The remaining 2 postponed games from Round 10 were duly played, prior to the last round, as it happened. The important game Ruari Coffey versus George Maksacheff was a Queen's Indian Defence. It all went badly wrong for Ruari, with George putting immediate pressure on Ruari's position with a series of unusual but direct moves. He was soon 2 pawns up, prompting Ruari's resignation, and ending his Championship title hopes. Patrick Cook took on his great rival Kevin Perrin in their 36th (!!) Championship tournament encounter. They renewed their “discussion” of the Dutch Defence, and Kevin came armed with new ideas. Patrick parried Kevin's dangerous looking threats, grabbed a pawn, and went on the score a fine positional win.
The play-off for the title of Ballarat Chess Club Champion 2020 between Scott Stewart and James Watson was played without much delay. It was a Sicilian Morra Gambit (no surprise from Scott), but soon morphed into a version of the Alapin Sicilian. The game proved to be lively and quite even throughout, until Scott saw and grabbed the opportunity to reach a winning endgame. James' depth of understanding is deep, and he saw he would be lost, prompting him to resign, and hand Scott the title.
In the Reserves, the postponed last round game between Gavin Varley and Leonard Goodison was also played in good time. It was a comfortable win for Leonard who thus clinched the Reserves title and gains a place in the 2021 'A' Championship tournament.
So, the 2020 Ballarat Chess Club Championships have come to a conclusion. The tournaments were played in unusual circumstances, in the shadow of the Covid19 pandemic, and subsequent “lockdown”. This meant that all our games would have to be played on-line. And played they were! It is a testament to the passion of our members, the commitment of our Committee, and the skills of our technically minded members that this was so.
The last round of the tournament, and the title is still up for grabs! James Watson and Scott Stewart are neck-and-neck, while George Maksacheff still has a theoretical chance.
Kevin Perrin faced the qualifier Ben Naughton and wheeled out the Scotch. Kevin gained a pleasant position from the opening but began to drift in the middle game. This enabled Ben to seize the initiative, and he launched an attack that won Queen for rook, and the game shortly after.
Defending Champion Bas van Riel met fellow veteran Patrick Cook in a French, King's Indian Attack. After declining Patrick's predictable early draw offer, Bas ended up in a slightly uncomfortable position and offered a draw himself. Patrick accepted after a long think. This result condemned Bas to last place; an incredible turnaround from last year!
George Maksacheff took on Joel Beggs in a game George had to win. An Evans Gambit, it proved to be a very complicated game. George won a pawn in the middle game, but Joel's timely counter attack kept him afloat in an absorbing game. They reached a rook and pawn ending which sputtered to a draw, and thus put paid to George's Championship hopes.
Rob Loveband met Scott Stewart in a King's Indian Defence. The game was a real fight, with Scott gaining 2 Bishops against 2 Knights in an open position. He used that to win 2 pawns and haul in the full point.
James Watson faced Ruari Coffey in a Slav. The game was quite even into the middle game, when subtle positional pressure won James a pawn. Ruari resisted, but classy endgame play gave James the victory he needed. Simon Rutherford versus Sean Macak was a forfeit for Sean.
So, after a hard fought, very strong 2020 Championship tournament, James Watson and Scott Stewart finished tied on 9.5/11, and a play-off is now needed to decide who is 2020 Club Champion! Stay tuned.
The Reserves is also undecided, with Leonard Goodison on 9/10 with 1 postponed game to play. Paul Dao has finished on 9/11 and has to hope Leonard loses his last game to reach a play-off. We await developments.
Sean Macak faced tournament leader James Watson in a Benko Gambit. It proved to be a short, sharp, brutal game after Sean went seriously awry in the opening, losing 2 pawns and resigning after 13 moves when faced with further material losses. Joel Beggs met Rob Loveband in a French Exchange variation. Joel snatched a pawn, but Rob gained some counter play against Joel's King, and Joel took a safe approach and opted for a repetition. Scott Stewart took on Bas van Riel in a French, Advance variation. Bas appeared to win a pawn in the middle game, but missed the classic Bxh7+ sacrifice, and Scott quickly whipped up a mating attack to plunge Bas to his 9th straight defeat! Ben Naughton versus Simon Rutherford was a forfeit for Ben. Ruari Coffey versus George Maksacheff, and Patrick Cook versus Kevin Perrin were postponed. Meanwhile, the postponed Round 9 game Kevin Perrin versus Scott Stewart was played. An English Opening, it was an interesting, fighting game. Scott gained the initiative in the middle game in his typical aggressive manner and never let it go, going on to score a good win and joining James Watson in the lead on 8.5 with 1 game remaining, Ruari Coffey on 7 with a game in hand is still in contention. An exciting final round is in store!
In the Reserves, Leonard Goodison on 9, and Paul Dao on 8.5 are the only players in contention for the title.
In the 'C' group, Lewin Blanch has won the title with a round to spare! Congratulations.
Ben Naughton faced Sean Macak in an open Sicilian that proved to be a feisty game. However, Ben dropped a pawn early, and later the exchange as well, and despite his best efforts, Sean's material advantage enabled him to win efficiently. Bas van Riel took on Joel Beggs in a Spanish, and an interesting positional battle ensued. Joel eventually won some material, and a thoroughly demoralised Bas simply gave up. Rob Loveband versus Ruari Coffey was a Pirc Defence. It resulted in a long, tough game. Rob snatched a pawn early, but didn't hold it for long, even going behind in middle game complications. He reached a Bishops of opposite colour ending and successfully held on for a draw. George Maksacheff met tournament leader James Watson in a Sicilian Dragon. It was a genuine fight, with the players castling on opposite sides. George managed to win the exchange for a pawn in middle game tactical operations, but James grabbed another pawn to reach approximate material equality. Faced with some long-term dangers, George opted for a draw by repetition. Simon Rutherford versus Patrick Cook was a forfeit for Patrick. Kevin Perrin versus Scott Stewart was postponed, so Scott and Patrick took the opportunity to play their postponed Round 6 game. A French, Alapin Gambit, Patrick kept the pawn into the middle game, before Scott's tactical vision and relentless pressure gave him the advantage. Patrick did make a fight of it, before eventually succumbing. So, with 2 rounds to go, the Championship is alive! James Watson leads with 7.5, followed by Ruari Coffey on 7. Scott Stewart has 6.5 with a game in hand, George Maksacheff and Joel Beggs with 6.5 are still in contention.
In the Reserves, Leonard Goodison suffered his 1st setback, losing to Patrick Lenne, giving Paul Dao a chance. Leonard still leads with 8, Paul is a half point behind.
In the 'C' group, Lewin Blanch leads comfortably with 6.5, despite 2 no-show forfeits!
Sean Macak took on George Maksacheff in a Nimzo-Indian, Kmoch variation. The game was a wild tactical shootout, with Sean going for a direct mating attack. Sean seemed on the verge of victory, but George had seen further, fended off the mate, and scored an excellent win. Tournament leader James Watson faced Rob Loveband in another Nimzo-Indian, this time a Classical variation. This led to a dynamic middle game, with James picking up a couple of pawns. Rob limped into an endgame with Bishops of opposite colour, but the pawn deficit proved too great, and James excellent endgame technique secured the win.
Ruari Coffey met defending Champion Bas van Riel and adopted the fashionable London System against Bas' King's Indian structure. Once into the middle game, it proved to be a tactical disaster for Bas, and he quickly slumped to his 7th straight defeat! Joel Beggs took on Kevin Perrin in a Scandinavian, a defence Kevin has been playing for decades. It proved to be tactically interesting, with Kevin having chances throughout an absorbing game, but he ultimately succumbed to Joel's all-round superior play.
Patrick Cook met Ben Naughton in an Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined. Ben was intent on trading pieces, leaving Patrick to quietly gain control of key squares and files. After Ben dropped an important pawn, the 8-time Champion went on to score a smooth positional win. Scott Stewart versus Simon Rutherford was a forfeit for Scott.
James Watson retains his lead on 7/8, half a point ahead of Ruari Coffey, and a point ahead of George Maksacheff.
The round began with the news that top seed FM Simon Rutherford has withdrawn from the tournament. Since he has played 6 of the 11 rounds, his results to date will stand, and his remaining games will be forfeits. Happily, it is unlikely that this will have any bearing on the final outcome.
Patrick Cook faced up-and-coming Sean Macak in a Benoni Defence. After 10 moves of theory, Patrick managed to gain a positional grip in a dynamic middle game and went on to make it count and score his first win. Ben Naughton met Scott Stewart in a Sicilian, Hyper-Accelerated Dragon, resulting in a sharp, very tactical game. Ben soon got lost in the forest of complications and Scott finished him off with a wicked combination. Kevin Perrin versus Ruari Coffey was an English Opening. A quiet, positional game ensued, until Kevin snatched a pawn in the middle game. He later went astray in some tactics to be a piece for pawn down, before Ruari finished him off with an elegant mate. Bas van Riel took on James Watson in a Sicilian, Dragon. James was his usual sharp, aggressive self. Bas was unrecognisable, and he resigned after just 13 moves, apparently fearing immediate material losses. Rob Loveband faced George Maksacheff in a Dutch, Leningrad. After castling on opposite sides, Rob made a speculative attack, giving up a piece for 2 pawns. George quickly regained the pawns whilst keeping the piece, and went on to make his advantage count. Simon Rutherford versus Joel Beggs was a forfeit for Joel.
Meanwhile, the postponed Rd.6 game James Watson versus Kevin Perrin was played. It was a Dutch, Staunton Gambit! Typically aggressive play by James gave him a strong position, picking up material along the way, before going on to score a convincing win. After 7 rounds, James Watson leads with 6/7, with Ruari a half point behind. George Maksacheff with 5/7 and Scott Stewart on 4.5/6 are still in the running.
In the Reserves, Leonard Goodison continues his dominance with 6/6, followed by Paul Dao on 5.5/7 and Patrick Lenne on 5/7.
In the 'C' group, Lewin Blanch leads with 5.5/6, followed by Jason Mann on 4/5 and Kanishk Mahasuar on 3.5/5.
The inaugural Associates Championship has ended with Nigel Barrow seizing the title on 6.5/7, followed by Leo Kalina on 5.5/7 and Greg Brown on 4.5/7. Congratulations to Nigel.
Sean Macak faced Rob Loveband in a Semi-Slav. In a lively game Sean won a pawn in the middle game activity. Rob kept the Queens on and reached an endgame that he was able to hold. George Maksacheff met defending Champion Bas van Riel in an open Sicilian. In a sharp game both players castled Queen side. It was an interesting and even battle until a case of chess blindness resulted in Bas dropping a rook. He resigned on the spot. Ruari Coffey took on top seed Simon Rutherford in a Catalan. It was a lengthy and equal struggle throughout and was eventually drawn. Joel Beggs versus Ben Naughton was an Italian Game. After castling on opposite wings, the players reached a messy, very tactical position. Ben soon dropped a piece, then his Queen before being overwhelmed by Joel's strong attacking skills. James Watson versus Kevin Perrin, and Scott Stewart versus Patrick Cook were postponed.
Scott Stewart faced Sean Macak in a Sicilian Morra Gambit (of course!). Sean declined the pawn and adopted a positional approach. He appeared to miss the chance to grab the exchange in the middle game before a series of wild tactics resulted in a balanced game. Sean had a Queen for 2 rooks and spurned a draw by perpetual check. He wanted more, only to see Scott fight his way to a winning position. Patrick Cook met Joel Beggs in a Queen's Gambit Declined. A careful manoeuvring game ensued, with Patrick concentrating on restraining Joel's attacking flair. He felt comfortable enough to offer a draw, which Joel declined, before offering one himself a few moves later, rather than tempt “Patrick's Curse” too much! Ben Naughton took on Ruari Coffey in an Open Sicilian. It proved to be a sharp game that Ruari handled better; he gained a decisive material advantage in the middle game and had no problems winning from there. Simon Rutherford met James Watson in a Sicilian Dragon. This was a feisty game, with the players trading blows before an interesting endgame was reached, with James having an extra pawn. This proved to be decisive, as it became apparent that it could not be prevented from Queening without catastrophic material loss, prompting Simon's resignation. A major upset! Kevin Perrin faced George Maksacheff in a Bird's Opening. Kevin quickly marshalled his pieces for a direct King-side attack with lots of tactical nuances. He was rewarded for his bravery, as George's position collapsed. Another great win for the veteran who almost didn't qualify for this tournament! Bas van Riel took on Rob Loveband in a Reti. Bas was unusually cautious, and resigned when he dropped his Queen after a faulty combination. So, a dramatic round in the Championship, with upsets galore. James Watson and Ruari Coffey lead with 4/5; Scott Stewart and FM Simon Rutherford follow half a point behind.
In the Reserves, Leonard Goodison continues to power ahead with 5/5. Paul Dao follows a half point behind.
In the 'C' group, Lewin Blanch dominates with 5/5, while Jason Mann and Lashen Jayaweera are 2 points behind.
In the Associates Championship, Nigel Barrow and Greg Brown lead on 4.5/5, with Leo Kalina a point behind.
Sean Macak took on the oldest player in the field, defending champion Bas van Riel, in a King's Indian Defence. In a fierce struggle, Sean gained an edge, then won the exchange and a pawn, which proved good enough for Bas to resign. Rob Loveband met Kevin Perrin in a Dutch Defence. In a positional fight, Rob's efforts to sharpen the position were handled comfortably by Kevin, and the game was soon agreed a draw. 2nd seed George Maksacheff faced top seed Simon Rutherford in a Caro-Kann. George came to the game well-armed and gained an edge but was ultimately unable to break Simon's careful defence and a draw was agreed. James Watson versus Ben Naughton was a Queen's Gambit Declined. It was all book and quite even until Ben tried too hard to trade material in the middle game. He dropped a pawn, then the exchange, resulting in positional collapse, and James pocketed the full point. Ruari Coffey met Patrick Cook in a London system. Patrick responded with a Grunfeld-like structure and an interesting positional game resulted. Trying to gain a winning edge, Patrick ended up in a lost endgame and eventually fell to his 3rd straight defeat. Joel Beggs faced Scott Stewart in a Sicilian and a very interesting fight ensued. Scott eventually gained 2 bishops for a rook and demonstrated that he knows how to make that count.
In the Reserves Leonard Goodison has powered to the lead with 4/4.
In the 'C' group, Lewin Blanch has also seized the lead with 4/4.
In the Associates championship, Nigel Barrow also has 4/4, with Greg Brown just a half point behind.
Joel Beggs faced Sean Macak in an open Sicilian. In a theoretical line that Joel knew well, Sean went pawn hunting and was brutally crushed. Scott Stewart versus Ruari Coffey was a Sicilian, Morra Gambit. It was a fabulously sharp game throughout, where one false step would spell disaster for either player. They kept their balance, however, and the game petered out to a draw. Patrick Cook took on James Watson in a Benko Gambit. Patrick inexplicably forgot the move order and handed back the pawn for nothing. An interesting game ensued anyway, but James eventually got on top and made his advantage count. Ben Naughton met George Maksacheff in a Sicilian, Alapin. Ben had a cramped position right out of the opening, and soon lost a piece. George had no difficulty cleaning up from there. FM Simon Rutherford faced Rob Loveband in a Sicilian, Staunton variation and an interesting, fighting game resulted. Simon proved to be too classy, seeing more, and seeing deeper, and went on to win a fine game. Kevin Perrin met defending champion Bas van Riel in a closed Sicilian. It was a tough positional struggle, with Kevin quietly, almost imperceptibly, gaining the ascendancy after some sub-optimal moves by Bas, and going on to a rare win against his great rival.
James Watson met Scott Stewart in a Dutch Defence. It was a sharp, tactical game, not surprising with these two players, and was evenly balanced throughout, before a draw was agreed. The youngest player, Sean Macak, faced veteran, Kevin Perrin, in a Slav Defence. The game exploded into a tactical shootout in the middle game, and when the smoke cleared Kevin found himself in a lost endgame. Bas van Riel versus FM Simon Rutherford was a Nimzo-Indian Classical variation. Simon won a pawn in middle game exchanges, and his technique is good enough to pick up the full point from there. Rob Loveband took on Ben Naughton in Rob's new specialty the London System. Rob launched a big attack against Ben's castled King, but Ben calmly avoided any slip-ups and Rob, not seeing a way forward, decided to simply repeat moves and agree a draw. George Maksacheff faced Patrick Cook in a French Winawer, exchange variation. Patrick carelessly placed a Knight on the wrong square in the opening and quickly found himself in an awkward position. His attempts to extricate himself simply made matters worse, and George ruthlessly crushed the 8-time champion. Ruari Coffey took on Joel Beggs in an Italian Game. This was another very tactical, very even game that ended in a draw.
Checking in on the Reserves Championship, Justin and Leonard Goodison, Patrick Lenne, and Paul Dao have all started well with 2/2.
In the 'C' grade event, Lewin Blanch and Lashen Jayaweera have also started with 2/2.
In the Associates Championship, Nigel Barrow and Greg Brown have likewise begun with 2/2.
Ruari Coffey faced Sean Macak in a Modern Benoni, a favourite of Sean's. It was an interesting, even struggle until Sean suddenly found his Queen trapped. He gained a rook and pawn for it and made a fight of the game, but was always on the back foot and Ruari duly made his advantage count. Joel Beggs took on James Watson in a Sicilian Dragon. A very sharp tactical battle ensued. The game was even throughout a lengthy fight and it ended in a draw. Scott Stewart met George Maksacheff, making his first appearance in the championship since the 1970's! A Sicilian Morra Gambit, it was another even struggle with a wealth of tactical nuances, and also ended in a draw. Patrick Cook faced Rob Loveband in a Nimzo-Indian. It was a careful positional game that unsurprisingly smouldered to a draw. Ben Naughton, promoted from the 2019 Reserves, took on defending Champion Bas van Riel in an open Sicilian. In a feisty game Ben dropped the exchange in the middle game, but kept the game alive courtesy of a nasty trick. Bas stayed alert, shut down the trick, and went on to make his advantage pay. Top seed FM Simon Rutherford faced Kevin Perrin in a French/Kings Indian Attack. Kevin was too passive and a brutal King side pawn push won Simon a piece. Ever inventive, Kevin kept the game going, but was unable to stave off inevitable defeat.
The 2020 Ballarat Chess Club championships, the 55th since the Club's revival in the mid-1960's, takes place in most unusual circumstances! The coronavirus pandemic has meant the closure of the Club rooms since early March, and the situation has not changed sufficiently to allow a safe return to face-to-face OTB chess. Despite this, we have continued to play our regular program on-line, using chess.com as our playing platform. New members have signed up, and past members have re-joined, and so our three championship tournaments have an excellent entry of 35 players. In addition, 8 players have entered a new championship tournament for Associate members.
The 'A' grade championship, for the Andy Miitel Shield, is a 12-player round robin, and counts in its entry an astonishing 9 former Club Champions! Heading the field is 2003 Champion FM Simon Rutherford. Simon has all the strength and experience required to be hot favourite to win this year’s championship as well. 2nd seed is 3-time Champion George Maksacheff. George was a strong and active player in the 1970's, winning the championship in 1972, 1974, and 1975, before disappearing from the chess scene for 4 decades. It will be interesting to see how he fares on his comeback. 3rd seed is 2016 Champion James Watson. James is a strong all-round player who fears no one and may be able to challenge the top seed this year. 4th seed is Scott Stewart, winner of the 2007 championship. Scott is a strong attacking player with a good feel for the initiative, and will be a danger to everyone else in the field. 5th seed is Ruari Coffey; he came very close to winning last years championship, and may have a chance this year if he finds his best form. 6th seed is Bas van Riel, 8-times Champion of our Club (the record) and defending Champion. Who would dare count him out of contention? 7th seed is Sean Macak, the youngest player in the 'A' tournament. Sean was unlucky not to get a spot in last years 'A' grade event, but gets his chance this year. 8th seed is 3-time Champion Rob Loveband. An inventive, imaginative player, he will make the others earn their points. 9th seed is 8-time Champion Patrick Cook, playing his 36th championship tournament. A solid positional player with good endgame technique and a penchant for beating players who decline his draw offers, he might have a say in the outcome. 10th seed is the incomparable 7-time Champion Kevin Perrin, playing his 55th championship! An amazing record that can never be equalled. 11th seed is 2010 Champion Joel Beggs. Seriously under-rated, anyone who takes him lightly will do so at their peril. 12th seed is Ben Naughton who earned his place as 2019 Reserves Champion. So this years 'A' Championship is an exceptionally strong event and we are in for some exciting chess over the coming months.
The Reserves championship, for the John Baynham Shield, is also a 12-player round robin tournament. Newcomer Gavin Varley is top seed, with experienced Patrick Lenne and fast improving Leonard Goodison as real contenders in the field.
The 'C' grade championship, for the John Abson Shield has 11 players, also in a round robin. Vishnu Neralla is top seed in a field packed with lively and ambitious youngsters.
Finally, we introduce a new event in our calendar; the Associates Championship. Another round robin, this tournament is for those on-line members who have chosen not to become full members and thus be eligible for one of the other tournaments. 8 players have entered, headed by the formidable Nigel Barrow, many times Country Victorian chess Champion, and winner of multiple Bendigo Chess Club championships as well. Jamie Brotheridge should provide him with some opposition.