Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Time Zones

I love living in Melbourne, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world. But if there is a fault, it is that the world is still euro-centric (especially the chess world) and Australia is sitting on the GMT +10 time zone. This means that many chess events happen overnight for us, nd it can be difficult to follow live games and maintain a life.

I usually start Tuesday mornings by downloading the weekly chess magazine, TWIC, which comes out on a Monday in the UK. I then look at some games which happened overnight in Europe and was pleased to see that even great players like Mamedyarov are capable of playing moves that I'd feel bad about playing.

In 2016, if a 2700+ player comes up with a worse move than 38.c5?? allowing Qxb1, then I'll be very surprised.

Allowing an opponent to take a rook for free is more the province of junior chess, and the Australian Junior Championships are currently being held in Adelaide, a half hour behind the times of Melbourne! Today is a kind of rest day with the problem solving championship taking place in the morning, and the lightning championship in the afternoon.

The first titles have been decided. The under-10 champion of Australia is Victorian Brandon Soetanto, while the under-8 champion is Sayum Rupasinghe from NSW. Both these champions won after a play off, and both had to overcome another player from their home state. Congratulations to both these young national age group champions!

Even further in the future than Melbourne is New Zealand. The recent New Zealand Open Championship was a great success for the organisers who assembled a group of strong players from abroad, and a good turn out from home. The tournament ran at the same time as the Australian Championship which was an unfortunate clash. I'm sure a number of Australians would have travelled to NZ for the event if the clash hadn't occurred. The tournament was won by English GM Gawain Jones who has been to New Zealand before, and there were rumours at one time of him changing his federation to New Zealand. Instead he added Maroroa to his name, and his wife, IM Sue Maroroa, changed her federation to England.

It was a tough field with Wenjun Ju from China playing before heading to Wijk aan Zee to play in the b-tournament. The 2548 rated GM from China took the scalp of top seed Nigel Short on her way to joint second place. Short also ended well in second, along with another Chinese GM 2602 rated Qun Ma. There were 6 GM's in all and 5 IM's in the field of 66 players.

Nigel Short will be spending more time "down under" as he plays at the 50th Ballarat Chess Festival over Labour Day weekend in March. This is a great coup for the Ballarat organisers to attain the entry of such a high profile star, a Grand Master and previous World Championship contender. Of course, Short is also a controversial figure, which in some respects, makes it even better for Ballarat as his participation will certainly raise the profile of the event. Short will be giving simuls in Australia, in Adelaide and Sydney, and this will undoubtedly be newsworthy, if his New Zealand experience is anything to go by.

In Auckland, he played 20 women simultaneously, in a challenge dubbed "Beauty vs the Beast". This sort of language isn't politically correct, and that was picked up by a local journalist. In fact, Short has come in for a heap of criticism for his views on women in chess over the past 12 months, and I have to admit that I have not agreed with his views. But to finish on a positive note, Short is never one to back down from a challenge, and is an absolute devotee to chess. In another article, the piece that I like the best is:

"For me, chess has been a blessing, because I have had a life which has been fascinating," he explains. "There are jobs which would make more money, but it's not everything in life. I have so much of my identity wrapped up in chess: it's nice actually, to come here, to the other end of the earth, and people are still familiar with you. There is something which is very satisfying about that and it's always nice to be recognised."

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