Thursday, June 28, 2012

City of Melbourne Open round 8

Before looking at the regular tournament of the Melbourne Chess Club, a big congratulations to my club member and friend, James Morris, for becoming the state Champion of Victoria. This closed round robin event was pretty strong and he becomes one of the youngest winners in the rich history of the event that goes back over 100 years into the 1800's.

James is continuing to fulfil the promise he has shown, and as he approaches the final years of his junior career, he is proving to be one of the top players in Australian chess. Lets hope he can continue his rise in Australian chess, and that we see him playing some long play events at the Melbourne Chess Club.

While James may be more interested in the big weekend event which occurs at the MCC in November (more about that nearer to the event) the current longplay tournament of the MCC is reaching its climax. Last Monday saw the penultimate round and there was a lot of tension on the top boards. After 8 rounds, Ari Dale holds a clear lead of 1 point over a group of 5 players and must be favourite to win the event outright after his draw with Malcolm Pyke on Monday. I didn't see much of this game, but at one point Ari had 2 rooks and a knight for a queen and perhaps a couple of pawns, though Ari's king was a bit exposed. To be honest, I thought Ari was winning, but I could have been completely off the mark. Rad Chmiel played a very solid Catalan against me and try as I might, I never really got anything from the position and the Rad managed to comfortably hold the draw (in fact, he may have been able to go for more at times, but I think he was happy with the half point). On board 3 I thought Laurent Michaille had blundered and lost the game as he expressed himself quite vocally at the conclusion of his game with Justin Penrose. However, the game was a a draw, so things weren't so bad for him! Boards 4 and 5 saw upsets with Anthony Hain and David Lacey beating higher rated opponent's. Anthony looked to be dead against David Beaumont, and even offered a draw himself at one stage, but when the score was put up, the result was a win for Hain. David on the other hand seemed to play a powerful game against Gary Lycett where he had much the better pieces from the opening. So Anthony an David Lacey join Justin Penrose, Malcolm Pyke and myself a full point behind Ari Dale going into the last round.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When you don't feel like playing

I wonder if I'm alone in not always feeling 100% like playing chess. For instance, over the past couple of weeks I've been quite busy with work, and when I arrived at the Melbourne Chess Club last night I was not really in the mood to play chess. I had not prepared at all and felt more like having a night off. However, when you've committed to a tournament you have no choice but to play. In some respects I was lucky as my opponent, Malcolm Pyke, had concussion earlier in the day and also didn't feel like playing, but felt he had to turn up and try his best. So when I took a risk and offered him an early draw after just 15 moves, it didn't take him long to shake my hand and we were resetting the pieces. From a competitive point of view, the draw did neither of us any favours, as both of us were half a point behind current leaders of the City of Melbourne Open, Ari Dale and Justin Penrose. Ari took full advantage of this beating Justin and now stands a full point clear of the field with only 2 games to go. Malcolm, Justin and myself are in joint second as none of the chasing pack could win to catch up. However, just half a point behind are a group of 6 players. The winner of the tournament will definitely come from this group, but Ari must now be a firm favourite, and has control of his own destiny in this event, while the rest of us are hoping that results go our way.

I must say that after the dull World Championship, the chess world was treated to some absolutely great fighting chess in the Tal Memorial. It is really great when a whole tournament is exciting, from the first round to the last, and even before the last round the winner was in doubt. If a tournament book of this event was published, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it. In fact, of all genre of chess books, tournament books are my favourites. My all time favourite book is Bronstein's monster account of the Zurich 1953 Candidates tournament. As a young player this was a great inspiration to me. So I was very happy to see that me favourite tournament has another classic book written about it, by another competitor Miguel Najdorf. Najdorf's account was in Spanish and has only recently been translated into English. It is a book that I had to have, and I hope it provides the same inspiration that Bronstein's account did. While many of the games will be familiar to me, I am sure Najdorf's particular style will show them in a different light to Bronstein. Anyway, I am very excited to be waiting for this book's delivery.

And to finish with, a couple of WTF's....

FIDE President visits Syria

FIDE bans arbiters

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

City of Melbourne Open round 6

The current Monday night tournament at the Melbourne Chess Club, the City of Melbourne Open, had its sixth round last Monday. And there will be 2 weeks before round 7 as the MCC takes a break to allow its players to enter the Victorian Open which is being held at Box Hill Chess Club over the upcoming Queen's Birthday Weekend. The sixth round was unusual as the leader of the tournament, Ari Dale, was unable to play as he was competing in Asian Amateur Championships in Sydney (good luck Ari!). So Ari took a half point bye which guaranteed that by the end of Monday night he would be in joint first position at the worst with 5/6. There were 3 players on 4/5 hoping to catch Ari. Justin Penrose was the only one to win and he joins Ari in the tournament lead.

I find myself half a point behind the 2 leaders along side Malcolm Pyke. I played perhaps my best game of the year so far to beat Laurent Michaille, while Malcolm won against David Beaumont to leapfrog over him in the tournament. I guess that next round will see Ari playing Justin on top board while Malcolm and I will be playing on board 2. That may cause a further clarification of the positioning of this tournament. Of course, should the top boards end in draws, there is a big group of players just behind. Besides David Beaumont and Rad Chmiel (who lost on the top board to Justin Penrose), Paul Kovacevic and David Lacey also move to 4/6 just a point behind the 2 leaders. And a further half a point behind sees Richard Voon, Laurent Michaille, Peter Fry and Anthony Hain (Anthony is having another solid tournament and seems to be trying to round out his playing style which has previously been very aggressive). It seems to me that all of these players could have hopes of a high position in the tournament with 3 rounds still to go.

Anyway, with a break for the Vic Open everyone has time to work out their plans for the next round. Good luck to all players from MCC who are participating in the Victorian Open! Actually I just noticed the MCC chess calendar does not have a week's break for the Vic Open, though arbiter Kerry Stead announced that there would be no play in the City of Melbourne Open next week. I believe Kerry, but I'll try to confirm whether there is any chess this Monday.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

The World Championship effect

Congratulations to Anand for his match victory against Boris Gelfand therefore retaining his World Championship crown. To be honest, it was not much of a spectacle, which even the players admitted to when Gelfand said "We are playing a match, not entertaining the
spectators! We don't have to play out the moves; commentators can explain that." Well of course, they were playing a match and under the rules of the event they both played very professionally. However, is this what the chess world wants, and more to the point, is this what will attract more players and sponsors into chess? Where was the wow factor or that extra something that brings this match to the attention of the whole World?

From a purely chess point of view, I'm sure the match will have an influence on some players. As a young player, I remember seeing greats such as Kasparov and Nunn fighting all the way with Sicilians and King's Indians and the crazy positions they sometimes reached inspired me. Actually, I found my play more attuned to classical types like Alexander Beliavsky who fast became my favourite player. It was a huge boost to see my idol in real life when I was playing in one of the lower sections of a tournament in Amsterdam. Funnily enough, a young Anand was playing in the B tournament that year, and the year before Gelfand played in the same B tournament!

Round 5 of the City of Melbourne Open was played last Monday. I was sat on board 2 in the back room which houses 6 of the boards. I was horrified to see that in 5 of those games white had started with almost exactly the same positional structure and I couldn't help wondering whether the World Championship Match had influenced the white players into positional chess. I was looking at my game where my opponent, David Beaumont, had played an English as white with a king side fianchetto. During my opponent's time, I glanced to my left to see Malcolm Pyke also using his favoured king side fianchetto in a Queen's Indian type position against John Dowling. I then turned left and noticed Rad Chmiel had exactly the same pawn structure as Malcolm, albeit with pieces on different squares. I checked again...pawns on a2, b2, c3, d4, f2, g3, h2. I then looked back at my board seeing a similar white pawn structure of a2, b2, c4, d3, e4, f2, g3, h2. Probably my fault for differing from the black perspective! Oh well, amusing I thought, I'll go for a quick stroll. Hang on!! Richard Voon also has the white king side does Paul God, it's a damn conspiracy. What about board 1? Phew, thankfully Ari dale is too young to be involved in this conspiracy and has thrown his queen side pawns up the board instead!

Indeed, 5 of the 6 top boards saw white playing a king side finachetto in either an English or Catalan style opening. I've never really been too much of a fan of these opening systems, but I am no doubt batting for the wrong side as white scored 4/5 in these games, and I was one of the losers! My game against David Beaumont was a really interesting affair (I seem to get more interest out of my losses than my wins these days...perhaps I need to lose more to keep up the interest in the game!) which saw David intent on a king side attack, launching his f and g pawns. I thought I defended pretty well up to a while, and then I just blundered a piece, missing a blocking tactic. I have to say, that the post mortem showed that David is tactically pretty sharp at the moment, probably a result of the amount of decent chess he is playing. Besides the Monday night event he is also playing in the Victorian Reserves tournament on Thursdays. I have to admit that I am pretty disappointed that I missed this tactic, that I'd been aware of on previous moves! I've been working hard tactically and have been pretty sharp so far this year. Oh well, back to the tactics grindstone for me and a chase to catch the leaders of the tournament as I've now dropped to equal 5th a point behind Ari Dale, and half a point behind David Beaumont, Justin Penrose and Rad Chmiel (who is having a good start to this event). However, it is all still really close and with 4 rounds still to go, probably half the field still have a realistic possibility of finishing in the top 3 places.

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