2012 Spielvogel Memorial

15 players entered the first major event for the year, the Nathan Spielvogel Memorial, named in honour of a key player and administrator of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. A $75 book prize was awarded to Vineetha Wijesuriya for her first tournament win at Ballarat Chess Club.

Round 1

First round upset: Patrick Cook vs James Watson 0-1 . See the game here.

Eight players actually turned up for the first round, and so a number of games were postponed. On the night Michael Schreenan gave Kevin Perrin a fight before succumbing to superior technique. John Abson proved no match for Jamie Brotheridge, while Peter Miitel found Tom Oppenheim to be quite a handful and was lucky to escape with a draw.  The 2 postponed games were duly played, and Thumula Gamage was beaten by his Mum, Vineetha Wijesuriya, while the big shock was Patrick Cook going down to James Watson. Nigel Block, Jonathon Yates and Anna Yates all had byes.

Round 2

Two more players entered in this round, just to confuse matters, but all games were played on the night.  Tom Oppenheim found Patrick Cook to be in a vengeful mood after his 1st round loss and was duly crushed. Jonathon Yates swept aside his mother Anna Yates. James Watson was unable to repeat his 1st round triumph and went down to Peter Miitel in a full-scale positional battle. Vineetha Wijesuriya demonstrated high class technique and determination to beat Jamie Brotheridge. Michael Schreenan went down swinging against Thumula Gamage. Kevin Perrin had no trouble defeating Nigel Block. The two late starters, Paul Sullivan and Rob Gunn met each other with Rob eventually prevailing. John Abson had the bye.

Round 3

3 players, Paul Sullivan, Nigel Block and Tom Oppenheim failed to show on the night and were left out of the draw, so there was no bye this round. Kevin Perrin met Vineetha Wijesuriya in an Exchange French and showed a glimpse of his old greatness with a fine win. Jamie Brotheridge played a weird English against Peter Miitel, but could only draw. Patrick Cook kept his 100% lifetime record versus John Abson intact. Thumula Gamage surprised everyone by playing Patrick’s specialty, the Larsen, against Jonathon Yates and won with fine technique. Anna Yates played the 4 Knights against Michael Schreenan, but, despite improved play, went down to the more experienced player. James Watson very quickly muscled his way to a win against Rob Gunn.

Round 4


Peter Miitel faced veteran Kevin Perrin in an English and a lengthy game was drawn. Jamie Brotheridge played the Italian against junior Jonathon Yates and got the shock of his career when he could only draw! Vineetha Wijesuriya scored her traditional White win against Patrick Cook. Nigel Block was unable to handle Tom Oppenheim. Anna Yates was delighted to score her 1st tournament win at the expense of Paul Sullivan. James Watson defeated fellow junior Thumula Gamage. Michael Schreenan met John Abson in a primitive Centre Game and won a feisty game.

Round 5

Patrick Cook faced his fierce rival Jamie Brotheridge in their usual no-holds-barred showdown. A Grunfeld was eventually drawn. Kevin Perrin took on ambitious junior James Watson and "put him in his place". Peter Miitel showed what he can do when in the mood by defeating top seed Vineetha Wijesuriya in a superb display of technique. Tom Oppenheim overcame Thumula Gamage. Anna Yates followed up her win from the previous round with a draw against John Abson who was most fortunate not to lose. Michael Schreenan, Rob Gunn, Paul Sullivan Jonathon Yates, and Nigel Block were all absent and were left out of the draw for this round.

Round 6

Jamie Brotheridge took on undefeated  Kevin Perrin and promptly inflicted Kevin’s first defeat for the tournament. Patrick Cook played the Larsen against Peter Miitel who reverted to his old habits by resigning when he thought he was losing a pawn (he wasn’t!). Vineetha Wijesuriya played a very exciting game against James Watson who sadly blundered in a better position. Jonathon Yates had no trouble disposing of Nigel Block. Thumula Gamage proved too strong for the improving Anna Yates. John Abson was unable to cope with Tom Oppenheim. Once again, several players were AWOL and were left out of the draw.

Last Round: 7

Going in to the final round, Kevin Perrin was outright leader, despite his loss in the previous round, with Vineetha Wijesuriya half a point behind. Kevin faced his old rival Patrick Cook in an exchange French. Despite its drawish reputation, Patrick succeeded in winning a fine positional game. Tom Oppenheim faced Vineetha Wijesuriya who profited from Kevin's loss by winning her game to snatch the title from Kevin’s grasp. Peter Miitel, still in “one of his moods” drew his game with Thumula Gamage. James Watson, ambitious as ever, inflicted an impressive defeat upon Jamie Brotheridge with the English Opening.  Anna Yates met Rob Gunn and tragically missed a glorious chance in the middle game before ultimately losing an interesting game. Nigel Block finally scored a win at the expense of Paul Sullivan. Junior player Jonathon Yates took on senior player John Abson in a battle of the generations. In a lengthy game, youth triumphed. So, after an interesting tournament, the first of the Club's Grand Slam events for 2012 was won by Vineetha Wijesuriya, her first title since joining the Club.

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From Australian Dictionary of Bibliography

Nathan Frederick Spielvogel (1874-1956), teacher, writer and historian, was born on 10 May 1874 at Ballarat, Victoria, son of Newman Frederick Spielvogel, pawnbroker, and his wife Hannah, née Cohen. Newman, an Austrian, and Hannah, a Prussian, were typical of the strong Jewish community on the Ballarat goldfields. Nathan attended Dana Street State School and trained there in 1892-95 as a pupil-teacher. He taught at several schools in the Wimmera, including Dimboola (1897, 1899-1907).

A small man, with sharply chiselled features, a wide forehead, big ears, warm eyes, a jutting chin and a beard that became golden, Spielvogel was adventurous and imaginative. In 1904 he spent his savings of £120 on a six-month journey through Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Britain. He had begun his writing career in 1894 with a Christmas story for the Ballarat Courier, to which—with the Jewish press, the Bulletin, the Dimboola Banner and other newspapers—he contributed regularly under such pen names as 'Genung', 'Eko', 'Ato' and 'Ahaswar'. From the early 1920s he wrote a humorous piece each month for the Teachers' Journal, but was probably best known for his first book, A Gumsucker on the Tramp (1906). It sold 20,000 copies. He also published The Cocky Farmer (1914), A Gumsucker at Home (1914), Old Eko's Note-Book (1930) and a volume of poetry called Our Gum Trees (1913).

He loved a beer (not lager) and around 1908 dined every Thursday at Fasoli's café, Melbourne, with writers and artists such as E. J. Brady, Norman Lindsay, Hal Gye, C. J. Dennis and Louis Esson. Later he was close to J. K. Moir, Victor Kennedy and R. H. Croll of the Bread and Cheese Club. Croll thought him 'offensively Australian' yet proudly Jewish, a conjunction that rent Spielvogel in 1901 when his love for a Gentile conflicted with a promise to his mother not to marry out of the faith. He remained steadfast and on 6 September 1911 at the Great Synagogue, Hyde Park, Sydney, married Jessie Muriel, daughter of Henry Harris, publisher of the Hebrew Standard.

After further postings to other Victorian schools, Spielvogel returned to Ballarat to be headmaster of Dana Street in 1924-39. Inspiring, sympathetic and methodical, he was immensely popular: a phalanx of pupils usually escorted him into the grounds. As president of the revived Ballarat Historical Society (1933-56), he developed a passion for local history. He published vignettes of early Ballarat life and a popular monograph, The Affair at Eureka (1928). After retirement he was largely responsible for managing the local museum and for placing plaques and monuments at historic sites. His broadcasts and press releases increased historical awareness.

Spielvogel was president of the Ballarat Hebrew Congregation, the Mechanics' Institute, the Teachers' Institute and Dana Street Old Scholars' Association. Strongly patriotic during World War I, he became chairman of the Dads' Association in World War II. A sharp mind lay behind his lifelong interest in chess: he was secretary (1894) and president (1939) of the Ballarat club and represented Victoria in 1921 and 1925. He was instrumental in sustaining the Ballarat synagogue between 1941 and 1953 and wrote Jewish stories with a tenderness and strength that drew from Judah Waten the remark that Jewish literature in Australia began with him. Spielvogel died on 10 September 1956 at Ballarat and was buried in the old cemetery. His wife and their three sons (all of whom had married out of the faith and in his absence) survived him.