Bobby at the Chess Kids Nationals last week.

It’s about time Bobby Cheng became an International Master. His great rival, James Morris, is three years older but became an IM some time ago. Bobby burst into prominence on the chess scene in 2009 winning the World U12 Championship in Turkey and has at least one IM norm already, perhaps two, I’m not sure. You need three norms and a rating of 2400+ to be awarded the title. He’s been Victoria Champion already but has hovered around the same level for the last year or so.

Perhaps this week coming is the chance that Bobby needs to take the next step at the Australian Masters Championship being played at the Box Hill Chess Club starting on Saturday. The field is solid, without any obvious superstars, and is a great opportunity for Bobby to rise above the pack and seize the title.

I watched him play in the Super Rookies a few months ago where he pressed his former coach and mentor, GM Darryl Johansen, and should have won, but ended up drawing. Clearly he is not a player who is afraid of strong opponents or is content to take a GM draw. A good quality to have.

The other night Bobby was playing in the last round of the Box Hill Open against Chris Wallis. He trailed Wallis by a point and needed to win at all costs to share the title. I was following the game live with Laurence Matheson and we were commenting on the moves as the game progressed. Wallis clearly set out to play solidly and not lose, and for a long time it was unclear if Bobby could make any progress. Suddenly Wallis sacrificed is rook for a pawn and it looked like Bobby was in real trouble. But he did not panic! The exchange and a pawn down he made a quiet King move and suddenly he was attacking. The complications were a bit much for my poor brain to follow so I set up the position on Shredder to see who was winning. “Bobby has a win” I exclaimed to Laurence … “but it’s a weird computer-like move … he’ll never see it” I suggested. “Of course he’ll find it” countered Laurence, who is a friend of Bobby’s and knows him well. Sure enough, 30 seconds later, Bobby played the winning move suggested by Shredder and Wallis resigned a few moves later. “Impressive” I thought, perhaps Bobby is the real deal after all. Let’s hope he proves it this week.

I wonder, dear reader, if you too are the “real deal” also? None of my training squad found the winning move but perhaps you can do better.

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