Sunday, January 3, 2016

Australian Championship: A Tough Start

Fitzroy Town Hall, the impressive venue

The schedule for the 2016 Australian Chess Championship has been pretty tough, with 3 games in the first 2 days. Today was the dreaded double round, with the possibility of 10 hours of play. The FIDE time control of 90 minutes for 30 moves, and then 30 minutes for the remainder of the game plus 30 second increment for the whole game can lead to some long ones like the 5 hour marathon between Junta Ikeda and Ari Dale in round 2.

In round 1, there were no upset wins in the Championship, though there were 3 quite surprising draws. Defending champion Max Illingworth was held by Karl Zelesco, Zachary Loh held Justin Tan, while veteran Mirko Rujevic drew with the youngest player in the event, Anton Smirnov. Mirko was in a good mood before the round. He told me of the time he played the Australian Championship in Melbourne after a 25 year break from chess. His first round opponent was GM Ian Rogers who he beat! Not a bad start to a tournament, and he obviously felt good again to draw with Anton.

Round 2 saw the sensational result of Zach Loh beating Max Illingworth with the black pieces. This left Max on a very disappointing half point from his first 2 games and facing an uphill battle if he wants to successfully defend his title. However, there is a long way to go, and it would be foolish to rule anyone out of the running yet. The draws from the first round brought about the brutal second round pairing of Tan (2446) - Smirnov (2465). Black won, leaving Justin Tan also on just half a point. There were good wins for Luke Li against GM Darryl Johansen, and Ari Dale winning the marathon against Junta Ikeda. The other player to win against the rating was Dusan Stojic. It is good to see him playing well after the last Australian Championship where his play suffered because of the herculean organising job he did.

Top seed in reserves, Frank Lekkas vs Championship leader after 3 rounds, James Morris (instead of paying attention at the opening ceremony!)

The third round has just finished, after 9 pm. The day started at 10 am and this last round started at 4 pm, so it has been very tiring. The sensible thing was to have a quick draw, like GM Papin did IM Cheng on the top board. But 2 players moved to 3/3, IM's Kanan Izzat and James Morris, and these 2 will contest board 1 tomorrow. Joining Papin and Cheng on 2.5 are Anton Smirnov and Karl Zelesco, the 2 teenagers both showing some good form at the start of this tournament.  More disappointment came to fancied starts Justin Tan and Max Illingworth who could only draw with much lower rated opposition, leaving both of them on 1/3 and facing a big ask to catch the leaders.

The results of the Championship can be seen on the chess results server.

The Reserves tournament is huge with over 150 players. It has also been highly competitive, and only 7 players have made it to 3/3, Tom Narenthran, Kris Chan, Justin Penrose, Adam Kelly, Clive Ng, Charles Tsai and Paul Broekhuyse. But there are then a further 17 players just half a point down, while at this early stage, like in the Championship, it would be crazy to rule out players further down the field. With another 8 rounds to go, it is difficult to predict much about this tournament, except the winner will have to play to a high standard. The reserves results can be found on the tournament website.

The tournament made news headlines in the Age newspaper, which is good promotion work from the committee of the MCC. The top 8 games from the Championship can be followed live via the ACF website or with engine analysis at Chessdom.

Analysis and commentary rooms are active. IM Leonid Sandler posing in between commentary duty with youngster Alistair McCutcheon.

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