Foreign raiders led the way in Sydney

5/3/2007 – April 2007. Sydney. Down Under. This is where it happened, the first ever Sydney International Open Chess Tournament (SIO), dubbed the strongest chess tournament ever held in Australia. The event attracted a total of 143 participants, with representatives from four different continents: Europe, South America, Asia, and of course, Oceania. Read Edwin Lam Choong Wai's big illustrated report.

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Foreign raiders led the way in Sydney

By Edwin Lam Choong Wai

As the Sydney International Open Chess Tournament (SIO) was timed nicely to coincide with the end of the 45th Doeberl Cup 2007 in the Australian capital of Canberra, the back-to-back events make it more attractive for foreign participants to commit to a long haul trip Down Under. Leading the charge is top seed, GM Shipov, from Russia. Coming from afar, these foreign raiders are definitely here for the kill at the SIO!

Russia, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, England, Norway, Spain, Finland, Hungary and Scotland represented the European continent, while Ecuador and Chile represented the Americas. From Asia, we have players who flew in from India and the Philippines, while the Kiwis and the Roos (for those of you who are not in the know, the Australians are called the Roos) represented Oceania. Amongst them, there are nine Grandmasters, eight International Masters, four FIDE Masters, two Women International Masters and one Women FIDE Master.


Sydney Harbor Bridge

Flying into Sydney

For the 24 foreign players, there are only two possible options of getting to Australia: by water, or by air. Whilst it would have been a scenic option to sail into Australia, it is probably not the most efficient means to do so. So, flying long haul into Kingsford Smiths International Airport, Sydney via the Kangaroo route, is definitely the most time efficient way of getting there.

Once you touch down at the airport, there are three ways for you to get to Parramatta – where the SIO will be held. You can choose to take a cab from the airport direct to Parramatta – a journey that will take around one to one-and-a-half hour. Alternatively, a cheaper option would be to take the Airport Link to Sydney’s CBD Central train station. At the Central station, you need to change to another train that will take you directly to the Parramatta train station. The last, final and FREE option would be to get a friend in Sydney to come and fetch you at the airport!


Parramatta train station

Aside from the players arriving at the airport, there is another group who had come up to Sydney from Canberra. This bunch of players had just finished competing at the Easter weekend’s Doeberl Cup competition. Amongst them are the foreign raiders who had traveled from afar. These foreign raiders had failed to grab the top three spots in Canberra. GM Mikhalevski, of Israel, is the highest finisher in Australia’s capital city, at 5th place. GM Shipov only managed a 7th place finish, while the local boys – led by GM Rogers, IM Smerdon (famed for his “stalemate” draw against GM Sune Berg Hansen in the 2006 Turin Olympiad), IM Solomon and IM Lane – occupied the top three spots there. Having failed in Canberra, would the foreign raiders hit back with a vengeance at the SIO? We shall see…

A bit of sightseeing first

Before we get down to business, let’s do a bit of sightseeing around this “fusion” city first! But, first, please arm yourself with some basic information about the city from the article I wrote on Chessbase.com in October 2006, entitled “Sydney is a six-letter word”. Next, go get yourself a copy of Insight Pocket Guide: Sydney and a CityRail Day Tripper before heading out to explore this diverse and “fusion” city! Let’s now check out some sights, sounds and tastes of Sydney:


No! No! This is not Vienna. We are inside Queen’s Victoria Building, Sydney!


Autumn’s the best time to visit Sydney…with just the right amount of sunshine!


The Rocks


Yum cha in Chinatown


A visit to the Sydney Fish Market: from this to…


… this!


Vietnamese’ “broken rice”


Sydney Opera House as seen on the ferry to Manly Beach


Blue Mountains, Sydney… which is about a 1.5-hour train ride from Parramatta


The “three sisters” – which is also located in the Blue Mountains

The "foreign raiders" strike back!

Now, let’s move back to the serious stuffs. The Opening Ceremony for the SIO is scheduled for one p.m. in the afternoon. After all the speeches were given, a ceremonious first move was made on behalf of GM Sergei Shipov on Table 1 and with it, the SIO started off with a bang.


GM Sergei Shipov deep in thought before the start of his Round 2 game

With good publicity done by the organizers as well as a huge banner with the words “Paramatta Chess Festival” hanging right outside the Town Hall, it definitely attracted a lot of spectators and chess fans. For the crowd, there are theater-style seats on a higher level of the Town Hall. These over-look the playing area and it is possible for spectators to sit there and watch the games in progress, with a pair of binoculars, of course.


The Sydney International Chess Tournament 2007 is part of the
Parramatta Chess Festival held at the Town Hall, Parramatta


VIPs at the Opening Ceremony. From left to right on stage: Co-organizers FM Brian Jones and Dr Vasil Tulevski (with the microphone), arbiters Nick Chernih and Garvin Gray, Australian Chess Federation President Gary Wastell, Mayor of the City of Parramatta David Borger (in white shirt) and other local dignitaries.

Throughout the five-day event, numerous Sydneysiders thronged the Parramatta Town Hall to catch a glimpse of the tournament. Amongst the more notable visitors at the SIO is Evelyn Koshnitsky, the mother of Australian Chess and Justice John Spencer Purdy, who is the son of the Australian chess legend C.J.S. Purdy. Frank Hutchings – a leading New Zealand chess player and also brother-in-law of Justice John Purdy – also visited the SIO. Chess philanthropist and three-time Melbourne Cup winner, Dato’ Tan Chin Nam, did not turn up at the SIO due to other commitments, although he was in Sydney at that time.


IM Andras Toth

Round 2 produced some surprises: GM Shipov dropped half a point, while Australian hopeful, IM Zhong-Yuan Zhao did the same against the dangerous Indian player, Chokshi Manthan.


IM Zong-Yuan Zhao, another future of Australian chess

Oliver Gareth sent shockwaves around by defeating FM Igor Bjelobrk. In Round three, normal service resumed for all the top players with the exception of GM Mikhalevski, who lost to IM Simon Ansell of England. GM Shipov earned his victory at the expense of talented Sydney junior, Max Illingworth.


Sydney’s talented junior Max Illingworth and Spanish WIM Paloma Gutierrez


GM Viktor Mikhalevski of Israel


IM David Smerdon – future of Australian chess

By the half-way mark, round five, only three players were on four points leading the pack: GM Ian Rogers, GM Murray Chandler and IM Andras Toth. Rogers and Chandler faced off against each other on the first table and we would surely see a “bloody” encounter. Rogers had the White pieces.


GM Ian Rogers, recent winner at the Doeberl Cup in Canberra

True enough. Rogers was pushing right from the opening against Chandler, gaining lots of space in the center. I was watching the game and after Rogers’ 34th move, I started chatting with FM Brian Jones. Brian was telling me that despite Black’s cramped position, the f- and h-pawns on the kingside can prove to be dangerous in the endgame.

We thought that maybe, just maybe, that Chandler would go for a simplification and then rely on his kingside passed pawns for a counter-attack. In a split second, Chandler replied 34… Re4. And, then I noticed something. Chandler was so short of time. He had only about 30 seconds on his clock against Rogers 20 plus minutes. Now, that’s a tough one!

I had to leave the tournament hall then and couldn’t stay on to watch the game any longer. Later that night, I asked Chandler about the game and the result. Looking tired, he said that he had lost it. We chatted about it and I asked him if he would have gone for any kingside passed pawn push. Well, he said, “No”. Rather, he had gone for an attack on Rogers’ king and he thought that maybe, he may have missed out on a checkmate somewhere along the way. Maybe, it was just not Chandler’s lucky day!

Rogers,Ian (2513) - Chandler,Murray G (2548)
Sydney International Open 2007 Parramatta (5), 12.04.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Nf3 Qd8 12.Kb1 Qc7 13.h4 0-0-0 14.Rh3 Kb8 15.g4 Bc8 16.h5 g6 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.Nh4 Rg8 19.f5 gxf5 20.gxf5 d5 21.exd5 exf5 22.Rd3 Ne5 23.d6 Qb6 24.Rd5 Bg7 25.Na4 Qc6 26.Nc5 Bf6 27.Ng2 Nd7 28.Ne6 Rde8 29.Ngf4 Rg1 30.c4 Ne5 31.Nd4 Qd7 32.c5 Nc6 33.Nxc6+ bxc6 34.Rd3 Re4 35.Rb3+ Ka7 36.Nd3 f4 37.Bg2 Rxd1+ 38.Qxd1 Rd4 39.Qf3 Bb7 40.a3 a5 41.Ka1 Ba6 42.Bh3 Qe8 43.d7 Qe4

44.Nf2? 44...Qe1+ 45.Ka2 Bc4? (45...a4! wins immediately) 46.Qxc6 Bxb3+ 47.Kxb3 Bd8? (47...Qxf2 would have probably held the draw) 48.Bg2 a4+ 49.Ka2 with mate to follow: 1-0.

By round seven GM Timoshenko had joined GM Rogers in the lead with 5.5 points. They drew with each other in that round and were joined at the top on 6 points by Tomek Rej. GM Rogers drew with IM Zhong-Yuan Zhao in Round 8, while GM Timoshenko defeated Tomek on Table 1. GM Timoshenko took the sole lead at 7 points, going into the final round. Meanwhile, GM Dejan Antic and GM Mikhalevski had climbed up to 6.5 points together with GM Rogers heading into Round 9, too.

In the final round, GM Georgy Timoshenko drew with GM Viktor Mikhalevski. Timoshenko finished the tournament on 7.5 points. On table 2, GM Darryl Johansen inflicted the first and only defeat on Rogers in this tournament. This spoilt Rogers’ chances of a top five finish. On table 3, GM Dejan Antic defeated Chandler… and, guess what: Antic caught up with Timoshenko on 7.5 points. Thus, Timoshenko and Antic jointly won the Sydney International Open Chess Tournament!


Co-winner of the SIO, GM Dejan Antic


Co-winner of the SIO, GM Georgy Timoschenko

Dejan Antic hails from Serbia & Montenegro but is now based in Sydney. In fact, he is based in Parramatta itself! Perhaps, the “home ground” advantage did help him to a certain extent to jointly win the SIO! Thus, by the end of the tournament Timoshenko and Antic had led the European raiders’ invasion of the Sydney International Open 2007 with 7.5 points a piece. Viktor Mikhalevski finished third in the tournament.

On the local front, Australia’s rising son, IM Zhao, led the local charge by finishing fourth in the tournament with 7 points. Next up is GM Daryl Johansan and IM Gary Lane. Lane, fresh from his strong performance at the Doeberl Cup, routed all four of his opponents in the last four rounds to collect 7 points out of 9 rounds. Statistically, IM Lane did not concede a single draw in the event – a sign of his fighting qualities! Newly crowned Doeberl Cup champion, Ian Rogers, finished at 8th place with 6.5 points.


Who is that pretty lass in a cap? WIM Arianne Caoili, who else?

When the tournament ended, there was no sight of the No. 1 seeded player, Sergei Shipov, in the top 10 list. He obviously failed to meet up to his top billing here in Sydney. As early as the second round he dropped 0.5 point against Australian Sam Chow. Then in round four Shipov lost to Manthan Chokshi of India. He didn’t manage to stop the rot there and lost again in round eight, this time to my Pinoy mate, Marlon Bernardino Jr. Onya, Marlon! Perhaps, GM Shipov was distracted with the three simultaneous coaching engagements he had throughout his stay in Australia (1 in Canberra and 2 in Sydney)?

Except for GM Shipov’s disappointment, overall, the foreign raiders did come back with a vengeance at the SIO! Well done, mate!

Cheers mate!

Ah… It is finally time for me to sign off and pack my bags to board the plane out of Sydney back to Malaysia. Hooroo, mates…! Err… that actually mean “goodbye” in Australian slang, guys. Luggage, camera, laptop, passport, air ticket – I’ve got everything with me already as I head off to the airport. Oh, I almost forgot to bring along a bottle of Crown Lager.

What better way to complete my stay in Sydney if not by savoring Australian’s best beer before boarding the plane… Cheers mate!


About the author


Caption: Jumpa di Kuala Lumpur! (which is Malay language for ‘see you in Kuala Lumpur’)

Working full-time as a Public Affairs Manager at Procter & Gamble (Malaysia), Edwin Lam is highly passionate about the game of chess. Having grown up with an artistic feel of life, he somehow went about doing a degree in Commerce at Monash University’s main Clayton campus in Melbourne. Being the only child in the family, he had to follow his heart, not his head, and chose to return home to Malaysia, upon graduation. Knowing something was amiss in life, he started fiddling with the advertising industry, when he started working. Here, he deepened his love for writing – be it copy-writing, copy strategy development, article writing or even translation work.

As a lifestyle writer, his work has been published in Plan B and J-Trend based here in Kuala Lumpur. As a chess columnist, he has written for a host of international publications. Beginning with a regular column in the now defunct Philippine-based Chess Asia, he has branched out and contributed to the Melbourne-based Chess Kids as well as Australian Chess, which is under the editorship of FM Brian Jones. Since the beginning of 2007, he has also been contributing chess articles and chess book reviews to the Arvind Aaron-led Chess Mate magazine (India) as well as Black & White (India). One of his most well known articles is the nice profile he wrote about GM Yasser Seirawan that appeared in the US-based ChessCafe.com. He also contributes regularly to the world’s top chess news site, Chessbase.com. His writings that have graced the web pages of Chessbase.com include:

Previous articles

Besides being a chess columnist, he is also currently coaching the school team of his alma mater, Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Secondary School, in Klang. Aside from chess, he enjoys motor racing (Formula 1, Formula Nippon and the Japan GT Championships), besides photography and traveling. Without doubt, he does all the photography of his articles.


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