Round 5 of the Melbourne Chess Club Championships looked like it was fairly routine going by the results of the top boards, but this was in fact far from the truth! The apparent board 1 mismatch between Phillip Drew & IM Guy West turned out to be a very close game & was one of the last to finish. Guy played the Benko Gambit & Phillip took the offered pawn & managed to neutralise much of Guy's queenside play that is typical in the Benko Gambit. Ultimately the game went into a rook ending, where Guy won back his gambit pawn, but with 4 pawns each (none of them passed), the game appeared to be headed towards a draw. After more exchanges, the players ended up in a pawn ending, with Guy having 2 pawns to Phillip's one, but with Guy's king being away from the action (the pawns were on the d & e files) on the h-file. Unfortunately for Phillip, he played one quick, careless move & discovered to his horror that after his Kf5 & Guy's reply Kg3 that his position was in fact lost! If Phillip had played the correct Kf4, Guy would be unable to make progress & the game would have finished in the draw that it looked headed towards for so long.
In other top board results, Domagoj Dragicevic & Chris Wallis played a fighting draw, while David Beaumont gave up a pawn on the white side of a Grunfeld against Dusan Stojic & missed a devious trick Dusan set when David tried to recover the pawn, which left Dusan a piece ahead. Ari Dale was very lucky to win against Laurent Michaille after sacrificing a rook for a speculative kingside attack. Laurent appeared to have everything under control until he played the natural looking 28...Rc8, rather than the tactical 28...Qa4 which seemed to retain the advantage in the position. Laurent then further compounded his problems by playing 29...Qxd5, which let Ari have the better of the position. However Ari then took the wrong pawn, playing 32.fxg6 (rather than the computer preference 32.gxf6), which allowed Laurent a final chance to draw the game. Unfortunately for Laurent, he missed the key move 34...Re1, which threatens to promote the d-pawn, as well as Nc1+, with a perpetual check. Instead, Laurent played 34...Ng1 & Ari found the tactic 36.Qxe7 to finish the game off. Sylvester Urban made the strategic mistake of playing a Sicilian Dragon against Justin Tan, and played down the same line that Justin had played previously against Brodie McClymont. To make matters worse, the record for black in that line is not exactly inspiring, with 12 games following the game to move 21 there were nine wins for white & three draws (no black wins). Justin showed why the line isn't favourable for black once again & won a nice game to stay in touch with the leaders.
Other results that went against rating saw Felix Wyss, Finley Dale & Tanya Kolak defeat higher rated opponents. With Guy leading the tournament by a clear point, he is the obvious favourite, but there are still plenty of strong players just behind him, so the battle for the title is still very much alive!
Results for round 5 are on ChessChat.
Below is the exciting board 4 clash between Ari Dale & Laurent Michaille.