by Andrew Fitzpatrick
The Gold Coast Open is over for another year and what a year it was!!
Even before the tournament itself kicked off, a select group of students were given the opportunity to learn from two of Australia’s foremost players, Grandmasters Zong-Yuan Zhao and Max Illingworth. Split into two groups and rotating between the coaches, students soaked up the knowledge on offer – going through games and learning tactical and positional motifs.
Following the coaching sessions, students had the opportunity to play against one of the two Grandmasters in a simultaneous exhibition with each GM taking on 18 players. Only one player was able to take something from the GM’s with Kevin Song defeating GM Zhao (pictured below, with game).
With the coaching and simul done and dusted, preparations kicked into gear to move furniture and get everything ready for the tournament with the Open Division starting on the Friday night. The field assembled for the Open was one of the strongest ever, with 9 players rated over 2300 FIDE and 17 over 2000 FIDE. Top seeds were GM’s Zhao and Illingworth with young stars IM Anton Smirnov, IM Bobby Cheng and IM Kanan Izzat following closely behind.
Due to the Friday night round, there were a large number of byes taken. No upset wins, but draws between Rad Chmiel and IM Kanan Izzat, Oleg Kitikov and IM Andrew Brown, Henry Slater-Jones and Neil Wright and Oliver Yang and Hughston Parle were certainly not expected – each being around 400 points different according to FIDE ratings!
Some games didn’t finish until very late, with a select few not getting to bed until around midnight – not ideal with a brutal 3 game Saturday ahead!
Round 2 began bright and early with some tough matches already starting to occur. On Board 2, former QLD champion David Stephson held GM Illingworth to a draw whilst all the other top seeds won their games. There were some boil-overs on the bottom boards as youngsters knocked off some unsuspecting adults!
Round 3 saw another tournament fancy in IM Anton Smirnov held to a draw by FM Gene Nakauchi, whilst GM’s Zhao and Illingworth along with IM’s Cheng, Izzat, Brown and FM Clarke all won their games to keep their tournaments progressing well. The longest game of the round was IM Dale v GM Zhao featuring a tricky rook and pawn ending which needed a lot of skill to convert for Zhao.
With only two players on 3/3 and another 8 on 2.5/3 going into the final round of the day, there was a lot at stake! Compared to last year, not many took a bye in this round (only 3) so the field kept us there until very late once again. On Board 1, GM Zhao and IM Cheng drew in a very long battle (Zhao last game to finish….again) while on Board 2 FM Clarke drew with GM Illingworth. Winning to join the tie at the top was IM Izzat over FM Nakauchi and a host of others on 2 also won to keep the pressure on the leaders.
With 2 rounds on the final day and the field heavily compressed winning games was going to be critical to the chances of anyone trying to win the event. Of the leaders, only IM Smirnov was able to win in Round 5 to take the outright lead, as he defeated IM Cheng (below).
With the games on Board 1 (IM Izzat v GM Zhao) and Board 3 (GM Illingworth v IM Goldenberg) ending in draws, IM Dale (defeating Stephson in a tricky game below) and FM Clarke (defeating Zulfic) were able to join the chasing pack with a round to play.
On Board 6, WIM Jule caused an upset against IM Brown in a thrilling game with both sides racing to try and queen pawns in a late middle-game!
The final round saw IM Smirnov need a win to claim outright 1st, or a draw to secure equal first at least. With 4 players (IM Izzat, IM Dale, FM Clarke and GM Zhao) only half a point behind, the pressure was well and truly on. On Board 3, we saw an all GM battle as GM Zhao and GM Illingworth faced off – in a game that couldn’t be separated. On Board 1, IM Smirnov won some material but then allowed IM Izzat to gain an initiative before having his queen neatly trapped (game below – annotations by Michael D’Arcy), handing IM Izzat a guaranteed share of 1st place depending on the result of Board 2. On board 2, IM Dale faced a kingside attack from FM Clarke, but managed to hold off and then exploit the resulting holes that had been left, finishing the game nicely with a rook sacrifice leading to a devastating mating net.
With IM Dale winning, we ended with a tie for 1st place. Whilst money is shared, the title went to IM Dale on count-back, much to IM Izzat’s amusement – “But you didn’t play anyone!”
Final prize winners from the Open Division as follows:
=1st – IM Ari Dale and IM Kanan Izzat
=3rd – GM Zong-Yuan Zhao, IM Bobby Cheng, IM Igor Goldenberg, IM Anton Smirnov, FM Dusan Stojic
= 1st Under 2000 – Punala Kiripitage and Tony Zhong
=3rd Under 2000 – Ross Lam, Hughston Parle, David Lovejoy, Tom Slater-Jones and Bruce Holliday
Full results from Open Division.
Whilst the focus of many was on the Open Division, there were two other divisions running over the weekend with an Under 1600 ACF and an Under 1000 ACF tournament.
With many of the top candidates for the Under 1600 division choosing to play in the Open for extra challenge and a longer time control, there was a chance for some new winners to grace the podium. With 2 of the top 10 players from interstate, the question was whether the title would stay in Queensland or not!
Surprises straight away in Round 1 where a rusty top seed, Patrick Bruck was defeated by regular attendee Xavier Barroso, 2nd seed Karan Bhatti was defeated by Bernard Sakran and CAQ President Mark Stokes being held to a draw by upcoming junior Aditya Anand on Board 4. Round 2 didn’t see many upsets on the top boards but lower down there were some draws well and truly against seeding with Raphael Atia drawing with Mark Cervenjak – some 616 points higher! As the seeds began to play each other, the games got tougher. Round 3 saw Aaron Fahey and Lee Forace emerge as the only two players to make it to 3/3 as there were draws on Board 2 (Steven Cooke and Terrence Le) and Board 4 (Gavyn Sanusi-Goh and Ross Mills). Round 4 signalled the end of a long Saturday for the players, as Fahey took sole lead on 4/4 after defeating Forace. Stokes and Cooke both won to remain a half point behind the pace, whilst Ronald Bourke, Bruck, Bhatti and Sakran all won to move onto 3 points.
Sunday dawned with the highly anticipated match up of Fahey and Stokes on board 1. Fahey managed to keep an edge in the race for the title with a draw, with the same result on Board 2 between Cooke and Bhatti. Bruck and Bourke moved closer to the lead with hard fought wins. In round 6, Fahey was held to a draw by top seed Bruck to bring him back to the field after Stokes defeated Cooke and Bourke defeated Sakran. Bhatti kept his slim chances alive defeating Cervenjak.
The final round upon us, there were 3 leaders on 5 points – Bourke, Stokes and Fahey, with 2 more players on 4.5 – Bhatti and Bruck. Bourke and Stokes faced off on Board 1 (pictured below) and agreed a draw with Stokes saying that he thought the Board 2 position was drawn (meaning he would have finished equal 1st). Always the betting man, Stokes picked wrong here and it was in fact Fahey who cashed in with a win over Bhatti to claim the Under 1600 title outright!
Under 1600 Prizes as follows:
1st – Aaron Fahey
=2nd – Mark Stokes and Ronald Bourke
1st Under 1300 – Ben Peach
=2nd Under 1300 – Bernard Sakran and Nadula Tennakoon
1st Under 1000 – Eason Wang
2nd Under 1000 – Alexander Dong
Full results from Under 1600 Division.
In the Under 1000 ACF Division anything can happen, and usually does. This tournament is often dominated by juniors, although last year it was won by an adult in John Paliwoda. Prior to the tournament it was noted that there were some rusty players taking part, but for whom if it clicked they could be very hard to stop! One of these players was Regina Frolova who hasn’t actually got a rating yet even though she pushed quite a few of the players in the Under 1600 division last year!
The first round is always a little all over the place as many of the juniors don’t have ACF ratings and those that do aren’t the most reliable. Into round 2 though, and top seed PJ Bargo was held to a draw by keen youngster Kenny Ming. With both this and the first round seeing very few draws, you could tell that most of these players had been taught to fight for the win – not a bad thing in this editor’s opinion!
After 3 rounds, the youngsters had firmly taken control of the event, with Raymond Zhuang, Alexavier Ly-Liu, Jasper Moss, Jayden Ooi (only 7 years old!), Sam Shaw, Izak Devlin and Sophie Watkins all being juniors on a perfect score, with Regina Frolova the sole adult! In Round 4, Shaw defeated Zhuang in a tricky minor piece ending, Ly-Liu defeated Devlin, Moss defeated Watkins, and Frolova defeated Ooi to all go to 4/4.
Sunday morning saw Shaw defeat Ly-Liu in a tough battle while Frolova used her experience to defeat Moss. Keeping up just behind the two front-runners were Alexander Ilka, Dulin Kodituwakku, Dylan Yuan, Talia Varcoe, Izak Devlin, Sophie Watkins and Jonathan Kable. The Board 1 battle between Shaw and Frolova was a long lasting affair as Frolova won a couple of pawns and then had to grind Shaw down slowly but surely, making sure to avoid any sneaky tricks that Shaw conjured. In the chasing pack that joined Shaw on 5/6 (with Frolova on 6/6), Ly-Liu defeated Watkins, Moss defeated Ilka, Devlin defeated Kable and Yuan defeated another micro-junior in Austin Chen.
Frolova only needed a half point to claim the title, but didn’t settle for that as she took defeating Ly-Liu in a game that was the last of the division to finish. Devlin defeated Moss on Board 2, while Shaw beat Yuan on Board 3.
Under 1000 Prizes as follows:
1st – Regina Frolova
=2nd – Sam Shaw and Izak Devlin
=1st Under 500 – Talia Varcoe, Austin Chen and Jazz Born
=1st Unrated – Sam Marsh and Sam Bombardieri
Full results from Under 1000 Division.