Sunday, 29 January 2012

MCC Australia Day Weekender - Day 4

The above photo was the story of the day at MCC ... finding ways to deal with the heat at MCC & I decided to set up a number of fans with ice in front of them around the room. This seemed to at least reduce the temperature in the room by a few degrees, which made the conditions more bearable than they were during the Saturday rounds, although it was still fairly warm inside the tournament room. In related news, MCC have apparently purchased an air conditioner, so this should make conditions at future events at MCC much more acceptable for the players.
As for the chess, Michael Baron recovered from his early loss & took out the tournament with 6/7 after a grinding win over Patrick Scharrer in round 6 & finding a tactical finish against Jack Puccini in the final round to win the tournament. The minor placings were filled by Patrick Scharrer (whose only loss for the tournament was to eventual winner Baron) & juniors Ari Dale (who finished strongly after some early losses) & Max Chew Lee (who was the only player to go through the tournament undefeated, with three of these against players over 200 points higher rated). Other prizes went to Jack Puccini (who had a fantastic tournament, including an excellent win over Sylvester Urban in round 6, shown below), Finley Dale (who recovered well from a start he would rather forget) & Jimmy Ying (who had a solid tournament).
As usual, results are posted on chesschat.

Yesterday's 'Song of the day', Survival of the Fittest by Mobb Deep, was the entrance music of choice for Rashad Evans for his convincing victory over Phil Davis in UFC on Fox 2 over the weekend. Looks like my taste in music is perhaps a little more 'populist' than I thought!

The next big event at MCC is the biggest of the year - the annual MCC Club Championship - which brings out some of the chess elite in Melbourne (I will again be the arbiter) & hopefully some great chess!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

MCC Australia Day Weekender - Day 3

One word is enough to describe the situation at MCC today ... and definitely less than ideal conditions for quality chess, but the players persisted never-the-less!
The appropriate song for today's games comes from New York hip-hop group Mobb Deep:

When it came to the survival of the fittest, the two FMs showed why they are the top seeds in this field, with Michael Baron escaping in a close encounter with David Beaumont in round 4, before quickly disposing of Mario Palma quickly in round 5. Patrick Scharrer was perhaps more impressive, with two grinding wins over Rad Chmiel in round 4 and Carl Gorka in round 5. Their clash tomorrow morning should make for an interesting game, which will obviously have a significant bearing on the final result of the tournament.
There were also a few games that went over four hours today, which is quite astonishing in the heat! Gary Bekker had worked his way towards a winning position, but saw ghosts in the position, and allowed Jack Puccini to exchange into a drawish, but tricky ending, which finally concluded just before the second round was scheduled to start! Ruben Nowak was the marathon man in the afternoon game, capitalising on Rad Chmiel's error late in the game to finally grind out a win (in about 115 moves!) just after 8pm.
There were also a few upset results during the day, with Mario Palma beating Ari Dale & Jason Chew defeating Anthony Harris in the morning round, while Max Chew Lee beat David Beaumont in the afternoon round.
As usual, results & pairings are available on chesschat.
To conclude, here is Carl Gorka's round 4 win over Sylvester Urban.

Friday, 27 January 2012

MCC Australia Day Weekender - Day 2

Just one round tonight at chess, but quite a dramatic one, with top seed Michael Baron being defeated by Sylvester Urban (obviously his preparation at the State Library before the game worked!). There were a few fighting draws that finished late, but other than the top board, the only other upset was Tristan Krstevski beating Finley Dale. Here is the Urban-Baron game:

As usual, results & the draw for round 4 are up on Chesschat.
The weekend should make for some interesting chess, particularly with the top seeds now being a point behind the leader (Urban now being the only one on 3/3), and therefore in a position where they really need to win all (or almost all) of their remaining games to stay in contention for first place.

The Anderson Collection

Today I decided to spend some time in the city before the evening round of the MCC Australia Day Weekender & decided to head to the State Library of Victoria, which is home of the MV Anderson chess collection, one of the largest public chess collections in the world. The collection itself houses around 13000 books (much of which is easily accessible on the shelves of the library), including all four volumes of the German series 'Das Moderne Blackmar-Diemer Gambit' (of which I have the first, but not the other three volumes). I also found Sylvester Urban there, preparing for his clash with Michael Baron (which is now underway), as well as a variety fo people, from seniors to university students & people of all ages in between!
Going to the library & seeing the collection first-hand has also given me the idea of perhaps seeing if it is possible to host the Australian Open there one day ... it is a fantastic inner-city venue, already has a connection to chess & is designed to be a quiet place, so it definitely ticks a number of boxes as far as venue requirements go for such an event ... it might be something worth investigating!
The library is also a great example of 19th century architecture, and in particular the dome over the La Trobe reading room, which was restored in the early 2000s & now houses a number of permanent exhibitions on the early history of Victoria, Ned Kelly & various rare and interesting books.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

MCC Australia Day weekender - Day 1

The first day of the MCC Australia Day weekender has come to a close, and although it lacked the drama of PM Julia Gillard's Australia Day, it did provide plenty of interesting fighting chess.
Although round 1 looked rather routine in theory, with all the higher rated players winning, there were some scares along the way. Oscar Pearce should have held Max Chew Lee to a draw, but blundered at the crucial moment, putting his king on the wrong square, which allowed Max to win. If Oscar had played the ending correctly, Max would have had no choice but to go into a bishop & wrong-coloured rook pawn ending, which is known to be theoretically drawn. Jack Hughes pushed Gary Lycett to the limit, with the game lasting almost four hours before Jack finally capitulated.
Round 2 again saw most of the results go according to rating, although many of the higher seeds had to work hard for their point. Ruben Nowak showed good technique to beat Tristan Krstevski in a bishop ending, while Max Chew Lee was unable to finish off Gary Lycett after a tense middlegame struggle. The final three games (boards 1, 2 & 4) all went for more than three hours, before Puccini managed to draw a tough ending against Beaumont, while Palma & Chmiel were beaten in the end by Gorka & Baron respectively.
Round 3 pairings & full results for rounds 1 & 2 can be found on Chesschat. Tomorrow sees just the one game in the evening, but if the first two rounds are anything to go by, there's plenty of drama ahead!
The final games in progress in round 2, in an otherwise deserted tournament hall.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

MCC Australia Day Weekender ... the beginning!

Another long weekend & another chess tournament to run ... this time the Australia Day Weekender at the Melbourne Chess Club. This will hopefully be my second step towards the FIDE Arbiter title (IA Gary Bekker playing, so hopefully he can verify that things went smoothly & sign the paperwork for FIDE accordingly), after last year's Arbiters seminar.
The first round has just started, with 25 players entered, with the top four seed (Baron, Gorka, Urban & Beaumont) all being rated above 2000. The basic results, crosstables and the like will be posted on chesschat, with the 'colour commentary' being available here over the weekend.
My early prediction for the tournament is top seed Michael Baron, however I think he'll have to work hard to win the event, with plenty of tough opponents for him.
The tournament hall shortly after the start of the round.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A day at the Australian Juniors

Today I dropped in to the second day of the Australian Junior Chess Championships, being run at Spensley Street Primary School in Melbourne. Quite a bit has changed since I played in my one and only Australian Juniors in Canberra in 1995, and there are also a fair few changes when you compare this year's event to the events in the early 2000s, when I was a coach for NSW at a number of Australian Juniors.
The most notable of these changes has to do with the format of the tournaments, with the old format of under 18 open, under 18 girls, under 12 open & under 12 girls, all played for the most part at 1 game per day, being replaced by a new format & more tournaments. There is an under 18 (open & girls) and under 16 event, which runs at 1 game per day (with the occasional double-round day, while the U18 & U16 girls events are combined into the one tournament). There are under 10 (open & girls) & under 8 (open & girls) events, which run over 3 days, with 3 games per day, while later in the week the under 14 (open & girls) & under 12 (open & girls) start their event, which runs over 5 days with 2 games per day.
It seems like the net effect of these changes (at least based on this year's event) is to turn the under 8 & 10s into a mass-participation event, with parents happy to see their children playing chess for three days (rather than the previous week+ commitment required), while the under 16 & 18s events are much smaller in terms of participation. From what I've seen on the official site, the numbers for the under 12 & 14s are somewhere in the middle, which I suppose makes sense. This year's event is somewhat distorted (at least at the top levels) by the Queenstown Open, which started today, on the other side of the ditch (AKA the Tasman Sea), which drew a few top Australian juniors away from the national junior championships.
Another change (at least from my playing days) is the number of coaches that are at the event ... and they are all equiped with laptops! Of course one would think that the logical result of this would be relatively blunder-free openings from the players, but it is still very much a junior tournament in that regard!
Overall I think the venue looks great (though I did think the under 8s & 10s playing hall was a bit noisy, particularly early in the rounds) and the organisation (largely from Simon Dale) is first class! Hopefully the chess can live up to the tradition of the tournament ... for what its worth, I think Justin Tan will edge out Anton Smirnov for the top honours in the Open, while the Girls will be between Miranda Webb-Liddle & Janaki Narenthran.

I also took a few photos while I was there, which give a good impression of both the tournament & the school generally!
The library, which is the playing area for the under 16s & 18s events.
There is a large glass window where you can view the under 16 & 18s games from, so as to avoid distracting the players, as well as minimising the noise in the playing area.
The main hall, which is playing host to the under 8s & 10s (and presumably later on the under 12s & 14s)
And of course with the younger kids come many, many parents, eagerly watching from behind the rope!
There's plenty of prizes on offer, including trophies, medallions, clocks, certificates and hand-crafted sets!
The Victorian caoching room ... otherwise used as an art classroom.
Outside there are areas for the children to play & parents & coaches to talk.
There's also a bookshop as well as a BBQ & canteen

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 11

Finally an almost reasonable game, although my opponent was definitely playing worse than he ordinarily would, as he lacked motivation after losing his round 10 game from a winning position. Tony played 1...e6, so that kind of took away the posibility of playing the Semi-Slav that I had mentioned in my previous blog post, however I had decided I was going to go head-long into the BDG (or more likely Alapin French, as Tony often plays 1...e6 against 1.e4). Rather surprisingly, Tony played a fairly passive setup, with pawns on e6 & c6, with Nd7 & Be7, which seemed somewhat at odds with his usual tactical style & allowed me to basically put my pieces exactly where I wanted them. With some pressure mounting (though hardly a forced win at this stage)< tony played the awful 13...f6, which pretty much loses on the spot after 14.Nxc6. I managed to play some second-rate moves & didn't finish off the position as quickly as I should have (Fritz likes the idea of playing 17.Be2, followed by 18.Qa3+ & 19.Nxb6, which wins fairly convincingly), although the ending was much better for me in any case. Tony helped the cause by also playing some ordinary moves & I managed to finish the tournament off with a win in under 30 moves.

My final results for the tournament are hardly inspiring, particularly when you consider the number of games where I managed to score at least half a point more than I deserved:
1 Setiabudi Megan 1552 AUS b ½
2 Langer John 1281 AUS w 1
3 Chew Lee Max 1703 AUS b ½
4 Bishop Joshua 1758 AUS w 1
5 Anderson Alistair 1840 AUS b ½
6 Spuler David 1936 AUS w 0
7 WCM Wijesuriya G V 1716 AUS b 0
8 Vuglar Shanon 1537 AUS w 1
9 McKenzie Colin 1674 AUS b 1
10 Bennett Matthew 1746 AUS w ½
11 Davis Tony J 1807 AUS w 1

Overall the tournament was won by Justin Penrose, who scored 9/11, ahead of Ari Dale on 8.5. Both started slowly & only found their way to the top boards late in the event, with the early leaders faltering towards the end of the tournament. Both Justin & Ari are regulars at Melbourne Chess Club (where I also play & run events), so it was good to see some people I know do well in the event, even if my own performance was less than inspiring.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 10

Same story again ... another dodgy position & another stolen draw! This time I got a reasonable position out of the opening, which seemed like it might have been prepared by Matthew (given that he played the first 10 or so moves very quickly), though I wasn't entirely unhappy with the position I found myself in. Ultimately I missed the move 21...Nb2, which won the exchange ... and should have ultimately decided the game. Ultimately I hung around & tried to avoid losing, and managed to generate some play with my kingside pawns, and Matthew was kind enough to allow a perpetual check at the end (yes, if he simply avoids it with Kf8 or something similar, then my position is busted), so I could get away with a draw.

I have an interesting last round pairing .... white against Tony Davis. Tony started out the tournament with a number of wins & was equal leader at one point, but obviously the later rounds have not gone his way. The last time we played was at the ANZAC Day weekender last year, where I played the white side of the sharp Botvinnik Semi-Slav & went astray in the middlegame complications. I'm not sure if I want to repeat the line, but I get the feeling that Tony would be happy to play something sharp to finish off the tournament, so its there as an option. Either way, I expect something at least a little crazy! Maybe I can even play a decent game for once!?

Friday, 6 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 9

Another day, another shocking position ... but somehow I managed to find a way out & scramble a win against Colin McKenzie. I grabbed a pawn in the opening & everything was fine for me (although a little scary) until I played 13...Qa4 (rather than the safer 13...Qc5), when the red light on Fritz came on & my opponent was nice enough to wait a number of moves before playing the crushing Qb2 idea, exploiting the lack of dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal. Colin even helped me by not taking the exchange when I offered it as a way to try to get out of my defensive worries & then played a few inaccurate moves when short of time to allow me to get back into the game & eventually swap off pieces into a winning ending.

I'm back to playing the ACT juniors tomorrow, this time against Matthew Bennett. Hopefully I can repeat the result against him from last year's Ryde-Eastwood Open (albeit that I am white this time, rather than black as I was in that game) & salvage some sort of dignity from this tournament.
At the pointy end of the tournament, Doug Hamilton leads by half a point after beating David Spuler, while MCC regulars Frank Lekkas & Justin Penrose are also in the pack half a point behind Hamilton. The last few rounds are going to be interesting at that end of the tournament!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 8

Another day, another ordinary game ... although this time I managed to squeeze out a win from a fairly drawn rook & knight ending. Although I tried to be a bit more enterprising early in the game, it really didn't amount to much & my attempts to confuse the position by sacrificing the exchange were both optimistic (Fritz thinks I have an edge after 26.Nb2 rather than my 26.exd6) and ultimately misguided after the poor follow-up. When the central pawns were liquidated, I had little choice but to go into the drawish ending, where I managed to create a few small concessions in the black position (such as 48...h6), when Fritz began to like my position more, until it gives me a deifnite edge after 56.Rb7. Ultimately Shanon's time trouble compounded the difficulty of his defense, and with only a few minutes on his clock (in addition to the 30 second increment), his position fell apart & I took the point.

This puts me on 4.5/8, which is hardly a score to crow about, although a day off from chess is probably a good thing for me for tomorrow (albeit that I have the ACF National Conference to attend in the morning). I'll see what I can do the for the rest of the tournament ... 7/11 or better would almost save face!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 7

Its official ... as a chess player, I make a reasonable arbiter!
If you thought my chess could get no worse than yesterday's effort, then I now have Exhibit B for the prosecution ... my game against Vineetha Wijesuriya. although I got a reasonable, although slightly passive position out of the opening, I made a few inaccuracies (such as 9...cxd5 rather than exd5) & then played the shocking 11...h6, as I thought the line 11...Ne7 12.Bg5 0-0 was somehow horrible for me, when its simply OK for me (with the slight inconvenience of the Bd7 looking ugly, at least in the short term). Of course Vineetha found the tactic 12.Nxd5 & I'm practically busted, especially after I compounded my error by playing 12...Bc6 (yes, I do remember thinking at the time 'its pinned, I might be able to win it back', without ever considering Nf6+, which goes to show just how badly I'm thinking/playing at the moment), which managed to give up the bishop pair as well as the d-file, so that I had not only a material defecit, but also some horribly placed pieces, which meant that generating counterplay was almost impossible. I played on until almost move 60 out of sheer embarassment that I could play so bad ...
Perhaps 2012 is the year I should be focussing on being an arbiter & working towards the FA (and possibly IA) titles ...

If any of my future opponents are reading this blog, then hopefully they can expect Stead circa 2000 (when my hack-like opening repertoire was at its 'peak') to turn up at the board ... Elephant Gambit anyone??

Monday, 2 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 6

I think my chances of winning the event are now gone after today's game ... a horrible loss with white against David Spuler. Once again I managed to butcher my position early on, going astray from around move 12, & I found a way to make my position get worse quickly!
Although I'm reasonably familiar with the Trompowsky & the positions that arise from it, I rarely play against players who combine the d5/exf6 system with Bf5, as the more usual plan in that position is to put the bishop on e6 & play f5, looking to play f4 at the right time to remove the doubled pawns & distrupt white's centre. It makes much more sense to keep the centre closed after black's c5, even at the cost of making my white-squared bishop somewhat 'bad', as closing the centre stiffles black's bishop pair significantly.
as the game went, I allowed black's rooks to get active early & found a way to get my c3 knight pinned ... & it quickly disappeared from the game & with it my chances of winning. I played on in an attempt to try to generate some vague counterplay, but could get nothing in the position & lost without much of a fight.

If this keeps up, I might just have to go into super-hack mode, with the plan to get the game over one way or the other by move 25!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Australian Reserves Day 5

Day 5 (and round 5) of the Australian Reserves saw me steal another draw from a poor position, this time against Alistair Anderson. This moves me to 3.5/5 in the tournament, which leaves me a little behind the leaders, but still in contention for a decent finish.
I was slightly worse out of the opening & compounded this problem by playing 15...c5, closing the centre rather than taking on d5 & attacking down the c-file. Thankfully for me, Alistair played 31.b4, rather than the more direct 31.g5 & I was able to create problems with my queen, which may not have been enough to draw, but at least scared Alistair into accepting my draw offer while he was short of time.

3.5/5 isn't too bad for the first part of the tournament, particularly considering how poorly I have actually played in some of the games. Hopefully I can turn this around in the second part of the tournament & get 2012 off to a great start!