Saturday, October 6th: Sixteen players descended upon Castlemaine from all corners of country Victoria on the weekend to compete in the Victorian Country Chess Championship, a tournament that traditionaly features some of the best players in the country... (but not too many from the city!)
This years event was one of the strongest in recent times, with last year's winner, Mark Bruere, seeded eighth (one place away from qualifying for the Reserves section!)
Things got off to an auspicious start, with a large paper maché sculpture of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god of "success and overcoming obstacles" featuring prominently in the community hall in which the tournament was held, (a most appropriate deity for chess!)
Ganesh beholds all that transpires before him... (on board one).
Ganesh certainly got to view some fantastic battles as the players set to business. Games went to rating in Round 1, with the exception of Rob Loveband from Ballarat holding the higher rated Nigel Barrow to a draw.
Round 1 - Malcolm Pyke (left) plays Patrick Cook from Ballarat. On board 3 Bendigo Chess Club president Max Mollard waits for his opponent to arrive, while Steven Fletcher (left) takes on Ken Czuczman.
Round 2 saw Pyke & Booth continue their winning runs, while Bruere had a good victory over Alistair Anderson from Geelong. Sarah Anton looked to have a winning position against Bendigo Chess Club President, Max Mollard, however an oversight allowed Max to escape with the point.
Things became interesting after Round 2, when the tournament director's computer went into meltdown, delaying the start of Round 3. Eventually, the pairings were produced, with the top two seeds Malcolm Pyke (rating 2119) & Stewart Booth (rating 2111) producing an exciting clash on board one.
Booth sacrificed a Bishop for three pawns early in the opening, but with clever piece play, Pyke managed to prove the superiority of White's position: See games database VCCC2007
Action from Round 2: Anderson (left) against Bruere in the foreground, Zoppi plays Booth & Pyke (with Ganesh looking on) plays Fletcher.
Sunday, October 7th: Round 4 pairings got underway, thanks to a backup laptop provided by International Arbiter, Kevin Perrin.
Ken Czuczman had to withdraw from the tournament at this stage due to ill health, Bendigo player Steve Ahern generously agreed to play as a late entrant to avoid the tournament having a bye. We all wish Ken a speedy recovery.
On board one, Pyke's winning run come to a halt, being held to a draw by Mark Bruere. Meanwhile a tremendous struggle was occurring on one of the lower boards between Steven Fletcher (Geelong) and Nigel Barrow (Bendigo).
Barrow snatched a pawn early, and managed to survive some complicated tactics to hold onto it through to a queen and knight endgame... just when it looked like Fletcher was destined to lose a knight, he generated a couple of ingenious tactics; first to avoid losing his knight, and then to turn the tables and win Barrow's knight! See games database VCCC2007
Round 5 saw another win by Pyke, this time over Mario Zoppi (Geelong) while Bruere held Booth to a draw to stay within half a point of the lead. Sarah Anton had another high rated player on the ropes, but another oversight allowed Steven Fletcher to turn the tables.
In the final round, Pyke defeated Max Mollard to secure outright first (Max actually overlooked a forced win on move 34 with c4!).See games database VCCC2007
Booth knocked off Fletcher to finish in outright second place, whilst Zoppi ended Bruere's run, leaving a three way tie for third between Bruere, Zoppi and Alistair Anderson (Geelong). In the Reserves section, Mollard was joined on three points by Sarah Anton, who had a fine win over Patrick Cook (Ballarat), and Rob Loveband (also from Ballarat) who in the last game to finish, overcame stubborn resistance from Jon Daivis (Shepparton).
This was an especially good result for Sarah & Rob, as this was the first time they had played in the tournament. Sarah enters the record books as the first female to have her name engraved on the Reserves' trophy, and has her sights firmly set on the main trophy next year. Given the form she showed in this tournament, that may well prove portentious!
Malcolm Pyke, 1st 5.5/6,
Stewart Booth, 2nd 4.5/6,
Mario Zoppi, Alistair Anderson & Mark Bruere =3rd, 4.0/6
Sarah Anton, Rob Loveband & Maxwell Mollard =1st-3rd, 3.0/6.
Congratulations to all the players for a wonderful tournament that was held in a great, friendly spirit and atmosphere, (as evidenced by all the players getting together for a group photo at the end).
Special thanks to John Lavery for organising the tournament, Patrick Cook & Kevin Perrin for their assistance throughout and Malcolm Pyke for providing assistance with the computer pairing program, Swissperfect, not to mention providing copies of his games for this report!
~ Nigel Barrow.