James sits on 7.5 and I'm on 6.5 all by myself in second. I've never scored more than 6.5 in the club championship so a draw or better will guarantee me a best ever score. Saying that, I've still got some strong players who I could potentially meet, including IM Mirko Rujevic, who currently sits in 3rd place, half a point behind me. Mirko is on 6/8 and can be joined by either Hoai Nam Nguyen or Thai Ly who have a game outstanding (it may already have been played).
Currently on 5.5, and still within striking distance of second place is Anthony Hain who is proving to be the best of sub 2000 players so far. His play may land him a last round pairing with James Morris on top board. Anthony is followed by a big group of players on 5 points, which is already a pretty respectable score. These are, FM Jack Puccini, Malcolm Pyke, Bill Kerr, Eamonn O' Molloy, Mehmedalija Dizdarevic, David Lacey, Tom Kalisch, Paul Kovacevic and 2 juniors who are having good tournaments, William Maligin and Tristan Krstevski. William Maligin should really be singled out as having one of the most spectacular tournaments. Last year, he played little due to illness, and has only come back to chess recently at the Australian Junior Championship in January. He has backed that up with an amazing performance here, well above his 1691 FIDE rating.
Some other names to point out in the Championship. Sarah Anton and Zhi Lin Guo have both reached 4.5, and may have to play each other in the last round, while Tanya Kolak and Jody Middleton's score of 3.5 is very good. Simon Dale has had a tough draw since finding himself in the top room early on in the tournament. I think he has revelled in his chance to play a strong field, and finds himself on 3 points.
My good run continued in round 8 with a win against Jack Puccini, but again, my opponent missed chances to leave himself in a very good position. I had come out of the opening quite well, but then sacrificed a pawn to keep Jack's king in the centre and didn't follow this up actively enough. The critical position was this:
However, even worse, after playing 17..a6? I saw an even easier way for Jack to maintain his material advantage: 18.Nxe8 axb5 19.Qe3!
But a lesson can be learnt by all here, and that is that we can only play our best each game and if it better than our opponent we will win, and if they play better we will lose. Although I have blundered into this position, Jack did not take full advantage of this and immediately blundered back again, leaving the game precariously balanced. In the remainder of the game, I came out stronger and won. I have certainly not played accurately throughout this tournament but have somehow managed to avoid defeat which is very pleasing.
One round is left, with much to play for including rating points, personal bests, rating prizes and major prizes. There is also a brilliancy prize which the MCC gives out for all the Monday night FIDE rated tournaments. I very much enjoyed the way this game was finished, but as a game it was far from brilliant.