Championship winners, James Watson and Chris Segrave received their medals and cheques to the sound of applause and much congratulating all around. The spirit of competitive chess, an honorable battle of minds, was much evident in the room. Ian Marbella, winner of the C Group, was absent.
The 51st Ballarat Chess Club Championship commences with a fantastic entry of 32 players. This has resulted in the creation of a third division, an unprecedented but happy situation for the Club.
Division ‘A’, for the Andy Miitel Memorial Shield, has a full entry of 12 players. Top seed is defending Champion Bas van Riel. Since his return to the Club, Bas has shown that he has lost none of his powerful positional strength, and will be hard to stop this year.
Second seed is James Watson who has grown into a formidable all-round player. After finishing second last year, he will be looking to go one step further in this year’s event.
Third seed is Peter Lumsdon, returning to competition chess after many years away. Greatly experienced, and with a deep understanding of chess, this could be the year when he finally wins the title.
Fourth seed is the indescribable Harrison Harrison. His opening play is bizarre, but his imaginative middle game and endgame play make him a very dangerous opponent.
Fifth seed is 8 times Champion Patrick Cook, playing in his 32nd Championship! One can never tell what sort of form or mood the “drawmeister” will be in, but a 9th title is certainly possible.
Sixth seed is Rodney Jacobs, the 2014 Champion. An aggressive attacking player with a taste for sacrificial opening lines, he has also shown himself to be a strong positional player as well.
Seventh seed is “Mr. Ballarat Chess” himself, Kevin Perrin, playing his 51st Championship. Holder of 7 previous titles and almost always highly placed, his vast experience and gritty determination make him a tough opponent indeed.
Next is Robert Bailey, 2013 Champion. A professional Chess coach, his deep knowledge and ultra-solid play make him very difficult to overcome.
Jamie Brotheridge has been a contender for more than a decade and come close to winning the title several times. Determined, and relentless when he has the initiative, he is capable of brushing aside all opposition.
Jeremy Lim is new to the Club and showed, after a late start in the Spielvogel Memorial, that he has what it takes to threaten a major upset.
Michael Tausz has stepped up from last year’s Reserve tournament. With a sharp style and growing confidence he could be a genuine “disturber of the peace” in this year’s Championship.
Ben Naughton is another newcomer. An excellent result in the 50th Begonia Open suggests that he won’t be out of his depth.
The John Baynham Memorial Reserves Championship also has a full list of 12 players. Top seed is several times Reserves Champion Chris Segrave, with newcomer Cassandra Barnett, another former winner James Eyre, and Tom Oppenheim as the main opposition.
The newly instituted ‘C’ Group has 8 players. Top seed is Ian Marbella, while Dylan Douglas is also a good chance to win the event.
Harrison Harrison took on feisty Jamie Brotheridge in a bizarre opening (1.d4 Nf6 2.e4…?), dropping a pawn on move 2! Once into the middle game, things went “Harrison”, with chaos on the board. When the smoke cleared, Jamie discovered that he had walked into checkmate!
Patrick Cook versus Robert Bailey was a Larsen. Both players were careful and cautious, and very little happened in the game. White offered a draw after 14 moves, which Black accepted after a lengthy think.
James Watson, still fuming after coming so close to winning last year’s championship, met Michael Tausz, newly promoted from the Reserves tournament, in the rare Budapest Gambit. White chose a side-line and soon found himself in serious trouble. Michael was undaunted by reputation, spurning a forced draw on move 18, and gained a winning position before slipping to disaster at the end.
Rodney Jacobs faced Kevin Perrin in a Pirc! Black worked hard and achieved a winning position, before misplaying the position in time pressure to slip to a vexing defeat.
From round 8, Ben Naughton faced newcomer Jeremy Lim in a Sicilian. Black picked up a pawn in the middle game, but didn’t seem to have much despite the advantage. Jeremy was about to offer a draw, when he spotted a neat tactic that netted the full point.
Peter Lumsdon versus Jeremy Lim was postponed.
Bas van Riel versus Ben Naughton was postponed.
Ben Naughton faced Kevin Perrin in a Sicilian. Kevin’s experience proved too much for Ben, and Black gained a win without too much trouble.
Robert Bailey met Rodney Jacobs in a Ruy Lopez, Schliemann variation! White gained the 2 Bishops from the opening, but at the cost of a damaged pawn structure around his King. The game was a fight that ended suddenly with a spectacular Queen sacrifice by Rodney that forced Robert’s immediate resignation.
Jamie Brotheridge took on his old rival Patrick Cook, who ventured Alekhine’s Defence to avoid Jamie’s preparation. Black ended up in a very cramped position after inaccurate play and was reduced to shuffling pieces. Jamie seemed headed for a win until Patrick spotted a nice tactical shot that changed everything.
Jeremy Lim versus Harrison Harrison was an English Opening. This dynamic game never strayed far from equality and was duly drawn.
Michael Tausz faced Peter Lumsdon and went on the attack immediately with a Morra Gambit. Despite his pressure, Michael couldn’t find a breakthrough and Peter calmly pocketed a piece and made it count.
Bas van Riel versus James Watson was postponed.
James Watson faced bottom seed Ben Naughton in an English Opening. White quickly
gained a material advantage and overwhelmed his opponent without difficulty.
Harrison Harrison met Michael Tausz and wheeled out the Sokolski Opening (1.b4…), which
rapidly transposed to a double fianchetto. Black won a piece in the early middle game, and
then hung on by the skin of his teeth in the face of a fierce and imaginative attack by White. A great win by Michael!
Patrick Cook versus Jeremy Lim was a Semi-Slav. A theoretical battle ensued, with both
players making careful and accurate moves. The game didn’t stray far from equality and a
draw was duly agreed.
Rodney Jacobs took on Jamie Brotheridge in a French Tarrasch! An interesting game, full of
rich content and subtle detail, it was heading for a draw until Jamie fell apart in a rook and
pawn end game.
Kevin Perrin faced Robert Bailey in a Sicilian, Levenfish variation. Kevin’s usual accuracy
went pear-shaped, and he resigned after just 9 moves! A sensational result!
Peter Lumsdon versus Bas van Riel was postponed.
The A grade plays for the Andy Miitel Championship trophy, and the B grade for John Baynham Reserves title. Andy Miitel was a former club president who was instrumental in revitalising and reconstituting the club in the mid nineteen sixties after the club had become somewhat moribund in the early sixties. John Baynham was an important club administrator in the late sixties and early seventies.