The biggest complaint from most players was the heat. At the end of January there can be some fierce temperatures in Melbourne, and this weekend it was around the 35C mark. The playing hall of the MCC lacks windows and air conditioning and so the playing conditions were very hot and very stuffy. As a result there were players with headaches, and the tournament was physically draining. The arbiter, Kerry Stead did a great job at trying to cool the room down with ice, fans and towels but he was fighting a losing battle. Without air conditioning, tournaments at MCC in the summer are very uncomfortable, and I would only play if I absolutely wanted to, like was the case this weekend.
My biggest disappointment was concerning the Saturday afternoon game. In my time on the committee of the MCC, we passed a resolution that when we ran weekend events at the MCC, the club would not hold any other events. This was mainly because there is a weekly allegro tournament on Saturdays and people would choose to play in that rather than playing in the weekenders. Also, the allegro tournament creates a lot of background noise between rounds. So when I was playing my afternoon game on the Saturday, at times the noise levels were pretty high and this is simply unacceptable. If the MCC has changed the policy and has decided to run allegro tournaments at the same time as weekend events, then I will either take a bye for Saturday afternoon games, or more likely, not play weekend tournaments at my club anymore. It's a shame, because this is an easily remedied issue, but for me it tarnished an otherwise excellent weekend. And before anyone decides to take me on for knocking the allegro, I have nothing against the allegro which I think is an excellent event. I have encouraged many players to play in it. I just don't believe that 2 tournaments should be run at the same time and the few weekend events that the MCC run should take priority. I mean, the allegro still runs for about 48 Saturday's a year, it's surely not too much of an imposition to step aside!
Ok, rant over, now on to the good stuff. Even though it was like playing in a steam laundry, the games were hard fought, and the competitors were really friendly. There were lots of younger players who were in great form after the Australian Junior Championship, Australian Championships, and Queenstown Classic. Ari Dale and Max Chew Lee finished equal second with FM Patrick Scharrer visiting from Italy, while Jack Puccini was only half a point behind. Still the winner of the tournament was MCC FM Michael Baron who was probably not on his best form, but still good enough to win the tournament outright.
My own tournament was very enjoyable, but as is often the case with my play I seem to be more interested in my losses than my wins. In the first round I had a fairly comfortable win against Jason Chew but then struggled against Mario Palma where I snatched a pawn and then another. Mario missed some chances to put me under severe pressure before his initiative began to run out and leave me material ahead. That was Thursday, and I took a bye on Friday to leave me on 2.5/3 before the weekend itself. On Saturday I started with a win against Sylvester Urban who fell into an opening trap, but then lost to Italian FM Scharrer from a fairly level middlegame position. This was a little disappointing, especially after my opening experiment with the Hungarian ended pretty solidly. Still, I hadn't played too badly over the four games, and that was encouraging. I thought that I would really struggle to find form, but I was seeing stuff. Unfortunately, it took too long to see things, and that is what really gave me problems on the final day.
Sunday was the last day of the tournament, and there were 2 games to play. I have always thought of weekend events as being as much about endurance as about ability. While my physical fitness level has risen considerably, my mental fitness level was sadly lacking. In my first game against talented junior Max Chew Lee, I missed a number of things. I got a great position but then started to fumble for a plan, while Max realised he was worse, and went about improving his position. I wasted quite a bit of time over a middlegame plan, which I then didn't execute in the best way, and then lost my way in the transition to the endgame. In the meantime, Max seemed to perk up and looked really fresh the longer the game went on. He kept on defending well, and in the end the game finished a draw. To be honest, I wasn't too unhappy with this result as I'm well aware of the ability of young Max Chew Lee. This is probably why I was taking so long earlier in the game, constantly checking tactical possibilities.
After this I was paired with another talented junior, Ari Dale. Again I got a great position out of the opening and again I missed lots of things, but this time I was not so lucky to end with a draw. It was an unbelievably complicated game where I won an exchange early on, but this did nothing to make my life easier as the position was so imbalanced. White had a group of central pawns charging down the board, while black had 2 outside passed pawns on the queenside. I'll just show a position to emphasise the point:
and now to win black has to play the amazing 35..Bf1!!, which I hadn't seen in that exact position. So I missed a very tough chance and Ari went on to beat me and finish in joint second, so congrats to him for fighting through to the last and taking his chance.
I scored a bit less than I expected, and will lose some rating points for the tournament as a whole, but probably not too much. I am glad to have played it though. I have the desire to play chess again now, and will be playing as often as I can. Also I am quite encouraged by my play. While there were mistakes, there was also a lot of good points. I reckon I'll be back to full form in the not too distant future, especially if I play a bit more!