54th Begonia Open 2020

Ballarat “Begonia” Open 2020

by Patrick Cook (President, Ballarat Chess Club)

Ballarat Chess Club, in Central Victoria, hosted its 54th “Begonia” Open chess tournament over the long weekend of 7th-9th March, 2020. A fantastic record of longevity and consistency in Australian chess.

The organising committee of Patrick Cook (President), Anna Yates (Secretary), Kevin Perrin IA (Treasurer), Rob Loveband (Webmaster), and Ben Naughton met throughout the past year to plan the tournament, and a special thanks is due to them for their efforts.

The Ones Who Make it all Happen - Arbiter Nigel Barrow, Chief Arbiter Peter Tsai, Tournament Organisers Rob Loveband and Patrick Cook, GM Commentary Cathy and Ian Rogers, Tournament Organisers Kevin Perrin and Anna Yates, Arbiter Bjorn Lategan, GM Zong Yuan Zhao

Of course, the tournament was held in the shadow of the very early stages of the appearance in Australia of novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). The committee paid close attention to official advice via DHHS and public announcements. At the time, the advice was “business as usual” with precautions. Players were advised at the opening ceremony that handshakes were not required, and notices were placed around the venue advising how to avoid contagion.

A new venue, the splendid, ultra-modern Ballarat Technical School in the centre of the city, was acquired, after six years at Ballarat and Clarendon College. It proved to be a great success.
Once again, the tournament was handsomely sponsored by PPT Financial, with additional support by Northern Star Chess, Federation University, and Friends of the Begonia Tournament. 

The tournament attracted a very healthy entry of 132 players from all over the country, including 14 local club members, and 15 FIDE titled players, and amongst them 8 former winners of the tournament. Many of the players, strong and otherwise, have been coming to the event for decades! Once players get a taste of Ballarat, they tend to come back for more! Over $9000 in prize money was up for grabs, generously spread across 4 rating groups.

Heading the field were 4 Grandmasters: Moulthun Ly (Aus), Zong-Yuan Zhao (Aus), Daniel Fernandez (Eng), and the incomparable Darryl Johansen (Aus), an amazing 13-time winner of the event!

Also competing were International Masters Mark Chapman (Aus), James Morris (Aus), Stephen Solomon (Aus), and Brodie McClymont (Aus).

Peter Tsai (IA) was once again the Chief Arbiter, ably assisted by Nigel Barrow and Bjorn Lategan.
Grandmaster Ian Rogers, himself a 5-time winner at Ballarat, once again provided expert on site live commentary, assisted by WFM Cathy Rogers. For the 2nd year, Ian and Cathy brought a chess themed jigsaw puzzle along to keep the youngsters busy between rounds. It was completed by Sunday afternoon! Ian and Cathy kindly donated it to Ballarat Chess Club, and we thank them for their generosity.

David and Sabrina Koetsier from Chess Life in South Australia, again brought their bookstall, and we thank Sabrina for the many splendid photos she took over the long weekend.

The Club recently purchased 4 DGT boards for use on the top boards, and those games were broadcast to the internet.

Round 1 saw the usual massacre of the innocents by the top players, although GM Daniel Fernandez on Board 3 confessed that he was worried.

Round 2 was also a clean sweep for the titled players.

Round 3 saw the first “glitch” when GM Darryl Johansen was held to a draw by Miodrag Milojevic, and top seed GM Zong-Yuan Zhao conceded a draw to Frederick Litchfield.

Round 4 was further proof that Ballarat is no cake walk for the heavy hitters of Australian chess. IM Brodie McClymont was defeated by John Nemeth, while GM Moulthun Ly drew with the enterprising FM Jack Puccini and GM Daniel Fernandez drew with IM Stephen Solomon. IM James Morris chose to take a half point bye.

Round 5, and GM Moulthun Ly defeated IM James Morris, while GM Daniel Fernandez fell to FM Jack Puccini. GM Zong-Yuan Zhao gave up a draw to IM Stephen Solomon and IM Mark Chapman was held to a draw by John Nemeth. GM Darryl Johansen chose to save his strength with a half point bye. 

Round 6 GM Moulthun Ly made a claim to winning the tournament by beating the high flying John Nemeth, likewise IM Mark Chapman who defeated FM Jack Puccini. GM Zong-Yuan Zhao overcame Ross Lam, while GM Darryl Johansen drew with Frederick Litchfield, and IM Stephen Solomon beat Aaron Do.

Round 7. The last round and 5 players had a realistic chance of winning. GM Moulthun Ly and IM Mark Chapman had 5.5/6, with GM Zong-Yuan Zhao, IM Stephen Solomon, and quiet achiever Jesse Jager a half point behind.
Ly versus Chapman was drawn fairly quickly to guarantee them a share of the title, while Zhao joined them with a win over IM Brodie McClymont, and Solomon tragically blundered against Jager, resulting in a 4-way tie for the Kevin J. Perrin trophy, only the 3rd time in the tournaments long history that 4 players have shared victory.

Patrick presents the Kevin Perrin Trophy to the winners -Moulthun had to leave earlier

So, another Ballarat “Begonia” Open chess tournament was successfully completed, and it's a strange feeling to realise that it is probably the last OTB tournament to be played in Australia for many months to come. With good policy, common sense, and a bit of luck, we will emerge from the Covid-19 crisis in time for the 55th “Begonia” Open same time, same place, in 2021.


Ratings Prize Winners, Scott, Daniel and Ruicheng (A Group) Sean Macak (B Group)

Oliver Pearl - C Group prize, Begonia Open Kevin Perrin Trophy, Upset prize Rd 2 Jack De Rooy

Prize List




Photos by Sabrina Koetsier and Rob Loveband

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Ballarat Chess Club Inc appreciates the support of our sponsors

Major Sponsor: PPT Financial

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Valued Supporters:

Friends of Begonia Tournament
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Ballarat Chess Club Inc.
Box 1242
Ballarat Mail Centre
Vic 3354
Patrick Cook
03 5331 6658
0499 255 240
Kevin Perrin
03 5331 3711
0418 533 517