Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Australian Championship round 7 + Lightning Championship + Shite fight 3!

Bobby Cheng added to his growing list of titles by winning the Australian Lightning Championship. GM Tu Huang Thong won the tournament with  9/11 and Anton Smirnov, Brodie McClymont and Bobby Cheng tied for 2-4th with 8.5/11. They then had a playoff which Bobby won by half a point from Brodie with Anton coming third.

David Liu versus el Presidente

Moulthun Ly v Bobby Cheng

Brodie McClymont v Greg Canfell

Shite fight 3, the selection!

I was too busy to play as I was busy reading the latest controversy on Australia's premier chess-forum, chesschat. This thread deals with some contentious issues regarding who should and shouldn't be allowed to play in this tournament. FM Eddy Levi drew my attention to it, mainly because he is an admirer of IM Robert Jamieson's writing style, and with good reason. 

Going by the de plume Jammo, he bemoaned the exclusion of three time champ and living legend Douglas Hamilton. He was immediately set upon by defender of the realm Kevin Bonham. For those not acquainted  with Australian chess history, IM Robert Jamieson was a fearsome force in the pre-Rogers era. His clear strategic play and sharp tactical skills were an inspiration to the juniors of my generation.  The same qualities are present in his prose.

My two cents worth. I will use a quote from Mr Kevin Bonham as a guide.

 "The Australian Championships exists to determine who is the Australian Champion"

So my questions

1: Why the foreign GM's? How do they help in determining who is the Australian Champion? What other country allows foreigners into their national championship?

2: Twelve of the forty-two are rated below the already low 2150 cut-off. Most well below. 

3: Juniors over 2000? This may have been a good idea when ratings came out infrequently but now?

Anyway, I'll keep the rest of my ranting for another occasion, now on to my round 7 game.

So finally I got to play a higher rated opponent. James Morris is one of the future stars of Australian chess and on form he is a truly fearsome player. I spent yesterday studying his games and was impressed. 

For the first time in the tournament I got that tingling feeling like when one spots a shark while swimming. One of my weaknesses is that I find it hard to motivate myself against players I feel I should beat. This leads to accidents. No such worries today. I treated the opening phase with respect, just trying to equalise and was constantly on the lookout for hidden tactics.

As luck would have it James was a bit unfamiliar with some of the subtleties of the Philidor defense. 11.a5 was an inaccuracy, allowing black an easy game. Paradoxically leaving the pawn on a4 holds up blacks queenside counterplay better. Then on moves 19 and 20 he decided to throw the kitchen sink at me, not wanting to drift into a worse position. He simply missed a defensive move and when the smoke cleared he had no pieces left.

Not a great game by James but I am quite happy with how I was seeing things. At least I am now clear of the bony chickens :-)

Four rounds to go. All is still possible. To dream, the impossible dream.... 


  1. Alex if you'd given my full quote, instead of quoting part of a sentence out of context and creating the false impression it was a standalone comment, readers could see I've already partly answered these questions:

    "The Australian Championships exists to determine who is the Australian Champion - and as a lesser objective to provide norm opportunities for strong players and improvement chances for juniors - not to act as an engine for the creation of future chess nostalgia."

    So that answers 1 and 3. Also re 1 the possibility of GM and IM norms, increased by including strong foreign players, helps in encouraging more strong Australians to play in the Aus Champs which makes it a better test of the winner's skill.

    ACF ratings don't come out that much more frequently than they used to (it changed from three times a year to four times a year in 2003). Although the ACF's system is superior to FIDE's in its treatment of fast improving juniors, the very fastest improve so quickly that it's hard for any rating system to keep up with them. Usually we reject sub-2000 ACF juniors since the Reserves is quite tough enough for them, but sometimes there are deserving cases below that level (an example being Karl Zelesco last time). Juniors already over 2000 and improving are likely to perform at 2150+, and even if they don't it is a great development experience.

    Some criteria allow some sub-2150 players to compete for the sake of inclusiveness. Even if a player for whatever reason cannot get their rating near 2150 they still have pathways to qualify via state titles or winning the Reserves, so the pathway is open for anyone to become Aus Champion eventually even if their brilliant skills have somehow slipped completely under the radar of our rating system.

    In this year's field the 12 sub-2150s include the defending Reserves winner, the player elevated to remove the bye, two players admitted under the junior criteria and eight under the equivalent proficiency rule. (One of the eight would have got in under the junior rule anyway.)

    No-one admitted under the equivalent proficiency rule is remotely likely to win the title, but there are valid arguments for having it. One is that if it did not exist and we enforced a hard and fast cutoff at a certain level, this would encourage players to manipulate their ratings by picking and choosing what events they played in. With the selection system it is possible for a player who is usually around 2150 strength to play in events that are risky to their rating without worrying about missing out as a result. That said, the ACF does adjust the automatic entry requirement up or down now and then and with the increasing number of players above 2150 (largely as a result of a stronger junior scene) we may look at raising it slightly next time.

    If we excluded everyone who doesn't have a realistic chance the field would be too small for a long Swiss to work, and if we instead had a round robin then selection would be much more contentious than it is now. On the other hand we do have reasons to limit the field size. Too large a field with too long a tail makes norms more difficult and the first few rounds less of a test.

    If people want to admire jammo's writing style then, hey, each to their own. If they want to admire his debating ability on the other hand, then they just have no idea. To suggest that his feeble attempts to argue a case resemble his or anyone else's sharp tactical skills is just silly. At best they resemble the play of a middling club hack who cares more whether his moves are showy than whether they are sound, but whose play is ultimately boring because it is so predictably full of bad cheapos.

    PS You probably wouldn't want to be mistakenly called a CM instead of an IM - so it's Dr Kevin Bonham not Mr to you. ;)

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  3. Dr Bonham { I apologise and stand corrected }, since you took a large chunk out of your evening to write your lengthy reply I felt obliged to read it.
    I did not quote just one sentence to deceive but out of space considerations. They are the shrubs in the forest where you examine every tree.
    Australian chess benefits from every visit by visiting masters and I hope we organise many more events,encourage and fund Juniors to compete in overseas events. But not our one every two year national championship.

    The Australian Chess Championship is just that. It is not a junior training camp. Nor is it an open or a norms tournament.

    I find no fault with the organisers nor with our guests but rather with those that drew up the rules. I have no idea how it is possible to invent such a mess of convoluted criteria.

    Therein lies the communication problem. IM Robert Jamieson's big picture musing on how it would be nice to have celebrated Doug Hamilton's 50th first championship win, somehow provoked a defensive reaction.He was respecting a man and player who deserves all our respect. It's about Doug, not about you.

    As far as "for the sake of inclusiveness"?? Seriously?

    Equally stupid is "equivalent proficiency".

    I don't have enough time to explain why in more detail because I have to prepare for my next opponent. I'm playing in a tournament right now. Have a nice evening :-)

  4. I don't think "space reasons" is an acceptable reason for snipping a quote. This is not Twitter where you only have 140 characters to make your point, nor is it a letter to a newspaper that will be binned if it is over the requisite length. One of the whole points of blogging is you have the room to do justice to issues - and to the views of those who you are quoting. You actually didn't save any space anyway in this case, because you then went on to *use* space to ask questions covered in the rest of my comment. Please edit your post to include my quote in full.

    Concerning jammo's comments, in your reply you are taking a very hard line on criteria, suggesting that many of the players in the Championships don't belong there (though a player barely above the cutoff defeated you in round one). But you're also taking jammo's side from my exchange with him. That's odd, because the proposal from him that started it was a suggestion that we should add another player well below the rating cutoff, and for reasons entirely unrelated to current playing strength.

    While you disagree about some of the criteria that are there, you should agree that we should be careful about adding more. And that was the basis on which I initially replied to jammo. The aggro that developed later should be viewed through the general prism of jammo-KB relations on CC. We don't get on, and the primary reason for that on my part is his sporadic puerile self-confessed attempts to "bait" me for the sake of "sport".

    The idea that this is really about respect for Doug Hamilton is a complete red herring; everyone involved in this debate respects the guy immensely. Respect for a player does not mean that when someone floats a thought-bubble about a specific way in which respect should be demonstrated, that I have to genuflect before them and say "yes what a wonderful idea!" Especially not when that person knows how the ACF operates and could easily have made their point (if any) directly at an appropriate time. jammo was not just commenting on celebrating Hamilton's 50th anniversary; he was suggesting we celebrate it by changing the way we pick the field. Indeed it is not about me, but nor is it about Doug. It is about jammo and his latest attempt to backseat-drive the ACF. Jammo had his time and chose to get out when he still had much he could have contributed.

    If you don't have time to explain your views now you can always come back and explain them later. But asserting something without evidence and saying that you don't have time to explain it will not convince anyone worth convincing in the meantime.

    The view you've expressed on Championships criteria is a purist one but experienced administrators are realists and we know that some of the other functions the event serves are in fairly short supply. Also, no-one has provided any evidence that allowing the event to perform those other functions poses any threat to its primary function. It would if we let in, say, ten foreign GMs who topped the tournament leaving the title to be awarded to someone who finished eleventh on 6/11, or if we let in 100 juniors so that the favourites spent four rounds carving through weak players. However neither will happen. Having a small number of ineligible players near the pointy end does not stop the title going to the most worthy Australian player at the time of the event and never has.

  5. Edit my blog to give your full quote? No.
    Your replies are extremely long and tedious and I cannot imagine that many people read them, in fact I suspect they may drive some readers away and yet I have not asked you to change your writing style.
    I gave the link for those with interest and time on their hands.
    You seem to think that Chess is all about administrators. It is not. A good administrator should be seen and not heard. It is about the spectators and the players.
    Jammo back seat driving the ACF? I do so wish he would get in the front seat.

  6. My replies are as long as they are because I believe in doing justice to issues by explaining and addressing them thoroughly. You tend to raise a large number of points but raise each very briefly with little or no evidence. I could respond in kind but that would not help people to understand my position.

    Your fear that my comments will drive readers away are unfounded - if they know there is debate going on in the comments section they are actually more likely to keep checking back. Indeed on my own blog site a lot of my articles are several times longer than my comments above yet in peak season for the kinds of events I cover I have no trouble getting thousands of hits a day.

    However I will make one exception: your claim that I "seem to think Chess is all about administrators" is unsubstantiated nonsense. Those two words are all that claim deserves. As for this "seen and not heard" silliness, if we just resort to administrating and not discussing the basis for our actions we get over-excitable claims that we are a secret society and are not communicating adequately with the chess public.