Sunday, 22 September 2013

Noble Park Chess Classic

This weekend I was the arbiter for the second Noble Park Classic, played at the Noble Park Chess Club. This year there were 45 entrants, with 2 IMs (James Morris & Ari Dale), 2 FMs (club regulars Dusan Stojic & Domagoj Dragicevic) & the top 10 players all rated over 2000 ACF, making for another strong weekend tournament in Victoria.
DGT coverage was provided on the new website for the upcoming Australian Championships, to be hosted by the Noble Park Chess Club in January 2014 at the Springvale Town Hall, with newly appointed ACF Equipment Officer Phillip Drew in charge of the technical details over the weekend.
With seven rounds over the weekend at the 'fast' time control of 60 minutes + 10 seconds per move, there were bound to be some upsets & these began right from the first round!

Round 1 underway at the Noble Park Chess Classic

Round 1 saw Cassandra Lim beat Surjeet Singh (rated over 800 points higher than Cassandra) after winning a piece early in the game. It looked as though Cassandra may have missed a chance to win when she recaptured a pawn, rather than advancing her king, which threatened both a rook & checkmate, both of which could not be stopped, before finally finding herself in a rook & bishop v rook endgame. Although Surjeet's king was in a poor position, he probably should have been able to hold the draw with best play, but made an inaccurate rook move, which allowed a checkmating combination, which Cassandra found to take the win. Pearl Yung managed a draw against Tom Lea (also over 800 points higher rated than Pearl) when she allowed a repetition of moves in a better position.
On board 1, James Morris played a nice sacrificial attack to defeat Franz Oswald

Round 2 had less drama than the opening round, with the only rating upsets seeing Regan Crowley beat Zhi Lin Guo (around 250 points higher rated) & Kayson Wang beating Geoff Lee (around 500 points higher rated), while Marko Grabovac & William Maligin drew with higher rated opponents.

Round 3 saw James Morris move into the sole lead with a victory over John Nemeth in a topsy-turvy game, while the other players on 2/2 all drew their games. Kai Jie Soo beat Dimitry Partsi, Alanna Chew Lee beat Finley Dale & Cassandra Lim beat Tanya Kolak in the upsets of the round, while Zachary Loh, Svetosar Stojic, Milenko Lojanica, Carl Dingfelder & Christopher Lim all held their higher rated opponents to draws.

Round 4 saw Ari Dale beat James Morris on board 1 when his rook, knight & pawn proved to be too strong for James' queen, while Dusan Stojic & Zachary Loh also won their games to join Ari in a share of the lead on 3.5/4. The upsets continued in this round, starting with Kai Jie Soo, who beat John Nemeth after John mixed up his move order in a sharp Sicilian position. Savithri Narenthran beat Miodrag Milojevic, Lillian Lu beat Franz Oswald & in the final game to finish, Max Chew Lee found the only way to lose his position against Khadem Jahid, who found a way to break through the apparent fortress setup in a rook & pawn v bishop & pawn ending.

Round 5 saw Ari Dale take the sole lead after he beat Kai Jie Soo, while fellow leaders Dusan Stojic & Zachary Loh drew an exciting encounter to remain half a point behind Ari. Tristan Krstevski beat Bosko Mijatovic, Christopher Lim beat Milan Stojic & Tanya Kolak beat Milic Sucevic in the upsets of the round, while William Maligin held Finley Dale to a draw.

Round 6 saw two exciting games on the top two boards, with Ari Dale beating Dusan Stojic which exploded in tactics as both players entered time trouble, while on board 2, Zachary Loh beat James Morris when James discovered that his extra pawn did not make up for his lack of development & at one point he was almost in zugzwang in the middlegame! Zachary finished off the game in fine style to remain within striking distance of Ari. Tom Lea slowed Kai Jie Soo's momentum after getting the better of a tactical slugfest. Upsets this round were recorded by Surjeet Singh over Miodrag Milojevic, William Maligin over Khadem Jahid & Zhi Xin Guo over Tanya Kolak, while Jack Puccini, Carl Dingfelder, Kayson Wang & Carl Loucas all held their higher rated opponents to draws.

A crowd gathers to watch the exciting conclusion to the Dale-Stojic clash!

The final round saw more drama, with Domagoj Dragicevic trying almost everything to beat Ari Dale, only to find himself left with no alternative but to take a draw, which ensured Ari won the tournament after Jack Puccini had beaten Zachary Loh on board 2 to overtake him for a share of second place. On board 3, Tom Lea had much the better of his game against Dimitry Partsi, but could not find a way to break through Dimitry's defences, repeated the position & offered a draw. Unfazed, Dimitry declined the draw & tried to generate mating threats, which Tom stopped, only to discover that Tom had overstepped the time limit in an attempt to prevent Dimitry's threats! This allowed Dimitry to rocket up the standings into a tie for second place. Kai Jie Soo finished off the tournament with another upset win over Milenko Lojanica after Milenko's opening choice (1.g4 - the Grob) backfired, which allowed Kai Jie to share the rating group 1 prize with Tom Lea. Other final round upsets saw Carl Loucas beat Khadem Jahid, Cassandra Lim beat Geoff Lee, Milan Stojic beat Milic Sucevic & Christopher Lim beat Gunnar Froiland, which helped all of the winners to a share of the rating group prizes.

A full list of prize winners can be seen on ChessChat
Mike Loh also has a number of excellent photos from the weekend on the Noble Park Chess Club Facebook page
I'd like to thank the Noble Park Chess Club for putting on another excellent weekend event & particularly Dusan Stojic, Domagoj Dragicevic & Greg Dingfelder for their help both before & during the event. Hopefully the event will continue to grow & I hope to see many more of your at the 2014 Noble Park Chess Classic!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Best in the West

So I finally decided to play in a chess tournament ... or perhaps it was that I managed to arrange a weekend off coaching! Either way, I played in the Best in the West event last weekend & played reasonably well in what was a very successful event.
I finished with 3.5/5, behind winner GM Hrant Melkumyan (who scored 5/5), runner-up FM Chris Wallis (4.5/5) & a host of players who tied for third on 4/5.
I decided to try something different & play 'real' openings, at least as black, which had varying degrees of success. Of course one thing I did notice was a problem was not actually knowing enough theory to confidently play some lines (particularly in the first round when I faced the Russian variation of the Grunfeld Defense & couldn't think of how to continue after Qxc4, and subsequently played a non-theoretical move), although it worked out OK in the end.
The only real disappointment of the tournament was the finish to my game against Sylvester Urban - I felt I played the opening & middle game well & achieved what probably should have been a winning position, however I failed to convert this position into a win. Of course part of the dilemma with trying to figure out where I went wrong is that the Fritz engine that I have is notoriously inaccurate with endgames, while the various endgame books that I have skimmed since the game only consider 'bishop endings' as being one bishop & pawn(s) v bishop & pawn(s). I suppose the position that I found myself in, with both players having two bishops & two pawns is that it doesn't get classified as an endgame if you are using a piece-count definition as the various Nalimov-like tablebases do, with 10 pieces still on the board.
I've also included a few photos taken by Ved Bhat during the tournament - its been a while since I've seen 'action' shots of myself at a chess board! Thanks for the great photos Ved!

Given that I was reasonably happy with all five of my games from the weekend, I've decided to post them all here, so it may make the page a little slow to load, but hopefully it will be worthwhile looking through the games for those interested.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

Monday, 2 September 2013

RIP Max Fuller

More sad news for Australian chess, with FIDE Master & former Australian Champion, Australian Open Champion & Australian Junior Champion Max Fuller passing away last week. According to people in Sydney, he unfortunately suffered a stroke on the day of Peter Parr's funeral & was admitted to hospital, where he later had another stroke & passed away.
As with Peter, I really only got to know Max when he was already a well-known figure in the chess community, though it was primarily through my visits to Peter's shop on Thursday nights that I met & got to know Max a little. When he was there, he was always happy to join in conversations about chess, whether it be current events, or some historical event or topic, as well as occasionally join in the blitz sessions when he felt like a game (and of course the group was most accommodating when Max wanted to join in the blitz - he was often able to 'jump the queue' to be next in line to challenge the previous winner).
Max always seemed like a well spoken person & was Australia's first real chess professional, travelling overseas in the late 1960s & early 1970s when he was one of the best players in the country (if not the best), playing in events such as the British Championship (where he twice finished in second place). One other special aspect of Max's chess is that he took a substantial amount of time off chess in the late 1980s & most (if not all) of the 1990s, only to return to chess in the early 2000s & finish in a tie for first for the 2005 NSW Championship (although he did lose a playoff to Andrew Bird). Another tremendous loss for the Australian chess community in a year that may be best remembered for those who sadly passed away.

Max at a tournament in 1984, complete with lit cigarette (how times have changed). Photo by William Anderson Smith

I suppose in some ways Max was in part responsible for my more recent transition away from wild tactical positions & towards more positional considerations, as the occasional blitz games we played at Peter Parr's shop usually ended with me being on the wrong side of a positional grind, with the occasional tactical oversight from Max allowing me to win the occasional game or two. It was only when I decided to show one of Max's games to some of my chess students that I started to realise how important he was to the history of Australian chess, as well as being an influence on my own chess career.
The game in question was the following game against V Solanki from the 1987 Australian Open, which I sourced from Michael Salter's book How Good is Your Chess? (which in turn is a compilation of various articles he had written for the NSWJCL magazine, using a format similar to the one initially employed by Leonard Barden & later used by others such as Danny King). It is a great example of how to achieve an advantage from a relatively quiet looking position, without giving your opponent any chance of counterplay!