The traditional Monday night calendar at the Melbourne Chess Club starts the year with Club Championship and is then followed by the City of Melbourne Open. This tournament has been somewhat of a poor relation to the club championship which remains the MCC's flagship event. While this trend has continued this year, it perhaps isn't quite so noticeable. The City of Melbourne Open has a field of 40 players with an IM and an FM and a strong upper field for a club event. 31 players competed in the first round, with another 9 taking a bye and I would guess some more might join the event.
While the City of Melbourne Open is not as prestigious as the Club Championship, it is open to all whereas the Championship is closed to club members only. So I am a little surprised that more non members don't play and also that members don't double up to play the City of Melbourne after the Championship. However, 40 was the target number of players that the committee of the MCC hoped for, so the tournament must already be seen as starting well.
And the first round didn't disappoint. Young FM Jack Puccini finds himself as top seed, which might be his first time as top seed in a Monday night event? Not sure, have to hope someone can confirm or refute this statement! Jack came through unscathed as did second seed, Ljubisa Nedimovic who I know nothing about other than he is from Slovenia and is rated about 2200. Third seed is veteran IM Mirko Rujevic, who was held to a draw by Rad Chmiel in an Open Sicilian which I'd have thought would have suited Mirko's style very well. But Rad is a dangerous player and though it looked to me as if Mirko was pressing, he couldn't break through. There were also upset draws for John Beckman, Tanya Kolak and Edwin Zou but apart from that everything went to plan. One result to notice is that Tom Kalisch was beaten by unrated Luka Papac, though I have no idea just what unrated means in Mr Papac's case.
I'm the fourth seed in this tournament and won, but not without some trouble. My opponent, Damien van den Hoff played unbelievably quickly through the game while I had taken probably longer than needed. In the following position I had 8 minutes on the clock before my move, compared to my opponent's 72 minutes!
I was black, and an exchange to the good, but I was a little concerned about the dark squares around my king. Defence isn't my strong point, and they do say attack is the best form of defence. 35..Re1! 36.Bh6 Qg1+ 37.Kg3
So what to do now? Putting a piece on e3 seems good, but I came up with a spectacular move that looks good but has a simple response that I saw about 3 seconds after playing the move. 37..R1e6?
My move vacates the e1 square for a queen check which will net a queen after some checks to remove white's king as a defender. It also prevents white from invading with Qf6 when mate is threatened and difficult to defend, especially with just a couple of minutes on the clock. Besides which it is a spectacular move! However, that doesn't make it right, and if white would have found 38.Rxc4, I would have needed to play a long game with little time on my clock. However, white spent the most time over any move he played in this game, 12 minutes, to find 38.Qg4? which let me finish off with 38..Re5 39.Rxc4 bxc4 40.Qxc4 Rxf5
Here white allowed a mating finish, taking a pawn with 41.Qxa6 when I played 41..Qe1+ 42.Kg4 [42.Kh2 Rxf3] 42..Rh5! with forced mate so my opponent resigned.