Sunday, 15 January 2012

A day at the Australian Juniors

Today I dropped in to the second day of the Australian Junior Chess Championships, being run at Spensley Street Primary School in Melbourne. Quite a bit has changed since I played in my one and only Australian Juniors in Canberra in 1995, and there are also a fair few changes when you compare this year's event to the events in the early 2000s, when I was a coach for NSW at a number of Australian Juniors.
The most notable of these changes has to do with the format of the tournaments, with the old format of under 18 open, under 18 girls, under 12 open & under 12 girls, all played for the most part at 1 game per day, being replaced by a new format & more tournaments. There is an under 18 (open & girls) and under 16 event, which runs at 1 game per day (with the occasional double-round day, while the U18 & U16 girls events are combined into the one tournament). There are under 10 (open & girls) & under 8 (open & girls) events, which run over 3 days, with 3 games per day, while later in the week the under 14 (open & girls) & under 12 (open & girls) start their event, which runs over 5 days with 2 games per day.
It seems like the net effect of these changes (at least based on this year's event) is to turn the under 8 & 10s into a mass-participation event, with parents happy to see their children playing chess for three days (rather than the previous week+ commitment required), while the under 16 & 18s events are much smaller in terms of participation. From what I've seen on the official site, the numbers for the under 12 & 14s are somewhere in the middle, which I suppose makes sense. This year's event is somewhat distorted (at least at the top levels) by the Queenstown Open, which started today, on the other side of the ditch (AKA the Tasman Sea), which drew a few top Australian juniors away from the national junior championships.
Another change (at least from my playing days) is the number of coaches that are at the event ... and they are all equiped with laptops! Of course one would think that the logical result of this would be relatively blunder-free openings from the players, but it is still very much a junior tournament in that regard!
Overall I think the venue looks great (though I did think the under 8s & 10s playing hall was a bit noisy, particularly early in the rounds) and the organisation (largely from Simon Dale) is first class! Hopefully the chess can live up to the tradition of the tournament ... for what its worth, I think Justin Tan will edge out Anton Smirnov for the top honours in the Open, while the Girls will be between Miranda Webb-Liddle & Janaki Narenthran.

I also took a few photos while I was there, which give a good impression of both the tournament & the school generally!
The library, which is the playing area for the under 16s & 18s events.
There is a large glass window where you can view the under 16 & 18s games from, so as to avoid distracting the players, as well as minimising the noise in the playing area.
The main hall, which is playing host to the under 8s & 10s (and presumably later on the under 12s & 14s)
And of course with the younger kids come many, many parents, eagerly watching from behind the rope!
There's plenty of prizes on offer, including trophies, medallions, clocks, certificates and hand-crafted sets!
The Victorian caoching room ... otherwise used as an art classroom.
Outside there are areas for the children to play & parents & coaches to talk.
There's also a bookshop as well as a BBQ & canteen

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