title of 2015 MCC Club Champion. Past winners read as a who's who of Victorian chess.

This year the Championship has 2 International Masters in the field, James Morris and Mirko Rujevic. There are 7 players in total above 2000 rating, making it a strong tournament at the top level. The player to beat is undoubtedly James Morris, 2012 Victorian Champion. James has started the tournament with 5.5/6 and is half a point clear of the field. I sit in second place, on 5/6 with ex Club Champion Malcolm Pyke. A further half point behind are 3 players, the talented young Jack Puccini, Hoai Nam Nguyen (who I have to admit I know little about) and Eamonn O'Molloy who is having an excellent run so far. Then there are 8 players on 4, 6 players on 3.5 and 11 on 3/6. With 3 games left a strong run by any of these players would leave them with a high finish. My highest score ever in the Club Championship was 6.5 and that let me finish equal third.

There will be a good prize fund including rating prizes. The initial promotion of the MCC gave the following prize fund based on 55 players competing.

PRIZES: (based on 55 paying entries and sponsorship)

Open 1st $700

Open 2nd $400

Open 3rd $250

Open 4th $100

U/2000 1st $250

U/2000 2nd $150

U/1700 1st $220

U/1700 2nd $120

U/1400 1st $200

U/1400 2nd $100

Best Novice: $30 book voucher (must participate in MCC Novice Night)

Brilliancy Prize: $40 book voucher from MCC bookshop (also in the running for the

annual Hjorth Brilliancy prize).

As there are close to 55 players, I expect the generous prize fund to be fairly similar, and so there is plenty for almost everyone to play for. The top games are being taken by arbiter Kerry Stead for publication but the only games so far available have been those relayed by dgt board. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where these games are stored, or when or where they will be published.

Here are a couple of positions from my games. I've made my best ever start to an MCC Championsip but I've had some moments where things could have gone quite differently!

This was from round 3 where I was black against one of Australia's top junior girls, Zhi Lin Guo. As black, I am winning, but I need to avoid Rf1 mate. There are a number ways of doing this, and I had planned the completely adequate Rb2. However, in time trouble, I wavered and played 1..Rb1??. This allowed Zhi Lin to win a rook with the fairly simple 2.Rf5+ Rf4 3.Rxf4 Kxf4 4.Rxb1. However, my hallucination was contagious and my opponent also missed this chance and I went on to win.

So far I have been the only player not to lose to IM James Morris, but I really should have done. In the above position I was white and knew I was worse. My king and queen are in fairly vulnerable positions and my pieces don't really compensate. After the game, James suggested that Rfe8 was strong while Stockfish suggests Rxc3 is winning. James played the non critical 20..h6?! and I took my chance with 21.Nxe6! After the sequence 21..d4 22.Qe4 dxc3 23.Kd1 Bxe6 24.Qxe6 Qxe6 25.Rxe6, the game had simplified to 4 rooks and opposite coloured bishops which I was able to hold to a draw, though not without difficulty.

So I could really be a further 1.5 points behind, but instead I'm on 5/6 and sit in second place in the Club Championship. I guess there are plenty of stories like this throughout the chess world. I wonder how the remaining 3 rounds will treat me and the rest of the field and whether anyone can stop James from winning his first Club Championship.

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