The Melbourne Chess Club Championship in the club's 150th year passed the half way mark this week. Round 5 of the 9-round tournament saw 2 very different encounters on the top boards. Board 1 was a David vs Goliath affair with IM and top seed James Morris taking on giant killing Vishal Bhat. Meanwhile, board 2 saw MCC's 2 regular high level competitors face off again as IM Guy West played IM Mirko Rujevic. The results favoured the higher rated players. Vishal threw an attack at James which attracted a bit of a crowd round the top board, but James apparently had things under control. James leads the event on 4.5/5 along with Guy West who beat Mirko in a strange sort of game. Mirko played the King's Indian and Guy used the 4 pawns attack to build an imposing position. Mirko sacrificed his b-pawn in a fairly standard sort of way, but never got it back, and never seemed to get enough for it. The endgame of rook and opposite coloured bishops was very interesting, but Guy had the more active rook and, eventually, more active king to add to his extra pawn. A great finale, and worth a look at, as Guy shows that patience is of prime importance when grinding out a win in a tough endgame.
James and Guy have already played each other, so they will drop down to play the rest of the field. I find myself in the group half a point behind, after a wild game with Marcus Raine. Marcus came up with an interesting exchange sacrifice on c3 in a Dragon, but then sacrificed a piece on the other side of the board as well. As he was already an exchange down, this amounted to a rook sacrifice. I just remember sitting at the board completely stunned. I thought for a while and then it suddenly struck me I would be whole rook ahead, so I accepted the sacrifice and did my best to hold out. Marcus got some pressure, and could have caused some headaches, but eventually the rook was too much and I held on. I am joined by FM Jack Puccini who beat previous leap year champ, Malcolm Pyke, and Vishal Bhat who was already on 4 before the round started. It is still possible that Thai Ly will jump to 4/5 if he wins a postponed game with Justin Penrose. The list of players of 3.5/5 looks pretty impressive being led by IM's Ari Dale and Mirko Rujevic. John Beckman's win over Jim Papadinis was the biggest upset of the round.
This is beginning to feel like the last leap year championship in 2012, when Guy West and FM Dusan Stojic beat everybody else in the field to finish on 8/9 and have to settle the matter in a play off which Dusan won. It is a pity that Dusan is not here as the reigning MCC leap year Champion!