Gawain Jones leads Commonwealth Championship

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Gawain Jones leads Commonwealth ChampionshipGawain Jones is leading the Commonwealth Championship with 6.5/7. With four rounds to go, the English grandmaster is half a point ahead of a group of sixteen players, including three times winner Nigel Short. The tournament also sees a few excellent bloggers.

The Commonwealth of Nations is an association primarily of former members of the British Empire and is often referred to as simply "the Commonwealth". There's also an annual Commonwealth Chess Championships and this year it takes place from June 25th to July 4th in the Emperors Palace Hotel Casino & Convention Resort in the City of Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, South Africa. The event functions as the South African Open Chess Championships simultaneously.







There are over 700 participants with more than 40 titled players, headed by three times past champion GM Nigel Short from England. There is also a strong Indian contingent present including former World Junior Chess Champions GM Abhijeet Gupta and IM Harika Dronovalli.

The tournament is an 11-round Swiss and the rate of play is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with the addition of 30 seconds per move from move 1. The overall winner will receive R20000 in cash (a bit over 2000 Euro) plus a 7-night holiday vacation for up to ten people in a private house bordering the Kruger National Park.

Obviously for a country like South Africa it's quite a special thing to have a number of grandmasters playing. The organizer made sure that the local chess fans could enjoy this as much as possible, with on the day before the first round (Friday, June 24th) a lecture by Nigel Short and a 120 player simultaneous exhibition featuring Abhijeet Gupta (India), GM Abhijit Kunte (India), GM David Smerdon (Australia), GM Gawain Jones (England), GM Pablo Lafuente (Argentina) and IM Harika Dronovalli (India).

The playing hall without players...

The playing hall without players...



...and here with players

...and here with players



One of the organizers, Steve Lythgoe, is writing a highly entertaining blog about the tournament. An short bit from his first post:

The first entry in my blog, the anticipation, the tension, the drama, the inability to think of an appropriate opening line. Yesterday was the first day in the 2011 Commonwealth Chess Championship, and this blog will look at the tournament through the eyes of MER, the 1600 chess phenomenon from the rustic East Rand.

My chess club el capitan, GJ, whose club consists primarily of a bunch of people getting their chess kicks through bi-weekly consumption of various alcoholic beverages whilst playing blitz and doubles, decided that he had a heavy pennance to pay for large amounts of sins committed in a previous life, and decided to organise the Commonwealth Chess Championship (CCC), a task akin to trying to wipe out corruption in FIFA, get the Lions rugby team to win the Super 14 and other mundane tasks.

There is a plethora of foreign accents flying around the venue, I feel like I am in some international refugee camp caught between the aid workers and the UN people handing out food. Germans, Brits, Argentines, Angolans, Belgians and several others are all of the people who will be lining up to cut me up into tiny pieces of chopped liver and distribute over the general landscape.


Later Steve did a profile of Australian GM David Smerdon, who happens to be a very talented writer himself. Smerdon is in the middle of a huge trip that started in Chile and continued in Argentina, Uruguay before he headed to South Africa. David is planning to continue travelling to Namibia, Botswana and then back to South-America before a second period of studying in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Here's a bit of what David posted about the Commonwealth tournament:

David SmerdonGawain [Jones, CV] and I were put to work and made to earn our keep after the safari, giving lectures and simuls to the local JoBurg clubs. Overall I managed to sore 51 from the 53 simul games, but the real fun came in the question and answer sessions afterwards. Most of the locals here have never had the chance to see a grandmaster, let alone play or talk to one, and while I felt bad that they were stuck with a second-rate master such as myself, I happily obliged, vividly remembering how excited I was when I first encountered a GM. (It was Darryl Johansen, at a tournament in Toowoomba back when I was seven. Nervous as hell, I crept up to watch his game, Darryl being deep in thought. Overcome with nerves similar to lion-watching, my grip on my water bottle tightened so much that the plastic made a loud “CRACK-CRACK!” right next to my board. He looked up, glared at me and with a dismissive hand flick, muttered, “Oh go away, will you!” I ran out of the hall and it wasn‘t til we actually met over the board many years later that I gained the courage to actually speak to him.)

The questions were good, the setting pretty informal and I have to say the whole chat was really fun. Most of the questions were predictably about what life is like on the pro circuit and what steps are involved in becoming a GM, but there were some other, more unusual gems in there as well. Probably the most conversationally provoking was, “Do you find that being a chess grandmaster ruins your love life, and makes it hard to meet girls who understand your chess?” I’m not sure the answers Gawain and I gave were reassuring; I responded with “Well I’m single and married to chess” and Gawain added “My fiancé’s a chess player herself, so I’m not sure that counts.”


Gawain Jones is leading the tournament after seven rounds. He was the only player with a 100% score after six games and then drew with IM Sahaj Grover. However, there will be four more rounds to go and for the titled players the real tournament starts now. Unfortunately the organizer are having trouble getting the games live online, and Mark Crowther of TWIC is doing his best to get the games. He managed to get a bunch of rounds 2, 5 and 7 and here's a selection from those:

Selection of games rounds 1-7



Game viewer by ChessTempo


Commonwealth Championship 2011 | Round 7 Standings (top 30)
Rk. Naam FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 GM Jones Gawain CB ENG 2596 6.5 15.5 32.50 2103
2 IM Huschenbeth Niclas GER 2502 6.0 15.5 29.75 2023
3 IM Grover Sahaj IND 2485 6.0 15.5 28.75 2119
4 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2604 6.0 15.0 29.50 2131
5 IM Kobese Watu AKW RSA 2355 6.0 15.0 28.00 2018
6 IM Mokal Prathamesh S IND 2405 6.0 15.0 28.00 1973
7 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2682 6.0 14.5 28.50 2164
8 FM van der Nat Nicholas P RSA 2308 6.0 14.5 27.00 1992
9 GM Smerdon David AUS 2520 6.0 14.5 25.50 2022
10 FM Jere Daniel ZAM 2344 6.0 14.0 27.00 2049
11 IM Harika Dronovali IND 2520 6.0 14.0 25.75 2048
12 GM Laxman Rajaram IND 2446 6.0 14.0 25.50 1985
13 GM Kunte Abhijit IND 2526 6.0 13.5 27.00 1983
14 IM Ringoir Tanguy BEL 2399 6.0 13.5 25.75 1933
15 CM Modi Jaishil RSA 1790 6.0 13.5 24.00 1902
16 Davies Jason S RSA 2048 6.0 10.0 22.00 1778
17 GM Lafuente Pablo ARG 2555 5.5 16.5 27.50 2108
18 WGM Subbaraman Meenakshi IND 2317 5.5 14.5 25.75 1958
19 IM Sachdev Tania IND 2416 5.5 14.0 23.00 1879
20 CM Bouah Lyndon RSA 2147 5.5 14.0 22.00 1928
21 Dole Anant RSA 2103 5.5 13.5 24.00 1936
22 Klaasen Calvin J RSA 2068 5.5 13.5 22.25 1934
23 Simutowe Musa ZAM 2119 5.5 13.0 22.25 1882
24 Makoto Rodwell ZIM 2166 5.5 12.5 21.00 1778
25 Pitso Fusi P RSA 1949 5.5 11.5 19.75 1876
26 Stevens Tristan AUS 2087 5.5 10.5 18.75 1705
27 CM Cawdery Daniel J RSA 2274 5.0 15.0 21.50 1988
28 CM Goosen Anton RSA 2182 5.0 14.5 22.50 1967
29 IM Karavade Eesha IND 2343 5.0 14.5 22.50 1893
30 FM Barrish Daniel RSA 1678 5.0 14.5 21.50 1846



Of course the invited GMs played some simuls - here Abijeet Gupta making a move

Of course the invited GMs played some simuls - here Abijeet Gupta making a move



Photos © Günther van den Bergh, more here



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