27th Begonia Open 2003

Winner: S Solomon (Qld)

Report on the 37th Ballarat Begonia Tournament 2003

No less than 119 players had converged on Ballarat during the Labor Day weekend for the 7 round Begonia Tournament. After last years (more sedate) 76 participants, this larger than expected increase was a great surprise, and it pleasantly stretched the resources of the organizers to the absolute limit. It would be nice to know the reasons for this large increase in entrees, but  the fact that the tournament has become a FIDE-rated event for the first time, and re-entering the Grand Prix circuit again ( thanks to David’s Cordover Chess World)  may have contributed substantially to the  number of entrees. Under those trying circumstances, Kevin Perrin, the arbiter and  the head of the organizing committee and his team, did a most commendable job in keeping proceedings under control, and running the tournament.
Also, the quality of the tournament most probably was a record with 1 GM (Darryl Johansen),  5 IMs (JP Wallace, D.Smerdon, S.Solomon, M.Rujevic, P.Froehlich) and 2 FM’s (Erik Teichman, Scott Wastney), 1 WFM (Narelle Szuveges) and many other leading players.
At the openings ceremony, Gary Wastell commemorated the important role John Englander has played in Australian chess. John, who died last year, has always been a staunch supporter of the Begonia tournament. 
In Ballarat, the challenge to try and play in the ‘pit’ (the area for the top 10 boards) is an honored tradition. With so many strong players, chances for the ‘lesser’ gods to play a game in the pit were now considered to be very slim, indeed. Those who managed nevertheless could rightfully claim to have had a successful tournament…!
Extremely pleasing was the large turnout of juniors (36) this year. Two of them (Denis Bourmistrov and David Smerdon) were involved to a large extent in the final outcome of the tournament.
Apart from the press and TV, many distinguished chess administrators and players visited the tournament as spectators, adding to the atmosphere. Gary Wastell reported the event on his weekly radio program.

The top players quickly settled in, all winning their first two games. In round three a few draws did creep in, but in round 4, the unavoidable sorting-out process begun in earnest, with notably wins by Smerdon over Rujevic, and Froehlich over Bourmistrov. After this round, four players were leading with 100%: Wallace, Johansen, Solomon and Smerdon, which promised two classical clashes between them in round 5.
Wallace and Johansen drew quite quickly, but Solomon beat Smerdon in a very interesting game. This win probably set the scene for Solomon’s ultimate victory as he stayed in the ‘sole’ lead until the end. Both Froehlich and Rujevic lost crucial ½ points in this round.

Round 6 saw a win by Smerdon over Wallace eliminating Jean Paul for top honors, while Johansen-Solomon’s draw kept Solomon in the lead. Followed by five players half a point behind, before the bell rang for the final round.
The last round saw some very close encounters in the pit area, where 8 boards were still going, long after most of the other games had already finished. Solomon was never in danger against Froehlich, who took some risks to try and win, but failed. One of the sensations of this round was the win by Bourmistrov over Johansen, which propelled the former to outright second of the tournament. The other upset was the loss by Wallace against a determined Pecori. When the smoke had cleared, a surprise packet of four players shared the tournament’s third spot with 5.5 points each: D.Smerdon, D.Hacche, A.Pecori, and J.Nemeth. It has been a long time in Australia that a group of ‘luminaries’ like Johansen, Wallace, Froehlich and J.Rujevic all fell outside the prizes.

Equal first prize in Group B were won by: T.Kalisch, R.Voon, C.Bradley
Equal first prize in Group C were won by: J.Duncan, H.Meldau, F.Antoniazzi, S.Ferris, S.Taylor
First prize in Group D was won by: Natasha Lauder; and equal second by: Casey Hickman, Derek Yu (all of them juniors!).

Because of the (financial) success of the tournament, the committee decided to award additional prizes for:
Best junior U14 year: equal Dusan Stojic and Michelle Lee.
Best Ballarat player: Scott Stewart.
Best player of the Box Hill Chess Club, in appreciation for the rescheduling of the club’s program, thus allowing their members (39 entered) to play in Ballarat: (jointly) P.Froehlich, M.Chowdhury, S.Chow, V.Kildisas.

Report in Sun-Herald, March 23 by Ian Rogers

The success of the recent Begonia Open in Ballarat as already prompted calls for the traditional Moomba weekend tournament to become part of a new Australian Grand Slam series.
After rejoining the Australian Grand Prix in 2003 and becoming a world ranked tournament for the first time in its 37 year history, the Begonia Open secured a 50% increase in attendance this year to reconfirm its position as the number two weekend tournament in Australia (behind Canberra's Easter Doeberl Cup).
Queensland International Master Stephen Solomon followed his tie for first in 2002 with clear victory in the 2003 Begonia Open, ahead of a strong field.
With Grandmaster Darryl Johansen coming off a fine result in Gibraltar in January and IMs John-Paul Wallace and David Smerdon having enjoyed almost interrupted success in 2002, Solomon was considered something of an outsider, but the Queenslander conceded only one draw (to Johansen) on his way to the $1,000 first prize.
Grand Slam planning is only in the early stages but already questions are being asked as to whether any tournaments deserve to be ranked alongside Ballarat and Canberra. With a Gold Coast event likely to take a third Grand Slam position, Sydney has only a 50/50 chance of an event in the four tournament series; the Koala Open in October and the new NSW Open in June being the main Sydney hopefuls.

High standard entries lured to annual Open Chess Tournament:
Stephen Solomon wins back-to-back in close finish. By ADAM PEARCE

BALLARAT can lay claim to hosting the second biggest chess tournament in the country and while it often attracts top international players none have been lucky enough to win it. This year the Begonia Open Chess Tournament attracted 119 entries and just 14 of those were from Ballarat. And the standards were high with one grand master, four international masters, two FIDE masters and one female FIDE master competing.

FIDE is the international chess federation which awards three levels of master status based on performances at FIDE rated tournaments. The Begonia Tournament was FIDE rated for the first time this year, a factor Ballarat Chess Club president Patrick Cook said helped attract the record number of entries. He said the School of Mines venue, which many rate as the best chess venue in Australia, as well as the good spread of prize money were also factors. "The list of previous winners of this tournament is like a role call of the cream of Australian chess," Mr Cook said. "We've had a number of international players play here and none of them have ever won it which is a testament to the standard of Australian chess which is often under-rated."

Just half-a-point separated defending champion Stephen Solomon and Peter Froehlich heading into the last match where the international masters played each other. Solomon ended the match victorious, with Froehlich one of the highest scoring Box Hill Chess Club members.

One of just two Australian grand masters, Daryl Johansen, finished out of the major placings after winning the tournament a record 12 times.

RESULTS Outright: S. Solomon 6.5 points, 1; D. Bourmistrov 6,2; D. Smerdon 5.5, D. Hacche, A. Pecori, J. Nemeth, equal 3. Group B: T. Kalisch 5, R. Voon, C. Bradley, eq.1. Group C: J. Duncan 4, H. Meldau, F. Antoniazzi, S. Ferris, S. Taylor, eq.1. Group D: N. Lauder4,1; C. Hickman 3.5, D. Yu, eq. 2. Highest scores: Ballarat Chess Club member, S. Stewart 4.5; Box Hill Chess Club, P. Froehlich, S. Chow, M. Chowdhury, V. KildisAs 5; under-14, D. Stojic 4.5, m.e4. On the move: Grand master Darryl Johansen, above, contemplates his next strategy. Picture of GM D Johansen: LACHLAN BENCE