Still no draws! That is the story of the 2012 Victorian Championships so far, with a total of 17 games played so far & all games being decisive! This has also meant that there are distinct groups being developed, even at this early stage of the tournament.
3/3 Morris, Sandler & Goldenberg
2/3 Zelesco, Cheng, West
1/3 Stojic, Levi
0/2 Stevens, Dragicevic (postponed game between the two to be played later this week)
0/3 Hacche, Garner
This list contains a few surprises, the most notable being young Karl Zelesco on 2/3 after wins against Dragicevic & Garner (his only loss so far being to undefeated Morris). Also surprising is the poor starts for Stojic & Dragicevic. Stojic has had a tough start to the tournament, beating Hacche, but then running into Goldenberg & West, where he has made mistakes in the middlegame from promising position in the opening & has left without points against the IMs. Dragicevic has been somewhat out of sorts so far, though he has been up against in-form opposition in Morris & Zelesco.
Domagoj Dragicevic started out well against James Morris, neutralising James' Maroczy Bind with an early d5 forcing some exchanges. In the middlegame tactics, Morris emerged with an extra pawn, but rather than simplifying to a rook & opposite coloured bishop ending with drawing chances, Dragicevic kept the queens on & went astray in time trouble with 39...f5, after which Morris finished off the game nicely.
David Garner and Karl Zelesco played what was probably the most interesting game of the night, which began as a relatively quiet line of the Semi-Slav. Garner appeared to be applying pressure to Zelesco's position & then sacrificed a knight in a position where maintaining his advantage may have been a better option. The sacrifice unbalanced the position & after a series of exchanges, the material balance had Zelesco with a knight & bishop for Garner's rook & two pawns. Garner had a mass of central pawns which looked to have potential, but Zelesco found a way to neutralise them, eventually forcing Garner to give up an exchange for a pawn rather than see his central pawns crumble. The extra piece proved to be good enough, slowly mopping up the extra pawns before Garner finally blundered his rook to end the game.
Guy West and Dusan Stojic played another interesting game (following on from their encounter in the MCC Championships earlier in the year) where Stojic employed the English, rather than potentially face another offbeat line of the Spanish. Stojic appeared to get slightly the better of the opening, leaving West with an IQP, but West played actively & this activity kept him in the game. Stojic found a way to win a pawn in the middlegame, at the cost of his fianchettoed kingside bishop and West generated some counterplay as a result. Stojic blundered with 26.Rd2, when the resulting back-rank check & king hunt proved decisive for West.
Eddy Levi played a closed sideline against Igor Goldenberg's Sicilian Defense & achieved very little from the opening. Levi launched a kingside attack, which Goldenberg countered by attacking the centre, and this lead to a number of exchanges. Ultimately the position turned into a rook & pawn ending which was better for Goldenberg due to his king position & better pawn structure. Goldenberg won a pawn & then tied Levi's rook to the defense of another pawn, which ultimately left Levi without an adequate defense to the invasion of Goldenberg's king, allowing Goldenberg to take the point.
Leonid Sandler & David Hacche's game started out quietly, and after some exchanges, saw Hacche have a bishop and a slightly compromised pawn structure playing against Sandler's knight, with all the major pieces still on the board. Hacche made a slight error in the centre, which allowed Sandler to win a pawn after a series of checks, but the ending was still difficult to win. Once the queens were exchanged, Sandler used his knight & rooks to provoke weaknesses in Hacche's position, ultimately winning another pawn, at which point Hacche resigned. This resignation may have been a little premature, as a number of chess engines assessed the position as only slightly worse for Hacche, as he was able to win one pawn back a few moves later, with the correct defense, and the resulting position still seemed to hold good drawing chances for Hacche ...
Bobby Cheng once again found himself in the familiar surroundings of his favourite French Defense against Tristan Stevens, and was able to equalise the position fairly early in the middlegame. When Cheng developed some pressure against Stevens' king on the queenside, Stevens responded by playing a speculative exchange sacrifice on the kingside. Cheng accepted the material & continued his attack, before finding a nice sacrifice to blast open the king position & force resignation.
As usual, results are available on ChessChat.
Full results & a tournament crosstable are also available on the Chess Victoria site.