The Australian Masters has been established in the Australian chess calendar since 1987. It has been a breeding ground for Australian talent offering great chances for strong opposition, and norm opportunities. It has given many Australian players the chance to play against strong international players on home soil. Here's a list of some of the foreign players who have participated:
1991 IM Silvio Danailov (better known as Euro Chess President and Topalov's manager)
1992 GM Tony Miles
2000 IM Adam Hunt and IM Gerard Welling
2006 GM Dejan Antic
2013 GM Miezes
2014 GM Kazhgaleyev
And of course the Australian list is a who's who of Australia's best players. Australian winners in no particular order:
IM Smirnov (father and son have both won!)
I have been involved in the Masters since 2005 when I first played and this was still my best performance. This year there are 2 sections, a GM norm event, and an IM norm tournament, and I'll be playing in the latter. Chess Victoria President, Leonid Sandler has been organising this tournament for a number of years now, and under his guidance the tournament has grown significantly. This year the GM tournament sees 2600+ Latvian GM Neiksans making his first appearance, along with Russian GM Vasily Papin and Melbourne based GM, and 3 time previous winner, Darryl Johansen.
The question is which of the young guns, if any, will step up to score a GM norm. Australian young players Illingworth, Smirnov, Morris, Cheng and Dale are all playing along with Kanan Izzat from Azerbaijan and Luke Li from New Zealand. It will be a tough ask for anyone to score the 6.5/9, but I guess that is what we expect of GM standard players!
The IM event has an even tougher 7/9 norm requirement which doesn't leave much room for manouvre. IM's Jones and Bjelobrk have a considerable rating lead over the next group of players, who are young local talents, FM's Chris Wallis, Eugene Schon and Karl Zelesco, one of whom we can hope will step up to take the norm. The field is made up of me (Carl Gorka), IM Mirko Rujevic, FM Eddy Levi (long term sponsor of the Australian Masters. I'm not sure but Eddy may have played in all the events since 1987, I'll have to ask him), and foreign representatives Hoai Nam Nguyen and Alpheus Ang. Like in the GM event, anyone who scores 7/9 will truly have deserved the norm!
My own ambitions for this tournament? I'm just looking to find some form for the Australian Championship which comes up soon after. I'll be happy not to finish last, which only happened to me once before in 2006 when I had the misfortune of playing in a tournament that I was organising.
More reports about this next week, once we get going, and I'll try to find some reminiscences of some players who have competed over the years. Or even better, come down to view the games live at the Melbourne Chess Club over the next week. Games start on Saturday at 6.15 pm.