Over the last 6 months or so, Australia has seen some great new developments in chess from some of our younger players. I have compiled an annotated list of some of these recent achievements. Though this list could really span the last few years it has been the last 6 months in particular in which young Australian players have demonstrated tremendous success nationally and internationally and, by some in particular, an unprecedented rise in chess ability.
Part 1 - November 2012 to January 2013
- 20-year old (19 at the start of the tournament) IM-elect Max Illingworth convincingly won the very strong MCC Cup Weekender with 8.5/9, ahead of IM Stephen Solomon on 7.5, myself on 7 and NZ's young star Luke Li on 6.5 (now living in Australia!).
- 20-year old QLD IM Moulthun Ly not long after his excellent olympic debut for Australia won the Tuggerarnong Vikings tournament in Canberra with 6.5/7, ahead of IMs George Xie and Vladimir Smirnov (and just in time for his 21st).
- 20-year old ACT FM Junta Ikeda (who you should know pretty well by now...) played in the Commonwealth Championships in Chennai, India and scored 7.5/11 with a 2400 performance, just missing an IM norm.
- Junta then played in the super-strong Rose-Valley Open in Calcutta scoring 6/11 with another 2400 performance and narrow miss of a norm. In total Junta gained around 40 points which in India, where people are often substantially under-rated, is very impressive.
- Over in England a bunch of Australian players participated in the London Chess Classic FIDE Open. Ari Dale, Justin Tan, and Arianne Caoili all had suberb performances, though Arianne was very unlucky to miss out on a WGM norm playing and losing against Ari in the last round.
- The Australian Young Masters in Adelaide featured fantastic performances from local Alistair Cameron who scored 6/7 and Queensland's Brodie McClymont (a perfect 7/7!). (Unfortunately for me as top seed, I got rather 'beaten up' this tournament, scoring a dismal 3.5/7.) In the game between the two Brodie held a solid advantage for most of the game but missed a tricky tactic forcing the loss of a piece that could have eventuated in the game, later pointed out by GM Ian Rogers.
- Brodie's win was of course no small feat and to my knowledge was only the 2nd time in the tournament's history that the winner has got a perfect score. Though Brodie has gotten into the habit of doing this in recent times, with picket-fence victories in a series of strong weekenders in 2012. Brodie is 20 years old and has only been playing a short number of years. He does not often play FIDE tournaments which has held that rating back a bit but is on the verge of breaking 2400 ACF following his stellar performances in 2012. It is clear to me that he has immense talent and with some real dedication and study I am sure he could reach the grandmaster title and go well beyond.
- At the same time an I daresay even more impressive feat occurred in the Australasian Masters tournament in Melbourne. 11 year-old Anton Smirnov places =1st with 6/9 (yes, 11, you are reading correctly), and wins on tiebreak ahead of IM James Morris (18) and FM Bobby Cheng (15), narrowly missing out on an IM-norm in the process. This tournament signalled Anton's emergence into the top echelons of Australian competitive chess, and within the coming months he proved for certain that this victory was no fluke. On January 1 2013 Anton was listed as the number one player for his age in the world, a feat that to the best of my knowledge has never before been achieved by an Australian.
- The 2013 Australian Open Chess Championships at Norths Chess Club in Sydney was one of the strongest Championships to date, featuring at the top of the list GM Igor Khenkin of Germany, at the time ranked in the top 100 in the world, and nearly all of Australia's best active players. However it was 15-year-old (former World U/12 Champion) FM Bobby Cheng from Melbourne who took the $4500 top prize with one of the most impressive performances by an Australian in an open tournament to date. Having taken a bye in the first round, Bobby mowed down his opposition (Khenkin included), to win 9/10 (+ 8 = 2 - 0) and take the Championship by a full point. At the same time, he also scored his second IM norm (exceeding the required score by 2 points) and with a performance rating well into the 2700s missed out on a GM norm only for the fact that he didn't get the opportunity to play GM Darryl Johansen for his required third GM.
- Other notable performances by young Australians were =2nd to Figjammer IM Moulthun Ly, Australian No.1 GM Zong-Yuan Zhao, and IM Max Illingworth all with 8.5/11. Junta and I scored 7/11 - with Junta picking up his second IM norm and both of us performing in the 2400s for the tournament. Western Australian 20-year-old Yita Choong also performed very well, just missing an IM norm, but still picking up a bucketload of rating points.
- In the Lightning, which was the strongest for many years, yet again it was Australia's young players who shone, with FM Bobby Cheng and IM James Morris tying for 1st with a huge score of 9.5/11 (and both beating GM Khenkin in the process).
- In the presentation, IM Max Illingworth was awarded Australian Player of the Year for the second time running, in recognition of his excellent performances in such tournaments as the NSW Championships (8.5/9), the Ryde-Eastwood Open (6.5/7), the aformentioned MCC Cup Weekender (8.5/9), and the World Chess Olympiad where he scored his final norm and thus fulfilled the requirements for the International Master title.
- In late December and early January ACT's WIM Emma Guo (17) played in several strong European tournaments and performed extremely well, gaining over 85 points over the period. Unfortunately the tournaments were only 7 rounds so she was not able to get any higher title norms.
- And last but not least Victorian Ari Dale (14) and Figjam member Fedja Zulfic (20) played in separate challengers tournaments associated with the famous Tata Steel Chess (Wijk aan Zee) festival in The Netherlands. Fedja played well in his tournament making solid rating gains, and Ari played magnificently, winning his event with 8/9 and skyrocketing his rating well into the 2200s - overall a very successful Europe trip for Ari.
Congratulations to everybody on these recent successes!
Part 2 - February to May, will follow next week.