Like most keen chess players on the Labour Day long weekend I journeyed to Ballarat for the 51st Ballarat Begonia Open Chess Tournament.  GM Nigel Short was not there this year but the tournament still boasted 4 Grandmasters and 5 International Masters with my role being to supply the live commentary.

The event was very exciting with IM Ari Dale leading on 5.5/6 going into the final round followed by 5 players on 5 points.  Ari had to face IM James Morris as White in the final round and played solidly to keep the position level but slowly but surely James managed to create chances and he eventually ground out a win to join GM Zhou, IM Smirnov and IM Solomon in joint first place.  Each player received $1375.  Half a point behind on 5.5 points were GMs Illingworth, Ly and Johansen and IM Dale.  They got nothing!  The ratings prizes however were very generous.  One of my students happily pocketed $600 for his efforts.

The tournament started strangely.  I received a copy of the draw and noticed that listed to play GM Max Illingworth on board 3 was someone named Harrison Harrison rated 1750 FIDE.  I approached the arbiter and said surely this is a clerical error and the player should be Liam Harrison from Mildura.  “No, no” I was assured, “Harrison Harrison is a local Ballarat player …. they call him Harry.”  I went back to the top boards and started watching the top boards hoping to get some interesting games for my live broadcast.  Harrison’s game started strangely with him playing 1.Nc3 then 2.e3 then 3.Ne2 then rapidly got worse!  I rushed back to the arbiter and showed him the start of the game.  “This opening is the worst I have ever seen” I exclaimed …. “The guy is a beginner.  Can we check his ID or something as he can’t have a rating of 1750.”   We talked to Kevin Perrin, doyen of the Ballarat Chess Club, and he advised that Harrison was strong tactically but played weird openings …. he did well in their club events!   Here is the game for your interest.


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Despite this rocky start I did manage to find a number of interesting games to use in my live game commentary.  Ari chopping up Max Illingworth generated a lot of comments from the audience, however my favourite game is Smirnov v Puccini in the final round.  Anton played some very nice sacrifices to bring about checkmate a queen down.  Play through the game and see if you can guess Anton’s moves.
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