The 2007 Oceania Zonal is only a couple of days away. The event starts on Sunday 6th May and runs until the 12th May. You can follow the results and games at the tournament website http://www.oceaniachess.com/
At the moment the Open Zonal has 30 entries, with half the field from Australia. The leading players are IM's David Smerdon, Zhong-Yuan Zhao, Gary Lane and Vladimir Feldman. There is also a group of players keen to earn either an IM title (for scoring 66% or better), or an FM title (for scoring 50% or better). Due to past rule changes, only 1 IM title and 2 FM titles can be earned.
My pre-tournament tip to win the Zonal is IM David Smerdon. He had a couple of good tournaments over the last 2 months (Bangkok and Doeberl), and although he had a mixed Sydney International Open, he has the drive to take first place. His main challenge should come from IM Zhong-Yuan Zhao, who had a phenomenal Australian Open earlier this year.
As for the players earning the titles I think that FM Puchen Wang (NZ) should become an IM, narrowly beating out the two Igors, Goldenberg and Bjelobrk. As for the FM titles it is a complete lottery, but I would like to see Stuart Fancy (PNG) and Michael Steadman (NZ) pick those up.
The Women's Zonal has a smaller field of 14 players. IM Irena Berezina is the clear favourite for this event I would be very surprised if she doesn't win. The surprise packet of the tournament may turn out to be Imelda Flores (PNG) who is returning to tournament chess after a long layoff. She had previously represented the Phillipines at the 1996 Olympiad before moving to PNG, who she now represents. Apart from Flores, Vivian Smith has a good chance of scoring an IM title, with Alexandra Jule my tip to earn an FM title.