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!