Friday, 22 June 2012

Victorian Championships Round 10

We now have a winner of the 2012 Victorian Championships! Congratulations to International Master James Morris, who now has an unassailable lead after drawing his round 10 game against David Hacche. I believe James now becomes the third youngest Victorian Champion in history, behind Bobby Cheng & Ian Rogers.
The tournament is also coming to a rather exciting finish. Almost all of the previously postponed games have now been played (only the Zelesco-Cheng game from round 8 has yet to be played & will be played later this weekend) & the leaderboard has separated into a number of closely fought groups.
The fight for the minor placings is well and truly on, with any of 6 players potentially finishing as high as 2nd place, with many of the contenders playing one another in the final round. Stojic & Levi will be looking to move closer to 50% & potentially catch the loser of the Zelesco-Cheng game if it is decisive, while Garner, Stevens & Hacche will all be looking to avoid the wooden spoon!

Current standings
Morris 8.5/10 
Goldenberg 7/10 
Dragicevic, West 6.5/10 
Sandler 6/10 
Zelesco 5/9
Stojic, Levi 4/10 
Garner 2.5/10 
Stevens 2/10 
Hacche 2/10 

Domagoj Dragicevic appeared to gain a slight edge of out a fairly tame opening against Guy West, and was clearly better around move 20, however as has become a regular feature of this tournament, West managed to turn the tables & found himself in an unusual rook ending, with four passed pawns racing down the board (two each)! Ultimately the game turned out to be a draw with precise play by both players, although the players who had finished their games early (most notably James Morris) were keenly analysing the possibilities as the players continued to battle on. 
Karl Zelesco employed an unusual line against Igor Goldenberg's Caro Kann defense & appeared to be holding his own for much of the opening. Igor managed to manoeuvre his queen towards Karl's king & created a number of threats, which Karl stopped, however after some exchanges the resulting rook ending was slightly better for Igor. Unfortunately for Karl, he was unable to hold the rook ending, with Igor creating a passed b pawn, which was enough to take the point.
Although a draw ultimately secured the Championship for James Morris, he did not have it all his own way against his former coach David Hacche. David employed one of his 'sit & wait' Modern Defenses, allowing James to occupy the centre with a number of pawns before trying to undermine them & create weak squares later in the game. James managed to briefly win a pawn in the opening, but David found the necessary tactics to win the pawn back a few moves later. After a series of exchanges, the players found themselves in a double rook ending with five pawns each. James had two passed pawns on the queenside, while David had a solid pawn structure & a central passed pawn. James attempted to push one of his queenside pawns, but David defended accurately & was on the verge of capturing one of the pawns when James bailed out with a check, threatening a repetition & a draw offer, which David accepted.
Dusan Stojic played the type of chess he has become known for (but has often been absent during this year's Championship) against Tristan Stevens. He held a slight advantage out of the opening against Tristan's Accelerated Sicilian Dragon & did not let go for the entire game. Tristan's attempts to unbalance the position ran into a number of tactical shots from Dusan, which saw Dusan pick off a number of pawns, before finally targeting Tristan's king in a queen, rook & minor piece ending to secure the point.
Eddy Levi again showed a side of his play that is not usually seen, this time against Leonid Sandler. Eddy achieved a slight positional edge out of the opening & rather than seeking tactical complications, he slowly improved his position, aiming to exploit the weaknesses in Leonid's position. Faced with a devestating knight check, Leonid sacrificed the exchange to try to alleviate his problems, but this did not help & Leonid resigned when faced with a hopeless ending at least an exchange down. 
As usual, results are available on ChessChat.
Full results & tournament crosstable are available on the Chess Victoria website. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

City of Melbourne Open - Round 7

Round 7 looked to be a very exciting round on paper, and in many ways it delivered on its potential. Board 1 was where the excitement was, with Justin Penrose castling queenside in a Caro Kann & launching an attack on the uncastled king of co-leader Ari Dale. Just when it looked like Penrose might be making some progress, he played an inaccurate move that allowed Dale to consolidate his position & steer the game towards a winning ending. This allowed Ari to return to once again become the sole leader of the event. Other boards saw a variety of results. The highly anticipated Gorka-Pyke clash was a non-event, with neither player in the mood to play for a range of reasons, with the game ending peacefully on move 15 (with checkmate threatened!). The game between Lacey & Beaumont began peacefully, but became dramatic when Beaumont started to get on top in the position. Rather than defend passively, Lacey launched a counter-attack against Beaumont's king, sacrificing two pieces to try to get at Beaumont's king. Beaumont then put his king on the wrong square, going to e7 rather than g7 & Lacey was able to force a draw with perpetual check. Paul Kovacevic appeared to be cruising towards a win against Rad Chmiel, but went horribly astray in the rook & minor piece ending, ultimately losing a piece. However Chmiel's remaining pawns were difficult to defend & Kovacevic managed to liquidate the position until the final position saw Chmiel with a knight & pawn against Kovacevic's two pawns, with Chmiel unable to maintain his remaining pawn, so another draw was agreed. In other games, Anthony Hain continued another late charge in an MCC event with a win over Richard Voon, while James Martin beat John Dowling & John Beckman beat Gary Bekker.
As usual, results are available on ChessChat.
This week's game sees the top of the table clash between Penrose & Dale. Penrose's attack seemed to be working, until the blunder 22.Bd4, which allowed Dale to get on top & move a point ahead of the the field.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Victorian Championship Round 9

The latest round of the Victorian Championship ALMOST produced major drama, with leader James Morris finding himself in a lost ending against defending champion Bobby Cheng. Unfortunately for Bobby & the others who are hoping James would falter, it was Bobby who misplayed the ending, with the game ultimately ending in a draw. This leaves James in a position where his worst possible finish will be =1st.
In other results, Domagoj Dragicevic continued his charge towards the top of the field with a win over Eddy Levi, Leonid Sandler returned to the winner's circle by beating Dusan Stojic, while Tristan Stevens kept things interesting at the other end of the field with a win over David Garner. David Hacche & Karl Zelesco drew their game, while Igor Goldenberg misplayed a promising position against Guy West, with the game ending in a draw. 

Current Leaderboard
Morris 8/9 
Dragicevic, Goldenberg & Sandler 6/9 
West 4.5/7 
Cheng, Zelesco 4/7 
Levi, Stojic 3/9 
Stevens 2/7 
Garner 2/9 
Hacche 1.5/9 

Domagoj Dragicevic took the fight to Eddy Levi & managed to beat Eddy at what would be considered his own game! Eddy played a Closed Sicilian & the game appeared to be heading towards a slow, quiet sort of position, until Domagoj decided to mix things up with the aggressive 9...g5!? The tactics worked out favourably for Domagoj & he won a few pawns, which he ultimately converted into a win in the endgame.
Leonid Sandler turned his recent form around with an impressive win over former champion Dusan Stojic. After a relatively quiet opening, Sandler won a pawn in the middlegame & then improved his remaining pieces before finally finding a combination to exchange into a rook ending where he was three pawns up, which was enough for Dusan to resign.
Tristan Stevens kept things interesting at the other end of the field with a nice win over David Garner. Tristan played an unusual line against David's Sicilian Najdorf (6.h3) & David responded by sacrificing an exchange for a pawn in the early middlegame, which left Tristan with two sets of doubled pawns. Tristan then used his rooks to force David backwards, before finding a combination which saw Tristan emerge with two extra pawn in an ending with two rooks against David's queen. Tristan then managed to get his rooks doubled on the seventh before bringing his king forward to assist in the attack, ultimately checkmating David's king.
James Morris obviously brought his 'Get Out of Jail Free' card with him to his game against Bobby Cheng. Bobby played a sideline against James' Grunfeld Defense & gained an advantage out of the opening. Ultimately he converted this into a pawn advantage in the late middlegame, with the players finding themselves in an ending with Bobby's rook, knight & five pawns against James' rook, bishop & four pawns. Although James managed to win the pawn back, his pieces were tied down & Bobby was able to exchange into a winning king & pawn ending. Unfortunately Bobby missed a few opportunities to finish the game, before finally offering the draw, which James was glad to accept!
David Hacche played a solid, but unambitious opening against Karl Zelesco. Pieces & pawns were eventually exchanged, before the players ultimately agreed to a draw in a level minor piece ending.
Igor Goldenberg also let a promising position slip against Guy West. Igor achieved a slight edge on the white side of a King's Indian Defense & managed to create a lot of pressure against Guy's king. Igor sacrificed an exchanged, but won the critical e5 pawn in the process. Just when it looked like Igor might be about to break through, he played 42.Qf2, which allowed Guy to consolidate his position & Igor offered a draw shortly afterwards, which Guy accepted.
As usual, results are posted on ChessChat.
Full results & tournament crosstable are available on the Chess Victoria website.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Victorian Open Day 4

The final day of the Victorian Open was another day of close, but not quite close enough ...
I managed to beat Bill Jordan in the morning round in something of an unusual opening. My Paleface Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.f3!?) turned into an odd line of the Blumenfeld Gambit, where I was a pawn up early, but Bill had quite a bit of pressure against my position & as it transpired, could have had me in real trouble out of the opening had he played more accurately. Instead he allowed a tactic (15.Bxh7+) that won another pawn & then decided that he had to crate complications in order to try to win. Thankfully for me, I managed to survive the complications, finding the useful attacking moves 22.Rd1+ & 23.Rh5, which were just enough for me to find a way to win, to take me to 5/6, just half a point behind the leader Karl Zelesco & tied with five others in =2nd going into the last round.
Of course that meant that my final round game was going to be a tough pairing ... and I found myself playing black against IM James Morris. Depending on how results went on other boards, a win in this game could have meant =1st for the winner (and in fact winning the game would have left me on 6/7 in a tie for =1st!). A draw would also have left me in the money, sharing 3rd place & a rating group prize, while a loss would see me finish in =5th & out of the prizemoney altogether! Unfortunately for me, it was the latter of those options that transpired & although I felt that I played a good tournament (only losing to two of the eventual three winners), the lack of reward left me with something of an empty feeling.
As for the game itself, I played a Modern Defense, which transposed into a Czech Benoni. I was fairly happy with the position I reached out of the opening, particularly with James employing rather unusual piece placements (Bh3, Qg2). I managed to play both f5 & b5 (the two standard 'breaks' for black in such a blocked position), however the tactical exchange in the centre worried me, as I was not convinced that it would turn out favourably for me. The line that James ended up playing (15.b3) was not that good for him & after some exchanges, I was more than happy with my position on move 20, as I had a number of strong potential threats (f3 with threats against the king & knight, e4 with threats down the long diagonal, as well as various queen maneuvers that could prove useful), as well as a pawn structure that restricted the mobility of the white knight on e2. Unfortunately I could not quite find the best way to play the position & could never quite get my threats to work, with James finding a number of useful defensive resources in the position. Ultimately I allowed James to push his c & d pawns, which created a variety of threats & I did not handle these well at all, particularly while I was short of time.
This was one of the few tournaments I have played this year (the others being the Australian Reserves & the Sydney International) & it shows that I can still compete with the very best players in the state (if not the country), but I seem to lack that extra bit of tactical vision, or ability to handle pressure games (or a combination of the two!) that separates a player of my strength from those 2300 & above. Hopefully I can continue to work on this & any other events that I play later in the year (I haven't really considered what other events I might play for the remainder of the year yet - I'm more focussed on my arbiting at present) can continue the rating improvement that I have managed this year.
The tournament finished in a three way tie between IM James Morris & FMs Bobby Cheng & Dusan Stojic. Congratulations to those players & all the other prizewinners!
Results are available on the Chess Victoria website.
As for me, its back to being the arbiter guy at the Victorian Championships, Victorian Reserves, Melbourne Chess Club & various junior events ... at least for the time being!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Victorian Open Day 3

Today I was on the receiving end of two relatively favourable pairings, as I found myself in the top half of players in my score group after both rounds today, meaning I was paired against lower rated players.
The morning round saw me playing black agianst MCC regular Felix Wyss & I employed the 'Sniper' Modern Defense. Although Felix grabbed the centre with d4, c4 & e4, I still went about playing the opening as if it was similar to the 'Broken Arrow' line I have posted videos about previously, & found myself in a good position after Felix overextended in the centre. I won a pawn with a tactic & slowly pushed my advantage, stopping any counterplay for Felix before launching a counterattack of my own. Faced with the loss of another pawn, which would leave him with a hopeless position, Felix resigned.
The afternoon round saw me paired against improving junior Jason Chew. Although I tried to steer the game towards my favourite Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Jason declined the pawn & we found ourselves in a declined Alapin French. I quite like playing these positions as white & when Jason did not play the standard counter-attacking plan involving Qb6 & a variety of knight maneuvers on the queenside, I used my space advantage to squeeze the position, ultimately breaking through on the h-file & forcing resignation while there was material equality on the board. The big issue for Jason in this game was that he basically ran out of squares to move his pieces & I managed to keep most of the pieces on the board & this further exacerbated the problems of the space disadvantage.
There was another interesting aspect to round 5, with the top twelve boards all finishing with the result 1-0! I've only looked at the Morris-Cheng game very quickly, but it looked like a crazy game!
Now that I'm on 4/5, I find myself paired against Bill Jordan in the morning (I have white), so I expect a very tough day if I want to finish in the prizes!
Results are available on the Chess Victoria website.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Victorian Open Day 2

Day 2 went as expected for me ... a win in the morning against improving junior Jack Puccini & an afternoon loss against tournament 3rd seed Dusan Stojic. Round 4 sees me playing another MCC regular, Felix Wyss. There are now 6 players who are left on 3/3 in a field of 85 players.
My game against Jack Puccini was a Modern Defense that turned into something akin to an Accelerated Dragon with c3. Jack sacrificed a pawn in the opening & we reached a fairly unique position where there was a series of knight manoeuvres, with Jack trying to put pressure on my e6 pawn, while I was trying to defend it. Ultimately Jack managed to win back the pawn, but in doing so allowed my remaining pieces to become active and Jack resigned when I was about to win material by force.
My game against Dusan Stojic was a Paleface Attack that turned into a Modern Benoni position. Game 8 of the recent World Championship match between Anand & Gelfand was a similar opening & I used the idea Anand employed in the World Championship game, playing Ng1-e2-c3. I was very happy with my position midway through the opening, before I castled kingside. This allowed Dusan to play a Nxd5 tactic & I responded to it inaccurately. Fritz suggests that I can play 17.exd5 Nxd5 18.Nxd5 (which protects the key piece on e3) & then 19.Nb5 to guard the critical d4 square from a potential Bd4. Although this sequence is somewhat tricky to spot, I was disappointed to miss it during the game, as I would have had a decent chance to score a good result against a strong player.
Results are available on the Chess Victoria website.
Lets hope today is a good day for my chess!


Friday, 8 June 2012

Victorian Open Day 1

Its a long weekend ... I've been spending the last few weeks doing quite a bit of chess coaching and arbiting a number of chess tournaments ... so as a 'break' from all these things, I decided to actually PLAY a chess tournament ... namely the Victorian Open, held at the Box Hill Chess Club.
The tournament is a 7 round event with time controls of 90 minutes + 30 seconds per move (the current standard time control for most FIDE rated events in Australia) & started with a round on Friday night, with later rounds at 10am (yes, horribly early for a chess tournament!) & 3pm on Saturday, Sunday & the public holiday Monday. There are around 80 players in the event (a few took byes in round 1, so I won't know the final field size until tomorrow), while I also don't really know where I am seeded at the moment. As happens with a tournament of this size, there is occasionally an administrative oversight (I know how easy it is to do from experience, having made a few in my relatively short time as an arbiter), and this meant that I was left out of the round 1 pairings. As it turned out, there were three other players who were in a similar situation, so that made for two pairings of 'leftover' players. This meant that I ended up playing Michael Placentino, who has an ACF rating of 1585 (I think if I was in my proper seeding position of around 10-15 I would have had an opponent around 1400 in rating). Luckily for me, Michael played very passively in the opening & found himself in trouble early & played a few errant moves, which almost gifted me the point. Having said that, I was a little disappointed not to have spotted the forced mate that the computer said I had with 17.Rh7+ (I had examined the move, but couldn't see the follow-up), missing the idea of Qh2, with unstoppable threats on the h-file.
Lets hope I can keep adding to the W column tomorrow!
I would expect the results to eventually be posted on ChessChat, although they have not been posted yet.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Victorian Championship Round 8

The tournament is very much becoming the James Morris show, with James extending his lead with another win, this time over Tristan Stevens. David Garner played his best game of the tournament to beat Leonid Sandler, while Guy West managed to defeat David Hacche, in spite of his illness (which he has not fully recovered from yet) and an uncharacteristic illegal move!

Current Leaderboard:
Morris 7.5/8
Goldenberg 5.5/8
Sandler, Dragicevic 5/8
West 4/6
Cheng 3.5/6
Zelesco 3/5
Levi 3/8
Stojic 2.5/7
Garner 2/8
Stevens 1/6
Hacche 1/8

The most interesting clash on paper was the matchup between Domagoj Dragicevic, who had dropped only half a point since losing to James Morris in round 3, and former champion Igor Goldenberg. The game began as a classical Sicilian, with Dragicevic giving up the bishop pair to double some of Goldenberg's pawns. Just when the game appeared to be getting interesting, Goldenberg offered an exchange of queens and Dragicevic declined the exchange. Goldenberg again offered to exchange queens and Dragicevic again declined, returning his queen to its previous square. Ultimately the players continued this queen dance until a draw was offered & the players shared the point.
Although Guy West was still suffering the effects of his illness (that prevented him from playing chess last week), he managed to defeat David Hacche. Hacche played his favourite Modern Defense, with West slowly maneuvering his pieces towards the kingside before launching an attack. This attack managed to win the exchange for West, with Hacche gaining a dangerous passed pawn in return. Although he had a winning position, West was obviously unwell and uncharacteristically played an illegal move (Qd8xa6), but the legal move he eventually played (Qa5) proved good enough after Hacche missed the continuation 39...c2, which may have kept him in the game. As played, West eventually got both his rook and queen on the seventh rank, forcing Hacche's king up the board to f5, where it ultimately was forced to resign when faced with forced checkmate.
James Morris continued his winning ways, this round against Tristan Stevens. After beginning with a tactical line of the Accelerated Dragon, Morris found himself in a slightly better middlegame position, but was unable to find the knockout blow. Instead he chose to head into a better rook & bishop endgame, ultimately winning a pawn after exchanging bishops. The players then went about slowly winning one another's pawns, before Stevens resigned when Morris was about to capture his final pawn, which would leave Stevens with a king and rook to defend against rook, king & two connected passed pawns.
David Garner played his best game of the tournament, defeating Leonid Sandler to move himself off the bottom of the leaderboard. After a fairly level position was reached in a c3 Sicilian, Garner capitalised on some poor moves in the middlegame by Sandler. Garner slowly built his advantage from around move 20, forcing Sandler to resign when faced with the loss of at least a piece just after move 30.
Dusan Stojic's game against Eddy Levi began fairly quietly, but Dusan was soon able to exploit the weak white squares in Eddy's position after exchanging off Eddy's white squared bishop. The constant threat of invasion with the queen forced Eddy to further compromise his position, with Dusan eventually winning a pawn while maintaining his advantage. In an attempt to maintain his pawns, Eddy moved one of his rooks to an awkward position on the edge of the board, however this rook was soon trapped by Dusan & eddy resigned shortly afterwards.
As usual, results are posted on ChessChat.
Full results & tournament crosstable are available on the Chess Victoria website.

Monday, 4 June 2012

City of Melbourne Open - Round 6

With tournament leader Ari Dale away in Sydney playing in the Asian Amateurs (where he is equal leader at the time of writing), this was an opportunity for the other players in the event to stake their claim at a position at the top of the tournament. As it transpired, only Justin Penrose was able to join Ari in the tournament lead, after a nice win in on the white side of an unusual line of the Ruy Lopez. Malcolm Pyke managed to plant his knight on d6 against David Beaumont & managed to survive David's attempts to escape the bind on his position, winning the game & moving himself within half a point of the leaders. Carl Gorka utilised an unusual placement of his bishops (on a1 & b1), as well as his knights & later queen to drum up a winning attack against Laurent Michaille's king, to join those half a point off the lead. On other boards the results did not always go according to rating, with David Lacey beating John Dowling, while John Beckman beat Jack Puccini. Richard McCart also used his 'get out of jail free' card against Gary Bekker, finding a perpetual check when he was 2 rooks down!
As usual, results are available on ChessChat.
This week's game sees Rad Chmiel employ an unusual variation of the Ruy Lopez against Justin Penrose, although it does begin to resemble a more normal Lopez position around move 10. Penrose responded to Chmiel's queenside pressure by sacrificing an exchange & found himself with a passed c-pawn for his efforts. Chmiel then played a few poor moves, allowing Penrose's rook to get to the seventh, and the threats were too much for Chmiel, who had to give up his queen to fend off checkmate, but that still left him with a position he was unable to defend.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Victorian Championship Round 7

Just when things appeared to be settling down a little bit in the Victorian Championship, round 7 once again shook things up! This was the round of the uncharacteristic blunder, with a number of games decided by blunders that the players involved would normally not make. James Morris was held to a draw by Leonid Sandler, while David Hacche upset Igor Goldenberg to get off the mark in the event!

Current Leaderboard:
Morris 6.5/7
Sandler, Goldenberg 5/7
Dragicevic 4.5/7
Cheng 3.5/6
West, Zelesco 3/5
Levi 3/7
Stojic 1.5/6
Stevens 1/5
Garner, Hacche 1/7

Domagoj Dragicevic has worked his way back into some form over the last few rounds & continued this improvement with a win over his good friend Dusan Stojic. After a fairly even opening, Dusan appeared to be getting slightly the better of the position, although Domagoj was still very much in the game. Uncharacteristically, Dusan made a horrible blunder where he removed one of the defenders of his c3 knight & Domagoj snapped up the free piece, forcing Dusan to resign shortly afterwards.
Eddy Levi's game against David Garner appeared to be fairly level in the early middlegame, before David made a few poor moves that allowed Eddy to take a number of pawns & achieve a winning position, which was enough for David to call it a night.
The clash of the round was between two of the leaders, James Morris & Leonid Sandler. After another fairly quiet opening, James got the best of the middlegame & after a series of exchanges found himself a pawn ahead in a queen ending. James seemed to have the ending under control, picking up two more pawns to have four pawns against one in what looked like a commanding position. James held his pawns with tactical threats & then appeared to miss a tactic that would have allowed queens to be exchanged (52.Qg1+ Kd2 53.Qg5+, although the position may not be correct - scoresheets can be tough to read sometimes!). Ultimately in an effort to promote his a-pawn, James allowed Leonid's queen near his king, which allowed Leonid to begin a series of checks with his queen. In an attempt to avoid perpetual check, James returned some of his extra pawns, but ultimately found himself in a position with a single pawn & queen against Leonid's queen, which Leonid defended successfully, ultimately forcing the trade of queens in a position where James could not keep his extra pawn & the players agreed a draw.
Igor Goldenberg appeared to be cruising to victory against David Hacche, neutralising David's early central control before winning a pawn & slowly moving an imposing wall of central pawns forward. Just when it appeared as though Igor's central pawns were almost ready to secure the point, David threw his queen towards Igor's king & Igor panicked, playing a poor king move that allowed David to seize the initiative & develop threats against Igor's king. In another uncharacteristic display, Igor defended poorly & David played well enough to improve his position, forcing Igor to sacrifice material. This only delayed the inevitable, as David then went about exchanging pieces, ultimately forcing Igor to resign in a hopeless position.
I'd also like to wish Guy West a speedy recovery from his illness, which has forced him to postpone his last two games.
As usual, results are posted on ChessChat.
Full results & tournament crosstable are available on the Chess Victoria website.