A Report on the 2015 Gold Coast Open
by DOP Charles Zworestine
There is no doubt that many of you will think that this title is appropriate given the author of this report – doesn’t Charles always go on like a broken record? Very funny, dear reader… The truth is that the broken record was a much more positive one, with the 2015 Gold Coast Open and supporting events attracting a record number of 145 entries! With 53 in the Open, 46 in the Under 1600 and 46 in the Under 1000, we were even closing in on the magic 150 mark. The Gold Coast Open is definitely back to its glory days; nobody could dispute its status as one of the premier weekenders in the country…
The players fitted in nicely in the Great Hall at Somerset College, with all three tournaments held in the same playing area. With the demise of the Oceanic Grand Prix came the decision not to FIDE rate the event this year, and hence a return to the standard Australian weekender Fischer time control of 60 minutes plus 10 seconds per move from the start. The usual excellent organisational job was done by Gardiner Chess, notably Graeme Gardiner, Andrew Fitzpatrick and Shaun Curtis; the latter two also helped out as arbiters and doing live transmission of the top six boards via Tornelo. This left an incredibly strong field to just play chess – 14 players rated over 2000, headed by top seeded Armenian GM Hrant Melkumyan; but he was never going to have it all his own way, as the next 5 seeds were 4/5 of the previous Australian Olympiad side, these IMs in ACF rating order being Max Illingworth, Moulthun Ly, Anton Smirnov and Junta Ikeda. Then came visiting Greek IM Ilias Kourkounakis and Aussie IM Ari Dale among 12 titled players; a fascinating event was clearly in prospect!
There were no real shocks in the first two rounds, as the top 13 boards saw the higher rated player prevail every time in both rounds. But a two day weekender with four rounds on the first day can leave even the very top players tired; and sure enough, the upsets began in earnest in Round 3! First of all, Max Illingworth played a Gruenfeld as Black against Ari Dale, despite this being Ari’s own favourite opening as Black; the result was an upset victory to Ari after he eventually turned an extra exchange for a pawn into an extra rook to triumph in an ending. Moulthun Ly looked like he was easily winning a rook ending against Dusan Stojic’s weak pawns, yet somehow Dusan held on to draw; and Gene Nakauchi stunned Anton Smirnov in an intriguing battle where his two extra pieces eventually subdued Anton’s extra rook. David Cannon’s powerful knights finally won an exchange to shock WIM Emma Guo; while another WIM, Alex Jule, was upset by Ali Esmaili.
All this left us with 4 players on 3/3 going into the final Saturday round: Hrant, Ari, Gene and Junta. Ari seemed to me to be drawing against Hrant, yet somehow fell to the GM’s technique in a difficult rook and pawn ending (aren’t they all difficult?); while Junta made a couple of extra pawns count to beat off Gene’s attack and prevail. So 4/4 for Hrant and Junta, while Moulthun reached 3.5/4 by defeating David Cannon with an eventual kingside pawn storm and neat rook sacrifice forcing mate. He was joined there by Clive Ng, who had taken a half point bye for Round 1 then won three games in a row, the latest a rather fortunate upset triumph against Dusan after the latter lost on time in a very drawish position. Not too many upsets this round; but Emma Guo was the victor in an all-female battle with Alana Chibnall after Alana dropped a piece trying to save her queen from getting trapped.
Sunday dawned bright for Hrant, who claimed the outright lead on 5/5 with a very positive White victory over Junta. While Junta tried to play on the queenside and in the centre, Hrant played an aggressive pawn storm on the kingside; he won a pawn, then the exchange and eventually forced mate. The nature of Magic Moulthun Ly’s loss to Mighty Max Illingworth on Board 2 was very different, as this game really should have been drawn with rook and opposite coloured bishop each despite Moulthun’s weak pawns; but Magic underestimated Max’s play, and Mighty won a pawn and eventually the game when he forced his h-pawn through. Anton’s superior activity ground down Heather Richards on Board 3; while Emma Guo was doing very well against Ari Dale on Board 4, but eventually allowed a forced draw by perpetual check. Gene Nakauchi joined the group on 4/5 with a grinding endgame win against Ryan Louie, who unfortunately lost on time while still trying to fight for the draw.
So to Round 6, where Anton suddenly made the tournament interesting with his second win in three weeks against Hrant; he had also beaten him in a critical last round game at the NSW Open… This game followed a similar pattern, with Hrant overpushing to try and beat the ever rock solid Anton, dropping a couple of pawns and going down in a long and tough endgame. Hrant and Anton were joined in the lead by Mighty Max, who prove too tough for Gene as he just won too many pawns; and Junta, whose sacrifice of a piece for two pawns to force his passed c-pawn through was just too powerful for Clive Ng. Moulthun, Ilias and Ari were all still in contention on 4.5/6 after beating Emma, Dusan Stojic and David Cannon respectively. Heather Richards and Alex Jule drew their all-female battle; while Ross Lam also managed an upset draw, his against Mariusz Pecak.
The final round was always going to be intriguing; and so it proved, as Hrant guaranteed himself at least equal first on 6/7 by winning a queen and pawn ending a pawn ahead against Max. He then sat back to wait and see if Anton’s rook sacrifice against Junta really worked; it did! Anton mopped up several of Junta’s pawns, won back a piece with a mate threat and prevailed in the ending (see game below). So equal first on 6/7 for Hrant and Anton, with Moulthun beating Ilias in a miniature when he forced the win of at least the exchange; he was joined in equal third place on 5.5/7 by Ari, whose powerful passed d-pawn triumphed over Gene Nakauchi. Of the rest, Junta and Max had to settle for equal fifth place on 5/7; they were joined there by Clive Ng, who defeated Tom Maguire in a long and tough battle.
Co-Winners: GM Hrant Melkumyan and IM Anton Smirnov
Ikeda, Junta (2395) – Smirnov, Anton (2452), Gold Coast Open Round 7, Board 2 28/06/15
Under 1600 Event
Top seed for this 46 player event was 18 year old Sam Stephen, with perennial Under 1600 superstar Mark Stokes as the second seed amongst only four players who were rated over 1500. But the top seeds never seem to win these events; and this one was to prove to be no exception! The winner always seems to come from a pool of underrated and rapidly improving juniors; which one would it be this time?
There were no clues in Round 1, despite upset losses by seeds 5, 9 and 11 – all losing to 10 year old juniors nearly 500 points lower rated than them! Not much more was revealed after Round 2, either, as the juniors started upsetting each other: Alex Au with half an upset when he drew with Henry Slater-Jones, while Lachlan Chen, Jaden Teow and Hikaru Oka scored full upsets as they beat Fiona Shen, Jamie-Lee Guo and David Liu respectively. Round 3 told us more, as we found ourselves with three joint leaders on 3/3 when Henry Boonow upset Sam Stephen. He was joined there by Mark Stokes and Thomas Johnston, who made fairly short work of Anthony Solomon and Jaden Teow respectively. Lachlan Chen continued his good run, drawing with Andrew Van Der Meer despite another 500 point rating gap.
As Mark Stokes took a half point bye, Thomas Johnston claimed the outright lead on 4/4 going into Sunday by defeating Sri Krishna Dharmapuri, Henry Boonow unable to join him as he lost to Henry Slater-Jones. Upsets saw Alex Au draw with Andrew Van Der Meer, while Jaden Teow defeated Simon Dale… A crucial battle then took place on Board 1 in Round 5, where Mark Stokes looked like he had built up a winning attack despite a pawn minus against Thomas Johnston; but Thomas defended stoutly, and wound up winning an endgame to maintain his outright lead on 5/5. This represented a full point lead after Henry Slater-Jones could only draw with Andrew Van Der Meer. Henry was thus one of five players in the chasing pack on 4/5; Lachlan Chen was also there after yet another upset victory, this one against Joshua Morris.
Thomas Johnston continued his merry run in Round 6, his victory over Sam Stephen to reach 6/6 guaranteeing him at least equal first place. But Henry Slater-Jones kept the pressure on to some extent, beating Lachlan Chen to reach 5/6; he was joined there by Alex Au, who upset Jamie-Lee Guo. Mark Stokes and Andrew Van Der Meer remained in contention for minor places on 4.5/6 after their Round 6 wins… So to the last round, where Thomas Johnston took a quick draw with Alex Au to assure himself of outright first place on 6.5/7. Henry Slater-Jones claimed outright second with his second consecutive win on time against Mark Stokes, this one in a difficult ending. It was a shame the game had to end this way, as it had been a hard fought game where Henry had earlier missed a brilliant mate; see game below. Alex Au took third place on 5/7 after Andrew Van Der Meer failed to join him when he could only draw with Sam Stephen.
Under 1000 Event
Ratings never mean much in events like this – even more so as the majority of players are juniors… As a result, upsets don’t mean much either – even more so since unfortunately, I didn’t get much time to watch these games as there were so many Open and Under 1600 games! It took till Saturday night for us to get an outright leader, from 4 players on 3/3; but Jim Sarney and MacKenzie Hope drew, leaving Deniz Sen to claim the outright lead on 4/4 by beating Melody McKenzie. But he lost it on Sunday morning, as Jim beat him to share the lead on 4.5/5 with Melody (who beat Jason Li). Melody was outright leader on 5.5/6 after beating Deniz (Jim could only draw with Eddy Soetanto); but Jim caught up again by beating Derin Sen in the last round, after MacKenzie took a safe draw with Mineth Kularatna to ensure at least equal first. So equal first it was for Jim and MacKenzie on 6/7; while Mineth’s 5.5/7 was enough for outright third.