A Major Success at the 2018 Doeberl Cup
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A Major Success at the 2018 Doeberl Cup

GM Illingworth

This post is all about the 2018 Doeberl Cup, which was just played over the Easter holidays in Canberra - but my focus won't be on the Premier Division. One player has already shared an introspective of his Premier tournament. Note: You may have a more enjoyable viewing experience by muting the video. 

With that comedic interlude out of the way, let's get down to the real story: how my students dominated the Doeberl Cup Major (restricted to players rated below 2000). 

Those of you who already saw the final results will know that, unlike the Australian Juniors, where the Victorians take most of the titles, this time it was two NSW junior players, both of whom are my students, who finished outright first and second.

In outright second was the 2017 City of Sydney Junior Champion, Sterling Bayaca, who achieved a career-best result with 6/7, a performance rating of 2103 and a 129.2 FIDE rating gain. He doesn't have any games in the database - an asset well known to give a 100+ performance boost in competitive play - so I will keep it that way for now! However, I know that Sterling solved a lot of tactics puzzles before the tournament, which everyone knows to be a good idea, but not many players do this effectively.

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As for the tournament winner, Matthew Clarke, this was undoubtedly also his breakthrough event, scoring 6.5/7 (usually 6/7 is the winning score in the Major), a performance rating of 2262, and a 103.2 FIDE rating gain, bringing him back over 2000 FIDE on the next list. To be fair, this result didn't come completely out of the blue, for last month he had achieved his first draw with a Grandmaster in competitive play:

The game is all the more impressive considering that Anton went on to win the 2018 Ballarat Begonia Open with 6/7, equal with Australia's man of the moment, IM James Morris.

Returning to the Doeberl Cup, Matthew won his first three games against lower-rated players, before facing another promising NSW junior, Cameron McGowan (the top seed at 1960 FIDE). As you'll see below, it was a very sharp and exciting main line King's Indian:

While my notes may seem overly critical, in truth it was an extremely well played game by Matthew for such a complicated position, with his CAPS score of 98.77 (and 80% of his moves being Stockfish 9's first choice) translating to a game performance over 3100, which speaks for itself. No wonder then, that one of my friends recently told me 'Matthew is a beast'
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Matthew's only draw was to Sterling in Round 5, where Matthew completely outplayed his opponent, but Sterling defended like a lion and saved the draw. The importance of such a skill is often overlooked at the amateur level, so let me share an example at the highest level:
In Round 6 of the Doeberl Cup, Matthew had an easy win on Board 1 against the only other player on 4.5/5:
Going into the last round, I knew one of my students would finish in first place, as Matthew was leading on 5,5/6 from Sterling on 5/6, with a group of players on 4.5/6 hoping for a miracle. Only in the last round did Matthew show any nerves, letting his opponent escape from a strategically losing middlegame into an ostensibly tricky endgame, but in the end it was his opponent who collapsed from the last-round pressure and made the critical blunder:
So, what was the secret of Matthew's success and sharp increase in the quality of his play? I asked after congratulating him on his success, and he observed that he had substantially improved his time management, playing obvious moves more quickly and spending most of his time on the more critical decisions. The result was that he avoided serious time pressure and therefore his overall play was stronger. 
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Of course, I am very proud of the success of my students, and happy that they were able to successfully apply some of the ideas (both chess moves and training methods) I'd indicated in our work together. 
If there's enough interest, I may also write a report on the Doeberl Cup Premier Division from an online spectator's perspective, as I have a rather large choice of instructive games and positions! In any case, I'd also like to congratulate the following players for their success:
  • GM Timur Gareyev and IM James Morris for sharing first place. GM Timur Gareyev won the tournament on tiebreak, while this was James's second Doeberl Cup triumph, which gives him an excellent chance of making Australia's 2018 Batumi Olympiad team. 
  • FM Brandon Clarke achieved his first International Master norm, drawing with GM Deep Sengupta in the last round from a position of strength. His live FIDE is now quite close to the necessary 2400 for the IM title.
  • IM Igor Bjelobrk was very efficient against his fellow IMs, scoring 4.5/5 against them! His patience in the key last-round win against overperforming IM Irene Kharisma Sukandar particularly impressed.
  • IM Trevor Tao had a great Day 3, defeating top seed GM Qun Ma convincingly and then coming close to beating GM Deep Sengupta (game was drawn in a R+B vs. R ending).
  • There was interest right across the tournament table, with players such as Yuto Otawa and FM Dusan Stojic performing far above their rating.
  • Shaun Curtis had a fantastic Doeberl Cup Blitz event, finishing in equal 3rd place!
  • Oliver Yang played a nice attacking game in the last round of the Minor, in a must-win game against Lachlan Lee - both players tied for first with 6/7, with Oliver claiming the tournament on tiebreak.

Thanks for reading this blog post. Have you played in the Doeberl Cup before? If so, what's the best game you've played there? If not, where do you normally play chess around Easter? Comment below, let me know!