Friday, 31 October 2014

Hjorth Open - Day 1

The Hjorth Open (previously the Melbourne Cup Weekender) has become a major event on the Australian, let alone Victorian calendar! This year attracted 86 players, far more than previous years & this can be attributed to the hard work done by those at the Melbourne Chess Club (largely tournament organiser Simon Dale) in organising & publicising the event & making every effort for it to be a fitting tribute to IM Greg Hjorth, who passed away unexpectedly in early 2011. Greg's family has also been a driving force behind the event providing sponsorship not only for this event, but also adding a Brilliancy prize to events held at Melbourne Chess Club throughout the year.

With such a large number of players at the club, the first round started a little late, however not before a short opening ceremony where Melbourne Chess Club President Paul Cavezza welcomed everyone to the tournament & shared some memories of Greg.

Round 1 saw most games going according to rating, although there were a few draws on the lower boards. Of the top boards, the board 4 clash between FM Chris Wallis & Rad Chmiel was probably the most interesting of them all, with Chris gaining an opening edge before inexplicably giving away an exchange (the post-mortem suggested that Chris had mentally 'played' Rg1 or Rf1 before Bf3, but then moved the bishop first by mistake), before putting his strong central pawns to work, with a second, intentional, exchange sacrifice securing the victory.

The new perpetual trophy for the winner of the Hjorth Open
A new perpetual trophy for the winner of the Hjorth Brilliancy Prize
 Trophies for the winners of the Hjorth Open & Brilliancy Prize.
Opening ceremony with MCC President Paul Cavezza giving a brief speech about Greg before the tournament began. Greg's parents, Robert & Noela, are on Paul's right.
Round 1 underway in the main hall, almost filled to capacity!
Top boards underway, with six boards broadcast live online.
A number of clocks are being used during this event with the inscription 'In Memory of Greg Hjorth' on them.
Plaque on the wall of the main tournament hall dedicated to Greg Hjorth.

Chess Victoria Schools Finals

2014 was another year of growth in school chess in Victoria, as evidenced by the recently held state finals, which I was one of the arbiters for.
The finals started with the Secondary Open finals at Brighton Grammar. Melbourne High were once again the winning school, but the margin was much closer than it has been in recent years. Kai Jee Soo from Box Hill High was the only player to finish on 7/7 for the day & took out the individual honours.
Full results are on the Chess Victoria website.

 Photos from the Secondary Open final

The Girls finals, for both Secondary & Primary was held the next day at Lauriston Girls School. Mount View Primary took out the Primary girls division, with Cassandra Lim from Waverley Christian College being the only player to finish with 7/7. The Secondary Girls event was won by Presbyterian Ladies College, while there was a seven-way tie for first with Zhi Lin Guo from Balwyn High, Denise Lim from Billanook College, Alanna Chew Lee from Camberwell Girls, Grace Quah from MacRobertson Girls & May-Yi Foo, Vivienca Luong & Nidhi Wadhwa all from Presbyterian Ladies College all scoring 6/7 in the individual competition.
Full results are available on the Chess Victoria website. Primary Girls here, Secondary Girls here.  

 Photos from the Girls final
Participation Certificate given to all players at the Girls event

The Primary Open division is so big that the finals are split over four semi-finals, with the leading teams from each of these semi-finals meeting in a team against team format final a few weeks later.
The first semi-final was won by Wesley Elsternwick, with Jay Landau from Mount Scopus being the only player to finish on 7/7. The second semi-final was won by Deepdene Primary, with Daniel Roisman from St Kilda Primary the day's top scorer with 6.5/7. The third semi-final was won by Waverley Christian College, with siblings Cassandra & Christian Lim, both from Waverley Christian College finishing with 7/7. The final semi-final was won by Mount View Primary, with Leon Chen & Luis Chan, both from Mount View, finishing with 7/7.
The finals are to be played next week between the top 20 scoring schools from the four semi-finals. The winners of the semi-finals are the obvious favourites, but in a different format of school against school, the results could be a little different from early expectations.
Full results are on the Chess Victoria website.
Semi-final 1 (German Club Monday), Semi-final 2 (German Club Tuesday), Semi-final 3 (Glen Waverley Secondary Thursday), Semi-final 4 (Glen Waverley Secondary Friday).
 Participation certificates for all players in the Primary Open semi-finals
Monday Semi-final
Tuesday Semi-final
Wednesday Semi-final
Thursday Semi-final
There are still two finals to be played - the Primary Open final, as well as the newly-created Prep-Year 3 Junior Open final.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ryde-Eastwood Open

Last week I decided to go to Sydney for the Ryde-Eastwood Open (yes, I played more chess - who'd have thought it would be possible!), as well as to watch the NRL Grand Final (unfortunately my team the Sydney Roosters fell just short of the Grand Final losing to South Sydney 32-22 in the Preliminary Final). I headed up a few days early & my girlfriend Greer came along for the trip too.

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.

An interesting piece of graffiti on the wall of the gym/workout area, which reads 'If gaol's the answer it must of been a stupid question'
A typical isolation cell in one of the newer blocks at the gaol
The outside of the isolation cells, creating quite an interesting pattern in the sunlight.

One of the 'nice' cells above the kitchen area, for the prisoners who were considered less dangerous & trusted enough to work in the kitchen area.

Inside the shower block
A number of prisoners briefly escaped in 1977 by climbing out through this vent in the shower block - the only part of the gaol that did not have security cameras

Inside the Chapel, which now has a variety of artwork on the walls

Entrance from inside the gaol - prisoners would arrive by vehicle to this area & then be unloaded before entering the gaol for the first time

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.

Souths legend Bob McCarthy ringing the timekeepers bell from 1908 prior to the game - apparently Russell Crowe said that the bell would only be rung again (previously it was rung when Souths were re-admitted to the competition in 2002) when Souths made a grand final - quite a stirring moment before 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!

Sam Burgess is chaired off the ground by his brothers in his man-of-the-match performance in spite of suffering a fracture to his cheekbone & eye socket in the first tackle of the match!

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.

Tournament winners Kevin O'Chee & Ari Dale with plenty of photographers!
Playing Elliot Renzies in round 5 (photo by Alana Chibnall)
Playing FM Greg Canfell in round 6 (photo by Alana Chibnall)

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!
Girlfriend Greer patiently waiting for the repairs at 3am!
Mechanics working on the coach - ultimately they fixed the problem, but it took an extra 3 hours to make it to Melbourne.