Kevin Perrin, the doyen of Ballarat chess, faced tournament leader Harrison Harrison who played a weird French/Pirc hybrid. Kevin set about trying to gain an edge and made some progress. His pressure was never quite decisive though, and late in the game in time pressure he dropped a piece and the game.
Ruari Coffey took on Cassandra Barnett and surprised everyone with the Nimzo-Larsen (1.Nf3…2.b3…) and a tough positional struggle ensued. The game remained quite even well into the middle game, until Black allowed a fatal pin in a moment of inattention. A further tactical oversight left her position untenable and Cassandra promptly resigned.
Heath Gooch met Kent Baden who played the Philidor Defence (1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6), a rare guest in chess these days. An unusual middle game position was reached, and White managed to win a pawn and disrupt Black’s pawn structure. From there, Heath’s powerful technique forced a smooth win.
Top seed Bas van Riel faced the very dangerous Rodney Jacobs in a Scandinavian (1.e4 d5). A full scale battle of heavyweights was the result. Late in the game, Black lost momentum, and after a speculative attack failed, found his position crumbling. Loss of material and resignation followed.
Robert Bailey faced defending champion Rob Loveband who tried the Sicilian Dragon against an expert! The result was almost predictable. White launched the aggressive Yugoslav attack and overwhelmed Black’s meek response with a series of powerful thrusts.
Patrick Cook versus Jamie Brotheridge was postponed, but was played the following day at the Public Library. A Benko Gambit was played (already a surprise!), and a lively battle was the result. White kept the extra pawn well into the late middle game, and seemed poised for a win. Imaginative play by Black regained the pawn, and in the endgame, a combination of a strong centralized Knight and White’s exposed King enabled Jamie to win with a quick attack ending in checkmate.
Harrison continues to lead with 4/4, half a point ahead of Heath Gooch.
Robert Bailey met veteran Kevin Perrin in a French, Winawer. Kevin played an old, slightly unusual line. Robert responded by sacrificing a pawn for rapid development of his pieces. He profited from Black’s hesitant middle game play, and a quick King side attack forced a quick resignation.
Defending Champion Rob Loveband took on top seed Bas van Riel in a Closed Sicilian. After castling on opposite wings it appeared that an uncompromising battle was in store. In a nervy middle game with a lot of manoeuvring, White picked up a pawn, then another and seemed headed for a win. Black managed to push a dangerous passed pawn, and the game was later agreed drawn in a very strange position, Black having 2 pieces, White 4 pawns!
Rodney Jacobs versus Heath Gooch was a Caro-Kann. Rod played his favourite, very aggressive King side pawn push. The result was a wild tactical fist fight. Rod tossed in a piece sacrifice for good measure, but dropped his Queen at the height of the battle, and promptly resigned.
Kent Baden faced Patrick Cook and walked into the lion’s den, playing a French, Tarrasch against the club expert! He proved himself to be more than able, and played very strongly and accurately, prompting Patrick, typically, to offer a draw. There was some amusement when Kent enquired how long he had to think about it, but, after some thought, played on. Black soon found himself almost in zugzwang, and only a nicely timed pawn sacrifice to free up his Bishop saved the draw.
Jamie Brotheridge met Ruari Coffey who played a kind of Blumenfeld/Benko Gambit hybrid. White kept the pawn and a feisty game ensued. Early in the middle game, Jamie missed a lovely tactic by Ruari and fell to a disastrous defeat.
Cassandra Barnett faced Harrison Harrison, and after 1.d4 Nf6, the game swerved off into Harrison’s now usual Surreal chess world. Cassandra was unable to cope with Harrison’s strong positional sense and tactical eye, and eventually succumbed.
Heath Gooch faced defending Champion Rob Loveband in a French Defence, Steinitz variation. A tough, even positional battle ensued, and it remained more or less equal until White picked up an important pawn late in the middle game. In the resulting rook and pawn endgame, Heath’s excellent technique enabled him to score the full point.
Patrick Cook met Rodney Jacobs and played a quiet, unpretentious Catalan-type game to avoid any of Rod’s razor sharp preparation. Early in the middle game, Patrick sacrificed a piece for 2 pawns, thinking he could quickly regain the piece with advantage. Rod immediately found the flaw and in a lengthy game eventually broke Patrick’s stubborn resistance.
Harrison Harrison took on Jamie Brotheridge. The books say his first move, 1.c3…, is the Saragossa Opening, but thereafter it was entirely Harrison’s own invention. Once into the middle game, the position resembled a Queen’s Indian. Jamie then went astray in a tactical melee and shed material before resigning in disgust.
Kevin Perrin faced Cassandra Barnett in an Open Sicilian. Cassandra played well and kept it equal until inexplicably handing the exchange to the veteran. Kevin made no mistake from there and hauled in the full point.
Ruari Coffey met mystery man Kent Baden in a non-descript Queen Pawn Opening characterised by careful manoeuvring. Kent managed to win a piece for pawn late in the middle game and showed high class technique in the end game. Ruari resisted in a hopeless position until move 90, before resigning a move or two before checkmate.
Top seed Bas van Riel faced Robert Bailey who feinted a French Defence before quickly switching to his usual Sicilian. The game remained even well into the late middle game, until Bas conjured up a nice idea that netted a piece and the game.
Defending Champion Rob Loveband met 8-time Champion Patrick Cook and played the English. Patrick went for the sharpest response and the game reached a position of dynamic equilibrium, whereupon Patrick reverted to form and offered a draw. Rob thought for 20 minutes before accepting.
Rodney Jacobs took on new-comer Ruari Coffey in an odd Queen’s Gambit, Exchange variation. White managed to win a pawn in the early middle game, and in the course of the game picked up more pawns while exchanging most of the pieces. The resulting endgame was easily won.
Robert Bailey faced Heath Gooch in a Caro-Kann Defence. A heavyweight theoretical duel in the Panov-Botvinnik variation ensued. It remained equal until White won a pawn with a neat tactical operation late in the middle game. Short of time and unsure how to proceed in the King and pawn ending that followed, Rob consented to a draw.
Kent Baden met Harrison Harrison who played a sort of Owen’s Defence, almost conventional by Harrison’s standards! Black picked up a pawn early in the middle game, and strong, careful positional play eventually gave him the full point.
Jamie Brotheridge faced Cassandra Barnett who surprised JB by playing the Grunfeld against the local expert! A complex middle game battle was the result, with neither player straying far from equality. Cassandra’s courage was rewarded with a hard fought draw.
Bas van Riel versus Kevin Perrin was postponed but was played 2 days later at the Public Library. Kevin showed his versatility by playing the Petroff Defence. Bas won the exchange in the middle game and seemed headed for a routine win, but a timely counter attack by Kevin reversed the assessment. Black regained the material and White was forced to bail out to a draw.
The 53rd Ballarat Chess Club Championship is another strong tournament in the tradition dating back to 1966. Due to the large entry, the event is once again split into three group: the ‘A’ group for the “Andy Miitel Memorial” championship title; the ‘B’ group for the “John Baynham Memorial” reserves title; and the ‘C’ group for a yet-to-be-named title.
Top seed in the ‘A’ group is Bas van Riel, a formidable all round player and winner of the title on 7 previous occasions. He first won the title in 1981, and most recently in 2015, a remarkably consistent record and deservedly goes in as tournament favourite.
2nd seed is Heath Gooch, playing only his 2nd championship tournament. He finished 2nd at his first attempt last year, and with a solid, well trained positional style he could go all the way this year.
3rd seed is defending Champion Rob Loveband. An imaginative, highly creative player, and completely unafraid of reputations, he could well add another title to his current 3.
4th seed is Rodney Jacobs, winner in 2014 after a four-way play-off. Rodney likes gambits, and always comes to the board well-armed with deeply prepared weapons. If he’s in form, he could win another title.
5th seed is “The drawmeister” Patrick Cook, playing his 34th! Championship, and winner of a record 8 Championship titles. Very solid, difficult to beat, and coming off a good victory in the 2018 Spielvogel Memorial tournament, he might just rouse himself to grab another title.
6th seed is Harrison Harrison, possibly the most original player ever to play at the Club! He has already invented several dubious openings, but if he survives into the middle game, his positional and tactical vision is quite strong. He is a chance for the title this year.
7th seed is Jamie Brotheridge. A feisty, confident player, and an expert in several openings, Jamie has finished highly on several previous occasions. The Championship title has so far eluded him, but he can never be ruled out of contention.
8th seed is the incomparable Kevin Perrin playing his 53rd !! Championship. Winner of 7 previous Championships, he has vast experience and also cannot be ruled out of contention.
9th seed is 2013 Champion Robert Bailey. A professional chess coach (several of his students are playing in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ groups!) he has great chess knowledge and could win another title if results go his way.
10th seed is Ruari Coffey, playing in the Championship for the first time. He won’t be over-awed by the occasion, as shown by his strong 2nd place in the 2018 Spielvogel Memorial. Not a favourite, the other contenders will have to be careful of him.
11th seed is Cassandra Barnett, promoted as the imposing winner of the 2017 Reserves title. A confident and improving player, she has earned her spot in the 2018 Championship group.
12th seed is newcomer Kent Baden. An unknown quantity, except that he has shown himself to be a capable player in his brief time at the Club to date. It will be interesting to see how he fares.
The ‘B’ group is headed by Ian Boyle, returning to the Club after several years away. A sharp, attacking player, his style is similar to that of 2nd seed Tom Oppenheim. Their clash will be worth watching, and may even decide the title! Anna Yates is the other serious contender. The beneficiary of professional coaching, she has been improving steadily over the past few years, and this could be her year. Also worth watching out for are Kiki Dunn, Caitlin Barnett, and her sister Chantelle Barnett, promoted from last years ‘C’ group.
The ‘C’ group will take up the rest of the entries and will be played as a Swiss tournament.