By Shaun Curtis
The Australian Junior Chess Championships was first held back in 1949. The event runs annually in a different city each year, after bids are put in to the Australian Chess Federation.
This year the Australian Junior Chess Championships is being held at Trinity Grammar School, Summer Hill, NSW. There are 12 different classical tournaments that run from the 14th – 22nd of January – with the specific days dependent upon the age group. This event is almost always well attended by keen Queensland Juniors looking to take on their interstate counterparts for a chance to win an age title.
I, like many other Australian chess players, have very fond memories of taking part in this tournament both within my home state, as well as travelling interstate to compete. These memories are not all about the chess, but are quite often related to the friends made or fun had in between games – these things all add to the overall experience.
The first day of the trip began with a 4:00am wake up to get ready to make it to Gold Coast Airport for a 6am flight to Sydney. Once I arrived in Sydney, I met with Byron Morris who would be in my care for the first half of the tournament. Byron (along with a few other Queensland juniors) had just competed in the Oceanic Youth Chess Championships in Auckland and flew direct to Sydney to take part in another major chess tournament. Byron and I then went sight seeing around Sydney which was very enjoyable.
Monday morning, we made our way to Trinity Grammar School where the tournament is being held. Upon arrival to the venue there were quite a few signs directing us to the correct building. Once inside, we lined up to confirm registration, before players, parents and coaches took the chance to explore the tournament hall and analysis rooms. Each state has their own analysis room where coaches help the children prepare for their next opponents and for analysing previous games to find possible improvements for future games. This room is also used as a base for family members awaiting the players to return after each game.
The opening ceremony commenced around 10am, where we were welcomed and told a little bit about the history of this great tournament, followed by the introduction of the organizers and arbiters. Once this was complete the draws were published outside the tournament hall and players were asked to take their seats in the tournament hall, while all parents, coaches and spectators were asked to leave the hall or view from the upstairs gallery area. Day one saw a lot of upsets as well as some overwhelming looks from some of the under 8’s. All seemed to go rather well in the end with 1 round played in the under 16 and 18 divisions and 3 rounds played in the under 8’s and under 10 divisions. In the under 8’s Noah Rose and Elizabeth Williams led the charge with 2/3 after the first day of play, with Adam Dullaway not far behind with 1/3. The under 10 division was led by Henry Liu and Zeriu Xing on 3/3 with Micah Young only half a point on 2.5/3. In the under 18 division Michael Ostapenko was the only Queenslander to win his first round.
Tuesday the 15th saw rounds 4- 6 of the under 8 & 10 tournaments as well as the dreaded double round day in the older divisions. As the draw began to get much harder for those who had won some of their early rounds, day 2 would prove to be a challenging test for quite a few of the Queensland Juniors. In the under 8’s tournament Noah Rose scored another 2/3 to finish day 2 on 4/6 with Elizabeth Williams following closely behind on 3/6. In the under 10’s it was a fantastic day for Joshua Cooper who scored 3/3 to bring his score to 5/6 with Colin Lam while Henry Liu, Micah Young and Tiffany Tran all followed closely with 4/6. The under 18 tournament saw a great day for Michael Ostapenko who finished day 2 on 2.5/3 while Byron Morris was on 1/3.
Wednesday the 16th was the final day for both the under 8’s and under 10’s with their final 3 rounds sure to produce an exciting finish. In the under 8’s Noah Rose spent his last 3 rounds on the top 10 boards to finish on 5.5/9 (9th) and Adam Dullaway finished on 3/9 (31st), However the standout performer from Queensland was Elizabeth Williams who played well to finish on a score of 6/9 which was 6th overall as well as being the highest scoring girl under 8 in the open tournament. The under 10 tournament was also very interesting on the final day, with many familiar Queensland faces on top board. All 8 of the Queenslanders in this division were on boards 1-12 in the first round of the final day and after a rather tough seventh round, many of those players found themselves floating down. In the end, the top Queenslander in the under 10 division was Henry Liu scoring 6.5/9 (7th), followed closely by Colin Lam (9th), Joshua Cooper (10th), Zerui Xing (11th) Micah Young (14th) who all finished on 6/9. Michael Dullaway finished on 5.5/9 (20th), Kevin Tan 4.5 (32nd) and Tiffany Tran 4.5 (33rd). After 4 rounds in the under 18 division Michael Ostapenko was continuing to impress on 3.5/4 (=1st) while Byron Morris scored another point to bring him to 2/4, Oliver Yang remained on 0.5/4.
With the Final day of classical play for the under 8’s and 10’s and the Problem Solving/Blitz day to follow, many families took the opportunity to have a night out and let the kids enjoy time with their friends. These sorts of evenings make up some of my fondest chess memories as a junior – not just the tournament itself but also the friendships made and activities in between matches. I was joined by Douglas Williams, Ben and Raphael Atia, Oliver and Melody Yang and Byron Morris for pizza at Sydney Olympic Park. After our meal we met up with Kevin Tan’s family, Noah and Joshua Rose’s family, Tiffany Tran’s family and Colin Lam’s family to create a large group of children and adults at the park. The kids ran around playing games and having fun while the adults all mingled amongst themselves – coincidentally there was a movie in the park on, so some of the families stayed around to watch some of the movie.
Thursday the 17th, was the day many of the players really look forward to as it is the Problem Solving and Lightning Championships. The problem-solving competition is an exam style competition, with a series of chess problems and questions to be solved within a time period (2 hours) where the most correct answers wins. The lightning competition is a ‘blitz’ or fast time control tournament where each player has only 5 minutes each on the clock for the entire game. In between these two events, 2 families visited the local ‘chess café’ known as Queenside. Queenside has a very large chess influence, naming meals after chess Grand Masters and having Chess Magazine ’50 Moves’ around the café for people to read at their leisure.
At this stage we are still awaiting confirmation of results from both the Lightning and Problem Solving Championships however full results from all of the various tournaments can be found at the following website: http://www.nswjcl.org.au/AustralianJunior/2019/PairingsAndResults.htm