It's Victorian Interschool Chess Finals week and today saw the Middle Years Competition in action. This tournament sees a top end of Primary years added to the lower High School years. It encompasses kids in years 5-9 which is great as Primary players get a chance to compete with Secondary players rather than being thrown straight into the older group, and years 7-9 have a competition where they aren't having to compete with older kids from High School.
While it might sound like a half-way house competition, the Middle Years event has been extremely popular, and very competitive. Previous winners of the Victorian Middle Years event have included Bobby Cheng who is now a Grand Master and Ari Dale who is now an International Master!
Todays tournament made history as it was won by a Primary School, with only years 5 and 6 players. Balwyn North Primary won a very close competition by just 1 point from St Michael's while the defending champions, Mazenod were a further half point back in third place. Just to show how strong Primary School chess is in Victoria, Balwyn North only came third in yesterday's Primary Finals!
Leonard Goodison was the event winner scoring an incredible 8.5/9. Leonard comes from regional Victoria and this may be one of Ballarat's best results. In this position Leonard is White and has a lot of pressure. If you were Black what would you play in defence of your position? Black actually played 1..Bd7 but this was a mistake which allowed mate in 3. Can you see how White would win?
After yesterday's Junior Primary event, today came the turn of the full Primary division at the Victorian State Interschool Championships run by Kids Unlimited. And we witnessed one of the most thrilling finals tournaments that we can remember. Over the 9 rounds the score changed many times with four schools all having the lead at one point. In the end, the 2020 Victorian Interschool Chess Champions are Glen Waverley Primary!
In the final round, the final game to finish was between players from the two leading schools and through the arbiters Zoom meeting, everyone followed the game which decided the tournament!
There were lots of excellent individual performances with players of different levels doing their best for their schools. The game that interested me most was between the tournament's top individual scorer, Rheyansh Annapureddy (Saltwater College 8.5/9) and the third place getter of the event, Malhaar Mehta (Balwyn Primary 7.5/9). Their encounter was a really tough fight that either side could have won with a slight change of moves.
Malhaar as Black has built up a strong position with a good central pawn wall, an excellent rook on the f-file and a bishop that is eyeing up White's king through the centre. Black has a couple of tempting looking moves here: 1..Nc5 hitting the queen and getting ready to advance the central pawns: 1..Rxf3, an exchange sacrifice that brings White's king into the centre. But Malhaar tried 1..d4 which allowed Rheyansh as White to give up his rook for two pieces. 2.Rxe4 Bxe4 3.Qxe4. The game moved on a couple of moves to the next position.
White's pieces are in excellent position and Rheyansh made no mistake in finishing the game off here. 1.Ng5 forking Black's queen and the h7 square. 1..Qh6 2.Qd5+ Kh8 3.Nef7+ forking king and queen and opening the e-file! 3..Kg8 4.Rxe8# Not even bothering to take the queen! See the full game here.
Since lockdown started in Victoria, Australia, Kids Unlimited have been running online events, and one of the most popular has been Chess @ 4. This is a 5 round swiss event running Monday to Friday at 4:00pm during the school terms here in Victoria. We have now run over 100 of these events!
But thanks to Victoria's success at fighting Covid, schools have returned and we realise that some kids might not be able to get home at 4:00pm so for this month we are also running Chess @ 5, exactly the same but just starting an hour later at 5:00pm. For this month, all subscribers for one event can play in both events, so that's double the practice for the same small cost!
After October, we will return to just one event, but we want to include our players in the decision as to which event is best. After all, we are running these events for all of you. So you can support either Chess @ 4 or Chess @ 5 by playing in your favourite time slot, adding a comment to this blog, or sending your ideas to Kids Unlimited.
Meanwhile, here's my favourite checkmate of the week, from the player who was probably the player of the week, Michael Ooi. Last week Michael won every Chess @ 5 event, and 2 of the Chess @ 4 Premier events.
Michael is Black and has built a big attack on the king side. I'll start the week easy for you all as there's a mate in 1 in this position.
Black to play and mate in 1 move
This week sees the Victorian Junior Interschool Finals for chess over different sections. Today was the Junior Primary event, a tournament for players of Grade 3 or below. It was a fiercely competitive event with only 4 points splitting the top 6 schools! The lead changed lots of times throughout the event, but in the end the winners were Doncaster Gardens Primary School!
The top scorer of the day was Glendal Primary's Deethya Sai Katakam who scored an amazing 9/9. Deethya played very solidly, and once she was ahead in material, she finished the games off fairly easily. There were some big fights for her.
Deethya is White and has just played b4 attacking Black's bishop. This bishop doesn't have many safe squares, so see if you can save it. You can see if Black managed to save their bishop, and check your own ideas here.
State Finals week continues tomorrow with the Primary Division followed by Secondary events on Wednesday and Thursday, and a Girls Only tournament on Friday. These are shaping up to be great tournaments. There are already close to 200 players in tomorrow's Primary finals!
Chess @ 4 is a series of tournaments that Kids Unlimited have been running on the Tornelo platform since April when Australia went into lockdown making online chess the only way to keep in practice. Since the start I've run most of the tournaments, and seen thousands of games. I've seen lots of regular checkmates, tactics, and endgames, some interesting strategies, and some unusual ideas. But this week I saw one of the most unusual positions of all!
This was the final position in a game this week with Michael Iurovetski playing White. It's an incredible checkmate delivered by the knight on h5, which is already an unusual type of mate. But there are another two knights also on the h-file! Remember, knights don't like the edge of the board, they prefer the centre. So do most of the other pieces, but every piece (except Black's king) is sat on an edge of the board. If it was just a couple of pieces, I could understand, but I'm not sure I've seen a position where so many pieces were on an edge, eight pieces in total if White's king isn't included!
White has obviously built a big lead in material and you can see how here.
We have come to the start of term 4 in Victoria. It really doesn't feel like we've had most of a year already. This year has been difficult for most of us, but it looks as if Victorian schools will be starting back again soon. And if we can find a "covid-normal" situation, then restrictions may be eased enough for players to return to face to face tournaments. Until then, Kids Unlimited will continue with running tournaments on Tornelo including Chess @ 4 and Chess @ Noon.
During the school holidays we ran the Victorian Youth Championships. These were age group categories with under 7's, under 9's, under 11's and under 15's. The games were played using a slow time control, with the oldest age group having 45 minutes for the game plus a 10 second increment per move. The longest games were taking over one and a half hours!
There are also still a lot of Interschool events coming up, with State Finals in October and the National Finals to follow towards the end of the term.
Here's a position that I saw in an Interschool event this week.
It is Black to move. Neither player could see a way to break through so after moving theirs kings, they agreed to a draw. Can you help to find a win for Black?
When you've solved it, check your answer here.