We did some sightseeing before the tournament (which ran from Saturday to Monday - Monday being a public holiday in New South Wales), which meant that we made a trip north to Maitland Gaol on Thursday. I didn't know much about the gaol prior to the trip, although Greer knew some of its history prior to the visit & it sounded interesting.
As it turns out, the gaol at various times played host to a number of notorious prisoners, including Ivan Milat, Neddy Smith, David Eastman, as well as the killers of Anita Cobby & Janine Balding. The gaol operated from 1848 until it closed in 1998 & apart from various additions that were made to expand the gaol over time, the buildings remained largely unchanged since they were built. The audio tour was very informative & let visitors know about the buildings, the operation of the gaol, as well as some stories of famous prisoners & escape attempts. Of course I also took a number of photos, which you can see below.
The chess started on Saturday with three games - I finished the day with 2/3 after playing some fairly average chess, so I suppose it wasn't too bad.
I started with white against Derek Nabulsi & he gave me everything a Blackmar-Diemer Gambiteer would want, including a checkmate in under 20 moves!
In round 2 I was black against Robert Beeman & after Robert's initial aggressiveness was nullified I managed to get a better endgame, but unfortunately for me I missed the winning move, playing 46... hxg4 rather than the winning 46... h4! Ultimately this oversight cost me half a point, as I drew the game rather than winning it.
In round 3 I was white against improving junior Rishi Dutta. He played a challenging line against the Blackmar Diemer Gambit & I chose a more conservative approach rather than the usual all-out attack of the opening. Ultimately I found myself in a rook endgame, still a pawn down, however my active king & rook convinced Rishi to repeat the position & take a draw rather than continue in the final position with 38... b4, which would have been a little problematic to deal with.
I started day 2 of the tournament with black against Kamal Jain. I played the Philidor's Defence & got a solid position where I could slowly manoeuvre my pieces to better squares. Kamal allowed a tactic that won a pawn & from then on the rest of the game was fairly straightforward. Kamal tried to sacrifice a piece for some play, however it did little other than get him a few checks & speed up the finish of the game.
In round 5 I played fellow Victorian Elliot Renzies, who had been having a very good tournament to that stage. I once again tried to play a Blackmar Diemer Gambit, but Elliot declined the pawn & the game ended up taking on a character more akin to the Advanced variation of the French Defence. I ended up with a space advantage & was able to generate some pressure on the kingside, while also leaving Elliot with a bad bishop. Just when my attack was getting close to breaking through Elliot's position, Elliot decided that he'd had enough & resigned. The win moved me to 4/5, which was a good start to the event!
The two rounds on the Sunday allowed players to have the evening off, which I (and I'm sure many others) used to watch the NRL Grand Final, this year between South Sydney & Canterbury. I watched it with Greer & my parents at Western Suburbs Leagues Club at Ashfield & it was a very entertaining game. My mum is a Souths fan, so I was also going for Souths (as well as the fact that I strongly dislike Canterbury) ... and Souths played very well to finally win 30-6. The pre-game introduction was rather emotional with this being South's first grand final appearance since they returned to the competition in 2002 & the Burgess brothers in particular played fantastically for Souths to help them win the game.
Englishman Sam Burgess realises that Souths will win the premiership as they score another try just before the final siren ... and breaks down into tears!
Monday morning saw me playing white against 8-time NSW Champion FM Greg Canfell. I managed to get a horrible position out of the opening & struggled to only be an exchange down after Greg 'cashed in' his opening advantage. Thankfully for me Greg was a bit off his game & he missed a few tactics that allowed me to exchange a number of pawns off before finally reaching an ending with knight & pawn v rook & pawn where I set up a fortress that kept his king from approaching my pawn. Eventually Greg exchanged everything off & we agreed to a draw with just knight & king v king - a lucky escape, but you have to take them in these sorts of tournaments!
The final round saw me playing black against Kevin O'Chee, who I had not played for a number of years, though he was clearly playing well (he had already beaten IMs Max Illingworth & Igor Bjelobrk & drawn with IM Ari Dale earlier in the tournament). I played a King's Indian-like setup, but found myself in trouble after Kevin's 10. c5! I managed to hold my position together & eventually exchanged pieces off to reach an endgame with rooks & minor pieces where I was reasonably comfortable with my position around move 35-40 for the first time in the game! I finally got to a rook & pawn endgame that was slightly better for me, though I don't think I played the most accurate moves, but managed to comfortably hold the draw.
Overall I was happy with my final result - an undefeated 5/7 with 3 wins & 4 draws. Although I didn't always play my best chess, I was able to hold onto a few difficult positions, though by the same token I didn't finish off a few advantageous positions.
I finished in =4th place, which saw me go home with $90 - first time I have 'cashed' in a long time control chess tournament for a while!
The tournament was won by Kevin O'Chee & IM Ari Dale, who both finished on 6/7.
Just to add to the weekend, the bus back to Melbourne broke down just outside Albury, apparently suffering from some sort of gearbox/clutch problem. Mechanics eventually sorted out the problem & the extra coach that turned up was ultimately not required, however it did add an extra 3 hours to the trip!