It has certainly been an up and down tournament at the MCC. Round 6 saw another change in the lead of the City of Melbourne Open as the leader IM Mirko Rujevic was defeated by top seed, FM Jack Puccini. I was busy struggling on board 2, but was aware of the tension on top board, and as soon as the game is published it will be a great one to look at. The game opened as a Scotch which Jack most definitely knew better than Mirko. Mirko used a mass of time to try to stay in the game and was on the defensive for essentially the whole game. The game drew a big crowd of players as everyone felt the tension, especially as Mirko was playing with very little time at the critical stage of the game. At one point, I heard an almighty crash of the clock, turned to see Mirko returning his arm from hitting the clock and the clock showing 35 seconds, after his 30 second increment was added. Once Mirko started playing quickly, Jack's time started to reduce and both players found themselves below 5 minutes. In the end, Mirko succumbed to the pressure and blundered to allow Jack to win and leapfrog him in the tournament standings.
Jack is on 5/6 and is joined by me, Carl. I beat Simon Schmidt in a fairly unconvincing manner. I have played Simon 3 times, to my memory. Once we drew, when either of us could have won, another time he beat me when I blundered in time trouble in a game either of us could have won, and this time I won after he blundered in time trouble in a game either of us could have won. Sounds like a fair spread! Mirko drops to third place on 4.5 and is joined by Hoai Nam Nguyen who beat Eamonn O' Molloy, and David Cannon who beat Justin Penrose. I have no idea about the pairings on the top boards for the next round, as Jack, Mirko and I have all played each other.
5/6 Puccini, Gorka
4.5 Rujevic, Nguyen, Cannon
4 Nedimovic, Schmidt, Dizdarevic, Lacey, Voon
A large group of players sit on 3.5 led in rating by Malcolm Pyke. I think with 3 rounds to go, anyone below 3.5 will be struggling to reach a top finish, but of course there is plenty of time for a strong finish for all players.
Again, there were some upsets this round with Tanya Kolak's victory over Tom Kalisch, and Natalie Bartnik's victory over Alex Kaplan being the pick of them. There will be three rating group sections. There are 13 players above 1900, so perhaps under 1900 will be the first section. Then there are 10 players unrated or below 1600. and I'd guess somewhere in between like an under 1750. Richard Voon is currently the best of the under 1900 players while Bobby Yu's 3.5 with a rating of 1695 is excellent. I'm sure the MCC will note the rating groups soon, and the final 3 rounds will be crucial in determining these prizes.
Next week there is no game as the club is hosting the Victorian Open. The tournament is limited to 92 places, and thre were already over 80 before the round of sixth round of the City of Melbourne Open last night. So if you are interested in playing, I'd enter quickly.
My own game against Simon Schmidt started fairly uneventfully as a Classical Scheveningen. The game carried on with not a lot to tell between the sides, until I gained a little niggling initiative. I thought I was doing ok until I misplayed things letting Simon get some pressure and the freeing break, f5.
I think both of us had missed tactics based on back rank mates during the game which is fairly disappointing. Simon now played 32..fxe4 to which I replied 33.Bxe4.
I was fully expecting Qxc4 when I was resigned to defending an endgame a pawn down. I felt I would be able to hold it, but it wasn't a pleasant prospect. But here Simon played 33..Nxe4? taking the 2 bishops, but leaving white with a huge knight on d5. This was really the turning point of the game, and I think it dawned on Simon relatively soon that his position was uncomfortable. With both of us playing on the increment it proved a case that the easier position to play (mine) prevailed
A few moves later I was able to win a pawn because of back rank threats: