Doeberl Cup in Canberra

At the beginning of 20-th century there was a strong debate which major city to be the capital of Australia. There were two main contenders- Sydney and Melbourne, but somehow none of them prevailed. Finally, a compromise decision was taken that there is an independent capital, somewhere between the two major cities, and this is how the town of Canberra was created. It now has approximately 300 000 inhabitants, and the Australian institutions are situated here.
This year’s Doeberl cup took place between 1-5 Aprils in Australia’s capital. The tournament is named after the architect Erich Doeberl who strongly supported the tournament for the years that he lived, supplying the bigger part of the price fund, and some times giving additional funds when he was especially satisfied with the course of the event (unfortunately that noble chess lover passed away some years ago, but the tournament is still named after him).
It was a nine-round Swiss Premier open, including additional sections-Major, Minor and U 1200. We can claim that it was quite successful, as the altogether number of participants almost caught up with the old record of most participating players (268, back in 1985 as our chief arbiter Shaun Press had explained to me).
For financial reasons there were double rounds almost every day starting from the first round. Australia is way away from Europe, and the first days it was more survival rather than chess tournament, as the jetlag was telling itself. Waking up at four a.m. is not a nice way to prepare for a morning game, and in that relation the Aussies (or Ozzies- as the locals name themselves) have definite advantage against the guest players. Going a bit in advance I would say that they managed to use that perfectly by scoring one GM and 3 IM norms in the tournament, which was huge success, and one of the main ideas of the event as the chief organizer Charles Bishop explained at the closing ceremony.
One of the most interesting features of the event was the so called fighting price fund. An extra thousand dollars were to be distributed for those who win their last efforts, but there were two additional conditions- those players should not have made any grandmaster draws (GM draw here was considered a game that ends in a draw before the thirtieth move), and the contenders for the price are only players who have equal or more points to the score of the player on board four.
Curiously, no one could win that price this year. The lowest score on board four was 5.5 points, which meant that only the top five boards are competing for the fighting fund. First board saw a quick draw between Li Chao and Malaniuk, which secured a clear first for the Chinese player, who owed the white pieces, and eventually shared third for the Ukrainian. Smooth tournament for Li Chao, since he was not ever in danger in any of his games. Board two saw an eventful game between Panchanathan and Smerdon, which eventually ended peacefully but after a long fight. It was Indians only draw in the tournament, but in an inconvenient moment. Board three saw a drama, as another Indian GM- Kunte who was dictating the game blundered a whole queen against the local George Xie. Xie though had a quick draw in the last but one round and was already out of the fighting fund fight. Nevertheless he can be completely satisfied with his tournament-clear second place, but what is more important-he scored his last and definite GM norm, that will soon bring him the title. Board four saw Roy Chowdhury winning as white against Zhao Zong Yuan, but he also had an under-thirty move draw (this was however questionable since his draw was a repetition of moves, that might have been avoided). Last, but not least we had the most eventful game of the round between Gawain Jones and Rej Tomek. White was first completely winning (extra exchange), then completely lost (clear piece down in an endgame), and finally it was a draw. Tomek’s consolation was the achieved IM norm, and two more Australians managed to do so.
One of the most remarkable points of the tournament was the live commentaries of GM Ian Rogers. Australian’s best player ever was annotating for the wide audience throughout the whole round, supporting by his wife Cathy.
There was very little time for sight-seeing after the closing ceremony, and we used it to visit the nearby Canberra nature park and make pictures of the kangaroos.
Sydney open starts tomorrow, another report to follow soon.

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