By Hughston Parle – Australian Board 1.
Most of the team flew to Ahmedabad from Singapore and we arrived at the hotel at 12am India time (4:30am Australia time.) I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane so although I only binge watched movies for the previous 12hrs, I was completely exhausted.
The next morning most of the team met each other for the first time for the opening ceremony. Speaking to other teams, most found it ridiculous that an international representative team only met each other the day before Round 1 starts.
Many countries with the support of their chess federations, especially at the very top had been training with their team for this tournament months in advance. For their top juniors, 8hr training days is not unusual.
The opening ceremony began at 6pm and it was marvelous. There were many performances bringing out a very rich Indian culture. There were dances and presentations, the efforts of the organisers went far beyond anything that I had ever heard of. We went back to the hotel and ate dinner, it was new food but since the area isn’t super spicy, it wasn’t too bad for us Australians. I guess we haven’t had the time to truly appreciate the culture just yet, but I believe this will come with more new experiences.
We knew Round 1 was a rough start for the tournament. We had been paired against the India Red team, India’s second team with an average rating of about 2400. 1 hour into the round, the Indians seemed a bit surprised that the Australian patzers managed to survive the opening and were playing a relatively strong middle game. Unfortunately as we hit the 3hr mark boards 3 and 4 had been outplayed by their very strong opposition. Isaac Zhao, our board 2 had managed to find a nice resource and draw his game. But my game was still going. Although being taken down by my opponent at the 4hr mark. My game delivered on my promise in the first blog that I would play attacking chess. I will post the game with perhaps some annotations when I get back to Australia.
The next day was a double round day. In our first match we beat Kenya 4-0, with Bridgette Watkins (unrated) defeating her 1500+ opponent. Our second match was not as successful, we lost to Canada in a clean sweep. However, we were starting to get some attention from other teams. Despite other countries seeing Australia as having a vacation chess attitude, I believe we are slowly proving ourself as as a team. Canada was expecting 2hr games where they swap everything and win an endgame. However, our newfound never say die attitude allowed the team to find more resources and meet the demands of the positions. Suddenly we had hit the 3hr mark. Most of the other games were finished and it seemed surprising to the arbiters that the entire Australian team were still at the board, feet planted firmly against a much stronger opposition.
Round 4 was our make or break round. We were paired against Iraq. Although much of the country being a war torn, they still funded their entire team, coach and even a photographer! I was the first to finish. Although reaching a completely crushing position, I miscalculated in time trouble and blundered a mate in 2. Bridgette played a very nice game and mated her opponent just after my game finished. Again Bridgette was playing a much higher rated opponent. Isaac played a normal game without many complications and drew. Then finally, Gordon reached an equal position but his opponent pushed too hard and he managed to clench the win. Our win as a team against Iraq, much higher rated opponent was a great boost for team moral.
We received the draw for round 5 and had Armenia. At first our coach thought we were joking. Armenian’s average rating was well above 2400 and we were expected to be on the early bus. The Armenian team behaved abhorrently throughout the match. Fiddling with pieces, blitzing moves before writing down previous moves, laughing the entire game was very poor etiquette from such strong players. In the end we managed to snatch half a point and finishing the match with 3.5-.5 to Armenia.
So far the tournament has been relatively successful for the Australian team. We face Bangladesh tomorrow, but for now, it’s time to enjoy the rest day. Gandhi’s Ashrim, Kalaria lake and then perhaps some shopping should be a good way to take our minds off chess for a bit.