From this weekend, the Australian and Oceania chess scene will turn their thoughts to the Zonal tournament. Held in Sydney from this Saturday, 4th July, the event will decide who qualifies for the World Cup that is being held September-October this year in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Zonal has attracted a big field with most of our strong young players taking part. Unfortunately, none of our Grand Masters have decided to play. Saying that, it gives a great opportunity to the young Masters.
The number 1 seed is Australian Champion, Max Illingworth, but eyes will definitely be on Anton Smirnov currently ranked 4th in the world for players born in 2001. Anton recently beat GM Hrant Melkumyan at the Gold Coast Open, tying for first place with the 2633 rated Armenian. IM's Moulthun Ly and Junta Ikeda make up the quartet of young stars at the top of the seedings for the tournament. However, there are 9 IM's playing, and a bunch of strong players who are more than capable of beating anyone on their day. The winner of the tournament will have to play consistently well over the 9 rounds.
As an MCC player, I'll be hoping for some good performances from my friends and club mates. So I'll be keeping a particular eye out for IM Ari Dale, FM Jack Puccini, Anthony Hain, Kerry Stead, Ray Yang, Tristan Krstevski, Angelo Tsagarakis and Elliott Renzies. And I'd also like to wish luck to my friend from Glen Eira Chess Club, CM Francesco Antoniazzi. If I've missed anyone, then I'm sorry, and I'll be sure to keep a look out for games of players who I know personally, as well as those fighting for the top places.