Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - Preview

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
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.

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