Day 12 – Monday January 13

Kevin O’Chee offered Temur an early draw on top board; but the GM, in a fighting mood, said no… A lengthy fight ensued, with Temur slightly better despite the fact his extra pawn was doubled; but eventually Temur sacrificed the exchange for a pawn, Kevin equalised, and the game settled into a perpetual check that made Temur the new Australian Champion! Junta was just half a point behind on 8½/11, his two bishops and extra pawn too much for Cameron. Igor felt he was beating Jack Puccini, at one stage the exchange and a pawn up; but Jack got enough counterplay to reach a drawn ending. Jilin also registered an upset draw, her attack finally enabling her to simplify into a drawn ending with Brandon (see game below).

Moving too fast, Brodie lost a pawn against Jason Hu, who converted for an upset win. Once he got c5 in as White, Chris converted an opening advantage into a convincing positional win against Arthur by exploiting weak pawns. Sterling did well to simplify and fight through tactics to an upset draw with Solo; while Willis was too good for JSP, winning an early exchange and converting this material advantage into victory. Hughston won the battle of the Queenslanders, defeating Gene in the ending when his passed pawns proved more powerful than his opponent’s. Finally, Clive moved off bottom place when he was able to simplify as White and draw with Bahman.

In the Reserves, Ross Lam ended Kevin Sheldrick’s run, a positional advantage leading finally to decisive material gain (see game below). With Kevin and Ross equal first on 9/11, Nathan Hibberd and Kayson Wang were just half a point back in third place. Kayson won a key pawn to defeat Bukreyev, whose exchange sacrifice failed to save him; and Nathan finished a good event for him by beating David Spuler in a tricky queen and rook endgame. After a convincing attacking win against Jordan Morris, Angelito was equal fifth with Aiden Brady, who took the Under 2000 prize after he won two pawns and upset Henry Slater-Jones. Axel Ahmer got a share of a rating prize despite his loss; while Daniel Melamed won the junior prize when he upset Peter Abbott.

There followed a fine closing ceremony, with ACF medals awarded and a keynote speech by immediate past champion Max Illingworth. Max talked very well about his experiences at the Championships. It has certainly changed over the years… But as he said, the future of Australian chess is in good hands. This event backed up this claim, as it was smooth, pretty much dispute-free and enjoyed by all; thanks to everyone involved in organising a wonderful event!

Championships Prize Winners: 1ˢᵗ GM Temur Kuybokarov 9/11; 2ⁿᵈ IM Junta Ikeda 8½; 3ʳᵈ IM Igor Bjelobrk 7½; 4ᵗʰ IM Brandon Clarke 7; = 5ᵗʰ FMs Jason Hu, Jack Puccini, Chris Wallis 6½; = 8ᵗʰ FM Michael Kethro, IM Brodie McClymont, WGM Jilin Zhang 6.

Reserves Prize Winners: = 1ˢᵗ Ross Lam, Kevin Sheldrick 9/11; = 3ʳᵈ Kayson Wang, Nathan Hibberd 8½; 5ᵗʰ Angelito Camer 8; 1ˢᵗ U2000 Aiden Brady 8; Leading Junior Daniel Melamed 7½; = 1ˢᵗ U1800 Axel Ahmer, Jimmy Deng, Jesse Zafirakos 7; = 1ˢᵗ U1600 Henry Chen, Toby Huey, Mark Stokes 6½; = 1ˢᵗ U1400 Hamish Dawson, David Guo 5½; 1ˢᵗ U1200 Chee Seng Lue 5½.

Day 11 - Sunday January 12

Temur could not quite wrap up the title today, offering Jilin a draw on move 20 of their top board game. Jilin accepted despite being in a superior position, leaving Temur on 8.5/10. So Junta was still in with a chance after equalising by move 15 as Black against Jack Puccini, then reaching 7.5/10 by winning the battle of the exposed kings when he finished two pawns up in a won rook endgame (see game below). Igor was just half a point further back after his second win in a row, beating Cameron with tactics which ended up winning a rook to a queen fork. Another half point back was Brandon Clarke, whose rook and bishop and connected passed pawns beat Michael Kethro’s queen in the last game to finish – but only after Michael had given him an extremely long and tough battle!

As White, Kevin O’Chee offered Brodie a draw early on, but Brodie felt like fighting; so they fought all the way to draw a rook ending in 55 moves anyway! Chris Wallis accepted Stephen Solomon’s early peace offer, drawing on move 15. Bahman miscalculated an exchange sacrifice in his loss to Arthur Huynh; he thought he was winning it back, but missed a strong in-between move. Sterling drew with Willis in a long game that finished in a drawn rook ending; while Clive finally registered his first win, beating Gene by refuting his unsound piece sacrifice. JSP was not so lucky, falling to Hughston when he lost a key pawn and wound up in a lost bishop ending.

An amazing ninth win in a row for Kevin Sheldrick today, this one coming in a crazy game against Angelito where he sacrificed a rook and bishop for three pawns! Perhaps initially not quite sound, it nonetheless presented his opponent with enormous practical difficulties; and Angelito didn’t cope, finally losing on time in a lost position with two minor pieces for rook and four pawns (see game below). On 9/10, Kevin was thus guaranteed at least equal first, Ross Lam on 8/10 the only one who could catch him. Typically, Sameer Thite sacrificed the exchange early in his game with Ross; but it was unsound, and Ross refuted it and went on to win in the ending. Kayson Wang and David Spuler were solid in their 30 move draw by repetition, joined on 7½ by Andrey Bukreyev and Nathan Hibberd. Andrey beat Geoff Barker with an exchange sacrifice, not winning until the time scramble when Geoff allowed mate (see game below); while Nathan won a pawn and eventually a rook ending against Lalit Prasad.

Day 10 - Saturday January 11

The title of Australian Champion was virtually wrapped up by Temur today, his victory over Stephen Solomon getting him to 8/9 and maintaining his 1½ point lead. Solo was doing fine as White, having reached an even ending despite an exchange minus; but he felt he was better so spurned a draw by repetition, winding up losing to Temur’s advanced passed h-pawn instead (see game below). Brodie’s chances took a nosedive when he lost to Jack Puccini. Brodie was better, with two connected passed pawns as compensation for Jack having bishop and knight for rook; but he played inaccurately, Jack’s minor pieces ending up prevailing. Junta kept some pressure on Temur by defeating Jason Hu, winning the exchange by trapping the enemy rook then eventually forcing mate to remain just 1½ points behind Temur.

Chris’ chances were fatally scuppered by Brandon, his second defeat in a row coming when he was even with queen for two rooks, but lost the thread and gave back queen for rook and knight to lose the game. Iggy was too strong for Bahman, both sides attacking but Igor mating first; while Michael Kethro stopped Willis’ run, winning on time on move 37 after a complicated struggle. Jilin had to work hard, but finally converted an extra pawn to beat Sterling in a rook ending. Arthur dropped a pawn to a neat skewering tactic, then lost another pawn and went down to Cameron. Kevin O’Chee beat Hughston, winning pawns and successfully repelling his attack; while JSP failed to convert an extra pawn and ended up simplifying to draw with Clive.

Eight wins in a row and the outright lead on 8/9 in the Reserves for Kevin Sheldrick, this time recovering from a lost position to beat David Spuler. David had two rooks and an overwhelming position against Kevin’s queen – all good till he blundered a rook in time pressure… Level with David and a point behind Kevin were Angelito Camer, Kayson Wang and Ross Lam. Ross got a strong attack on the enemy king to defeat Nathan Hibberd; Angelito won a pawn early and was better when Johnny Teves Miranda walked into mate in three; and Kayson’s two bishops, aggressive pieces and extra pawns beat Sankeertan. Geoff Barker was beating Lalit Prasad, but misplayed it and had to take a perpetual check draw; while Sameer Thite upset Frank Tefanis when the latter blundered into a discovery losing his queen.

Jason Pan was glad when David Lovejoy took a 16 move draw in the Classic, giving him outright first on 6/7! David took equal second on 5½ with Brad Thompson, who converted his opening edge to a winning passed b-pawn against Craig Stewart; and Graham Saint, who won on forfeit. Also on 5½ was Tony Weller, who fought back from a lost position to defeat Paul Glissan (see game below). In an intriguing game, Paul eventually reached a won ending; but time pressure got him, and he misplayed it and lost. Micah Young drew with Pertti Sirkka to take the Under 1200 prize; while Amanda Cheng claimed the Under 1400 prize after she upset Brian Allison.

Day 9 - Friday January 10

Significantly, the only previously undefeated players in the Championships field – Igor and Chris – both lost today! Iggy was doing fine for most of his game against Temur, reaching an even rook and bishop ending; but then he lost a pawn, and he was eventually beaten in a long game. On 7/8, Temur’s lead was thus 1½ points from Brodie and Junta. The latter inflicted Chris’ first defeat, equalising with a Dutch then getting a winning edge on the kingside; while Brodie acquiesced to a (possibly not forced) perpetual check in an intriguing and complicated game against Brandon (see game below). Jack Puccini stopped Willis’ run, winning with two pieces for a rook in an extremely lengthy battle.

Long games seemed to be the theme of the day today, with Jason Hu and Jilin Zhang reaching an even queen and double rook ending on move 24 but fighting all the way to move 53 before drawing! Similarly Michael Kethro and Bahman Kargosha were always level in their 30 move draw by repetition. Solo won a pawn to a discovery and ground down JSP in a 60 move game; while Sterling continued his recovery by beating Kevin O’Chee after a superior opening led to him winning pawns and the game. Cameron was also on an upward trend, trapping Gene’s rook and winning the exchange and their game. Hughston scored his first win when he took advantage of an inaccuracy by Clive to win a pawn and eventually their game.

In the Reserves, Kevin Sheldrick’s Swiss Gambit paid more dividends, his seventh win in a row coming in an interesting game against Nathan Hibberd (see game below). Nathan had initial compensation for sacrificed pawns; but he did not take full advantage of it, and Kevin was able to consolidate and win… He was joined in the lead on 7/8 by David Spuler, whose queen and passed f-pawn beat Colin Savige’s two rooks when he won a rook to a queen fork. But with Nathan on 6½ and six players on 6, it was still anyone’s tournament… Among those on 6 were Geoff Barker, whose two connected passed pawns won an initially drawn ending against Martin Barakat’s rook; Kayson Wang, whose knight and extra pawn won an ending against Thorin Munro; and Johnny Teves Miranda, whose heavy pieces successfully checkmated Jonas Tang.

Jason Pan maintained his lead today in the Classic, beating Tony Weller when he won an isolated d-pawn and eventually a bishop and pawn endgame. But David Lovejoy was just half a point behind on 5/6 after winning a cute 11 move miniature against Aurel-John Buciu (see game below)! Bevan Clouston’s Smith Morra Gambit lost again; this time he was equal most of the way until, after many vicissitudes, he wound up in a lost rook ending against Pertti Sirkka. Graham Saint was much happier with his ending, Ian Dickson swapping all the way to a lost king and pawn endgame! Meanwhile upsets saw the two Micahs do well: Micah Young beat Gary Armstrong in a neat ending, while Micah Lo defeated Bill Egan.

Day 8 - Thursday January 9

A good recovery from Temur, beating Jack Puccini despite Jack equalising in a Center Counter. Jack missed a chance to play b4, with a crushing attack on Temur’s queenside castled king; he played it a move too late, sacrificed a piece and was slowly outplayed. Temur’s lead was now a full point from Chris and Brodie, who till move 19 followed Game 16 of the 1986 K-K world champs, with a small edge to Chris. But he overestimated White’s attacking chances and played too cautiously; so the game eventually petered out to a draw. Igor joined them on 5/7 with a win against Brandon, Iggy gradually building up a winning attack on Brandon’s king (see game below). Junta was half a point further back after his win over Jilin; he was better for much of the game, but Jilin made him work hard, actually missing a draw in their rook ending.

Clearly Jason Hu has not heard of the Aussie catch-cry “all endgames are winning for Solomon”: he reached an even king and pawn endgame, then proceeded to outplay Solo there for a fantastic upset win! Michael Kethro continued his run with an upset draw with Kevin O’Chee, pushing but not able to win a superior knight ending; while Arthur Huynh was worse as White once Willis had played c5 in a QGA, a pawn down with no compensation and never recovering. So a third win in a row for Willis; and JSP drew again, frustrated not to be able to convert a won position an exchange and a pawn up against Gene. Cameron was happier, always better and finally able to make an extra pawn count to beat Hughston. But Clive’s frustrations continued, as he walked into a tactic losing two rooks and a knight for a queen and eventually going down to give Sterling his first win.

The status quo was preserved at the top in the Reserves, Nathan Hibberd keeping the lead on 6.5/7 after Kayson Wang erred badly in an even knight ending. Breathing down his neck half a point behind was Kevin Sheldrick, who could be accused of the perfect Swiss gambit after recovering from his first round loss to win his sixth game in a row against Geoff Barker in another knight ending. Also on 6/7 was David Spuler, whose two bishops and strong pawn centre led to a fatal attack on Thorin Munro’s king. Next on 5.5/7 were Ross Lam, who won on time in a drawn position against Ian Parsonage; Angelito Camer, who beat Henry Slater-Jones in a knight vs bishop endgame; Lalit Prasad, who won the exchange and two pawns to account for Paul Russell; and Colin Savige, whose two bishops and active pieces beat Joshua Brown. Martin Barakat and Johnny Teves Miranda missed a chance to join them when they could only draw their queen ending.

More draws at the top today in the Classic, Jason Pan finding Buciu too solid in a rook ending on Board 1 after Craig Stewart offered David Lovejoy an early draw on Board 2. Craig was in a better position, so David accepted… A thriller on Board 3, as the ever sharp Bevan Clouston sacrificed a piece and obtained what looked like an overwhelming attack against Tony Weller. But Bevan missed a win or two, and Tony always fights; using all his experience, he turned the tide and checkmated Bevan instead! (See game below). Tony thus shared the lead with Jason on 4.5/5, with Stephen Jago (who checkmated Alex Manganas), Buciu, Lovejoy and Stewart half a point behind. The female juniors did well this round: Amanda Cheng upset Anthony Martin, Chelsea Huey took advantage of a Mark Stokes rook blunder, and Annabel Li nearly mated with bishop and knight!

Day 7 - Wednesday January 8

A rest day for some, while others had to suffer through the ACF National Conference in the morning! Not me; but I was one of the arbiters (along with Shaun Press and Andrew Hardegen) at the Australian Blitz Championships in the afternoon. This attracted 111 players, and was won with a perfect 11/11 score by Jack Puccini. (He must really love the number 11)… Congratulations to Jack Puccini, the new Australian Blitz Champion!

Day 6 - Tuesday January 7

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… Chris Wallis, as White, did his best impersonation of the shark in Jaws and made the event interesting with an upset win over Temur on top board! From a fairly even Ruy Lopez, Chris slowly got a small edge with two connected passed pawns, finally winning with neat tactics taking advantage of the exposed enemy king. Brodie joined Chris half a point from the lead by beating Junta, getting a huge edge in the time scramble near the first time control when his pieces invaded the enemy position. Half a point behind on 4/6 were Brandon, whose vastly superior activity and passed h-pawn beat Jason Hu; Igor, who finally won a tough rook ending two pawns up against Michael Kethro; and Jack Puccini, whose piece sacrifice cracked Kevin O’Chee’s exposed king.

Solo was too tough for Gene on Board 6, an early opening edge translating itself into the win of a piece and soon mate. Jilin rounded off an especially bloodthirsty top seven boards, her win via an extra exchange over Bahman meaning all had decisive results! Our first draw was not till Board 8, JSP judging his advantage of the two bishops was not big enough and accepting Arthur’s draw offer. Clive lost a frustrating game to Willis, unable to convert an extra pawn due to weak pawns and complications and finally ending up losing the exchange and being mated. Sterling finally got off the mark (byes excluded) with a draw against Hughston, but he too was frustrated; he was a pawn up in a rook ending and pushing to win, but Hughston defended well and got his draw.

The lead changed hands again in the Reserves today, Nathan Hibberd cashing in on a positional advantage to get connected passed pawns and win the exchange in his victory over Geoff Barker. He thus had the outright lead on 5.5/6 after Kevin Sheldrick also won the exchange to defeat Jordan Brown. Joining Kevin and Geoff on 5/6 were Thorin Munro, who upset top seeded Frank Tefanis with a powerful attack on his king; David Spuler, winning a long game with an extra pawn against Peter Abbott when his pieces invaded and checkmated the enemy king; and Kayson Wang, who won pawns and eventually a piece to beat Henry Chen. Ross Lam and another Henry (Slater-Jones) missed a chance to join them when they drew in 22 moves. Upsets lower down saw Martin Barakat defeat Jack Keating, and Alaina Vincent surprise Hadi Gunawan.

Jason Pan still had the outright lead on 4/4 after today’s games in the Classic, but was a little bit lucky to beat Pertti Sirkka after the latter reached a drawn rook ending. But Pertti swapped into a king and pawn endgame instead; shame for him that it was lost due to his opponent’s outside passed pawn… Five players were still breathing down Jason’s neck on 3.5/4! There was Craig Stewart, who won a piece to beat Graham Saint; Bevan Clouston, who won a miniature against Tony Martin’s trapped knight; David Lovejoy, who trapped a Brad Thompson knight; Aurel-John Buciu, who won a piece and a long game against Micah Lo; and Tony Weller, who won a pawn then a piece to defeat Brian Allison. Meanwhile, some more of the usual junior havoc lower down: Micah Young stunned Herman Rachmadi, while Amanda Cheng upset Mark Stokes.

Day 5 - Monday January 6

Still nobody could stop Temur, Brandon his latest victim despite equalising in a French Defence. But then Black was slowly outplayed, resigning once he lost his trapped queen for rook and bishop. Temur’s lead was 1.5 points when Brodie could only draw with Igor, despite being a pawn then the exchange up; but the position was too locked and he had a bad bishop, so he could make no progress. Also reaching 3.5/5 were Junta and Chris Wallis, who beat Solo and Gene respectively. In a fascinating game, Solo had a won position with four pawns for a piece and an attack; but 34.Bd4 threw away his advantage (e.g. 34.Qe6 wins), and then Solo had to give up his queen to avoid mate. See game below; Junta always fights… Chris won more easily, Gene sacrificing pawns then finally a piece for an attack that was not there.

Kevin O’Chee pushed hard to beat Jason Hu as White, attacking his king and winning a pawn to some neat tactics; but Jason sacrificed the exchange to equalise, and their long fight finally settled into a perpetual check… Meanwhile Michael Kethro was rock solid as Black against Jilin, a Bxa3 tactic leading eventually to simplification into a drawn rook and opposite coloured bishop ending. Jack Puccini emerged well out of the opening against John Stuart Plant (JSP), his tactics finally resulting in him emerging two pawns up in a won endgame. Bahman took much longer, but beat Hughston in the end in a rook endgame with two pawns against one. Willis also took a long time, but his two pawns for the exchange was finally enough to beat Cameron; while Arthur Huynh registered his first win via a neat exchange sacrifice successfully targeting Sterling’s king.

Geoff Barker took the outright lead on 5/5 in the Reserves by beating Ross Lam on top board, a quiet opening belying his later attacking intentions! His pieces soon crowded Ross’ king; it only took one inaccuracy from Ross, and inevitable mate followed… Nathan Hibberd could have done the same against Peter Abbott, as his Nxh5 sacrifice was winning if he had seen the e5 follow-up; but with only a minute left, he took a draw by perpetual check (see game below). So Peter had to be content with 4/5, Nathan joined on 4½ by Joshua Brown after the latter invaded to win material then checkmate Johnny Teves Miranda. Sameer Thite and Jack Keating drew a wild game; Henry Chen succeeded in creating enough complications from two pawns down to upset Nick Kordahi; and Mark Baterowicz was also back in the upsets, this time beating Brendan Anderson.

Amazingly, 4 of the top 5 boards of the Classic saw drawn games today; but it wasn’t for want of trying! The Board 1 game between Sirkka and Lovejoy was a topsy-turvy affair, with first David better via an open b-file then Pertti seeming to have a winning pin. But in fact he could take no advantage of it, so the end result was a draw… Bevan Clouston and Graham Saint simplified to a drawn opposite coloured bishop endgame; Craig Stewart drew with fellow Queenslander Buciu in 20 moves; and Chelsea Huey was a pawn up against Gary Armstrong, but allowed too much simplification and another opposite coloured bishops draw. All this left rising junior Jason Pan with the outright lead on 3/3 after he beat Brian Allison; he refuted Brian’s exchange sacrifice by defending a seemingly powerful attack, finally winning Brian’s queen with a neat tactical finish.

Day 4 - Sunday January 5

The critical game on top board in the Champs saw Temur retain his outright lead by defeating Junta, whose unambitious White opening gave the GM easy equality. From there a manoeuvring battle ensued, resolving itself in Temur’s favour when his active pieces tied up Junta, eventually targeting the White king and winning material (see game below). Brandon got to 3/4 by beating Puccini as Black, defending well to refute Jack’s ambitious kingside pawn storm. He was joined on this score by Brodie, who beat Jilin when the WGM sacrificed a pawn then a piece in time trouble, which Brodie refuted quite efficiently. After beating off Gene’s sacrificial attack, Igor Bjelobrk was frustrated to only be able to draw; his two pieces for a rook was never quite enough, as liquidation of pawns meant no win was possible.

Chris Wallis vs Kevin O’Chee was an interesting game, as it seemed to me Chris was always the one pushing with positional pressure; but Kevin was actually fine, and in fact Chris finally traded off into a lost king and pawn ending! But Kevin made one inaccurate move, and Chris found a nice resource by temporarily sacrificing two pawns to force passed pawns of his own and draw. Bahman Kargosha blundered a piece to a removing the guard tactic to lose to Jason Hu; while Michael Kethro’s powerful central pawns won a piece of his own to beat Hughston Parle. Stephen Solomon was actually a piece down, but had three pawns as compensation; it perhaps should not have been enough to win, but typical Solo fight wore down Cameron McGowan. John Stuart Plant registered his first win, pinning Sterling’s knight and finally winning his queen; while Clive Ng and Arthur Huynh were always evenly balanced in their 18 move draw.

Ross Lam reached 4/4 in the Reserves with a win on top board against David Spuler, patiently taking advantage of weak squares and weak pawns to finally get a winning rook ending. On Board 2, Thorin Munro blundered a rook to a knight fork to enable Geoff Barker to join Ross. The triumvirate of leaders was rounded off by Nathan Hibberd, Sameer Thite’s obligatory sacrifice (here the exchange) not working this time (see game below). Peter Abbott scored his own positional win against Tony Davis, his pressure culminating in the win of a piece; he was joined on 3.5/4 by Joshua Brown, who won a long rook ending to upset Lalit Prasad, and Johnny Teves Miranda, who finally ended Mark Baterowicz’s run. Further upsets were scored by James Watson against Jordan Morris and Alaina Vincent against Sankeertan; while Taro Abe scored a thrilling upset win against Daniel Melamed despite the latter at one point having two queens!

Craig Stewart scored a significant upset on top board of the Classic, making an extra pawn count in a long battle against Paul Glissan. The other top seeds also won with extra pawns, except for Brian Allison who scored a nice attack to defeat Bill Egan. An early exchange sequence helped junior Joshua Li to an upset draw with sixth seed Gary Armstrong. Meanwhile the juniors wreaked their usual havoc! Micah Young upset Nathan McLean; Chelsea Huey stunned Chris Brown; and Alex Ilka beat the higher rated Stephen Tuck.

Day 3 - Saturday January 4

Things were already getting interesting in the Championships, with the top eight seeds playing amongst each other! On top board against fourth seeded Brodie, Temur swapped queens early, but made little progress and in fact ended up in a drawish double rook ending. But Brodie did not want a draw (seems to be a theme for these Championships already!), so he tried to double his rooks on the seventh rank; but Temur doubled his rooks himself even more effectively, and went on to win the endgame. This gave him the outright lead on 3/3 from Junta Ikeda on 2.5, with Junta gradually building an edge against Brandon Clarke until a strong passed e3 pawn eventually won him a piece and the game (see game below). Igor Bjelobrk found Chris Wallis far too solid, his attempts to win positionally thwarted at every corner until they agreed a draw on move 42.

Solo’s game with Jack Puccini was a 138 move marathon, Jack sacrificing the exchange quite early on then fighting like a tiger to successfully swap off all the pawns! Stephen kept trying to win, first two rooks vs rook and bishop then rook vs bishop; but Jack’s technique held up, and he ended up getting his draw. John Stuart Plant should have drawn with Jilin Zhang, but thought he was better as Black with a passed a2 pawn in a rook ending; so he pushed to win, overpushed and ended up losing instead! Cameron McGowan was similarly frustrated, errantly pushing his passed a-pawn instead of swapping bishops and soon losing what could have been a drawn rook ending against Kevin O’Chee; while Hughston Parle was happy to take a repetition and force an upset draw with Jason Hu. Arthur Huynh was extremely frustrated to lose from a piece up against Gene Nakauchi, allowing too much counterplay but still winning until his blunder on the second last move; Clive Ng tried too hard to win his ending against Michael Kethro, finally finding himself in a lost rook ending instead; while Willis Lo lost his queen for rook and knight against Bahman Kargosha and was eventually ground down.

Ross Lam did a good job of reaching 3/3 in the Reserves by positionally grinding down Daniel Melamed on top board, winning a pawn and using his active rook and two beautiful bishops to win another couple of pawns and the game. He was joined there by Geoff Barker, who refuted Victor Ibrahim’s attempt to attack with a piece sacrifice; Nathan Hibberd, who won a pawn and eventually beat Mal O’Donoghue in a knight ending; and David Spuler, who took advantage of some inaccuracies to eventually force mate against Charles Tsai in a long and tough struggle. Also on 3/3 were Sameer Thite, who sacrificed another piece then won Jordan Morrris’ queen after inaccurate defence; and Thorin Munro, who won pawns and a rook ending against Martin Barakat. Peter Boylan and Johnny Teves Miranda missed a chance to join them, drawing their own lengthy ending when Johnny successfully blockaded Peter’s connected passed pawns. Axel Ahmer scored another upset, this time beating Ian Parsonage; while Mark Baterowicz made his start even better with a third upset in a row when he defeated Jose Escribano.

Today saw the start of the 7 round Under 1800 St George Chess Classic event, which attracted 56 players and was played at a Fischer time control of 60 minutes each plus 30 seconds per move from the start. The top seeds mostly won their first round games fairly comfortably, although fourth seed Brian Allison took longer to get his victory than I thought he would given that he had a crushing attack by move 17… Third seed Graham Saint had by far the toughest time against underrated junior Amanda Cheng, a couple of pawns down by move 25 but with the two bishops as compensation. But Graham gradually won back the pawns and achieved a superior position with his bishops, finally triumphing via a passed a-pawn. There were a couple of upset draws; but the most significant upset victory was registered by Mary Wilkie (always a dangerous first round opponent!) against Herman Rachmadi.

Day 2 - Friday January 3

Only Round 2, but already we feel like we are well into the swing of things! Temur had to work harder this round against Cameron McGowan, but eventually made his advantage of having the two bishops count; and Cameron was dead lost once he walked into a neat trick which either trapped his bishop or won it to a knight fork. Junta Ikeda and Igor Bjelobrk had a solid draw on Board 2; while Brandon Clarke was made to work against John Stuart Plant, but eventually took advantage of his more active pieces to win a pawn, then the exchange and the game. Brodie McClymont was always better against Stephen Solomon, and had no difficulty refuting Solo’s unsound piece sacrifice to prevail. Chris Wallis got only a slight edge against Jilin Zhang’s Gruenfeld, but then took advantage of some inaccurate play by the WGM to get a winning advanced passed d-pawn.

Jack Puccini vs Bahman Kargosha was a fascinatingly complicated battle, Bahman’s 13ᵗʰ move starting a sequence of captures that still left things fairly even (White having 2 pieces for rook and 2 pawns) till Bahman erred on his 26ᵗʰ and 28ᵗʰ moves. Then Jack was a piece up, but made very hard work of his winning position before eventually getting the job done! See game below.

Early in their game Jason Hu had just a small edge against Clive Ng, who indeed forced complete equality when queens were traded. Then Clive missed a chance to get a superior position, when he captured a central pawn instead of swapping knights and getting a rook to the seventh rank; a shame for Clive, then, when he dropped his e6 pawn and eventually went down in the ending. Willis Lo’s exchange sacrifice against Kevin O’Chee was initially sound, as he got two doubled pawns for it; he forced equality but did not want a draw, so went on to lose a long game instead! Gene Nakauchi had no such adventures, as Sterling Bayaca allowed a crushing central pawn break and resigned when losing his queen. Michael Kethro and Arthur Huynh maintained the balance for most of their game, eventually drawing in 40 moves.

In the Reserves, Frank Tefanis’ Dutch went well initially on top board; but he missed an early Nxd4 trick, and his opponent Brendan Anderson starting attacking his king! But Frank did well to defend this; so in the end they settled into an even rook and bishop ending, Brendan no doubt happy with his upset draw… Most of the other top boards went according to seeding, except on Board 4 where Sameer Thite pulled off a brilliant sacrificial mating attack (giving up two pieces!) to upset seventh seed Joerg Raichle’s Winawer. (See game below). Anthony Mann pulled of an upset win against Sankeertan Badrinarayan, getting a superior position as White in a King’s Indian (Black was too passive and had no plan) and eventually winning material via some tactics. A couple of juniors fell victim to upset draws this round, Jack Keating against Axel Ahmer and Kayson Wang vs Rapula Regoeng; while Mark Baterowicz continued his good start with an upset draw against Jordan Brown.

Day 1 - Thursday January 2

A fantastic opening ceremony featured the usual speeches, but was highlighted by two things. There was a superb photographic presentation on past Australian Champions by Malachi O’Donoghue (photos supplied by Cathy Rogers), and an inspirational speech on the influence of chess in her life by current Australian of the Year, the eminent Professor Michelle Simmons. Professor Simmons made the first move on top board in the Champs, and then we were off and running…

Kuybokarov made fairly short work of Jason Hu, who walked into a powerful exchange sacrifice enabling Temur’s active pieces to target Jason’s exposed king. It took longer, but Junta’s queenside passed pawns eventually put paid to Kevin O’Chee’s chances; while Brandon Clarke successfully targeted Gene Nakauchi’s king exposed in the centre. Arthur Huynh was doing well against Brodie McClymont, his advanced passed d-pawn always a threat; but unfortunately he misplayed it, lost a queenside pawn and eventually resigned when about to lose his d-pawn.

Igor Bjelobrk’s game against Willis Lo seemed to be heading inexorably towards a victory for the IM; and indeed with his positional pressure, he wound up two pawns up in a rook ending. But Willis kept fighting, and it proved amazingly hard for Igor to make progress; but just when it looked drawish (two pawns vs one), Willis walked into a zugzwang and lost! (See game below). Chris Wallis’ positional pressure was never quite enough against Bahman Kargosha, who played well to force an upset draw; Michael Kethro looked like he might do the same against Solo, dead level until he walked into some typical Solo tricks forcing mate and/or queening a pawn. Clive Ng was never worse against Jack Puccini, eventually forcing an upset draw in a knight vs bishop ending; while Jilin Zhang beat Hughston Parle after his tactics backfired. In the battle of the Australian Junior Champion (Sterling Bayaca) against the Australian Under 16 Champion (Cameron McGowan), it was Cameron who won the exchange and prevailed.

In the Reserves, top seed Frank Tefanis had what he described as a lucky victory; but second seed Kevin Sheldrick was not so fortunate! After a long and complicated struggle, it was his opponent Mark Baterowicz who emerged two pawns up in an ending; he made hard work of it, but eventually clinched an upset victory in the last game to finish. Sixth seed Angelito Camer walked into a knight fork and lost his queen against rising junior Jason Pan; while Hadi Gunawan pushed too hard to win a drawn ending and lost to Steven Hemsley instead! Other upset victories were scored by Steven Hogan against Colin Savige, and Myiesha Maunders over Joseph Daffy; while Damien Arkins’ two powerful bishops were more than enough compensation for the exchange as he engineered a nice finish in his upset win against Michael Walsh. Among several upset draws, Kaibing Qi held third seed Andriy Bukreyev in a lengthy game; Sulia Van Sebille was possibly losing her rook ending to eighth seed Peter Abbott, but fought tenaciously to get the half point; while Norm Greenwood struck a blow for the veterans by drawing with Stevo Acevski.