Saturday, 12 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - With 1 round to go

The final round of the 2007 Oceania Zonal is being played today, and there are a number of players still in with a chance of finishing first. After 8 rounds 4 players share the lead on 6 points. They are IM Zong-Yuan Zhao (AUS), FM Igor Goldenberg (AUS), FM Puchen Wang (NZ) and FM Bob Smith (NZ). For the FM's reaching 6 points is also the first step in earning an IM title, although FIDE rules only allow the awarding of one such title in an Open Zonal. This means that the highest scoring player, or the player with the highest tiebreak in case of a tie, will get the title.
Interestingly, none of the 4 leaders play each other in Round 9, meaning that the final round is likely to be played for "keeps". IM Zong-Yuan Zhao has the easiest pairing of the 4, with White against James Morris (AUS). Igor Goldenberg has it tough against IM David Smerdon, and Bob Smith will find it hard against a motivated ex NZ international (now representing Australia) Igor Bjelobrk. Puchen Wang is playing fellow NZ player Stephen Lukey, in a game where Wang is favourite.
So my fearless final round prediction is that Zhao and Wang will both win, with Wang earning an IM title, and Zhao finishing with the better tie-break.
In the Womens Zonal, IM Irina Berezina (AUS) is a full point ahead of Alexandra Jule (AUS), and therefore only needs a draw against WIM Nancy Lane to take outright first. I suspect that this will be the outcome of that game. Jule is playing Imelda Flores (PNG), and given her form I expect Jule to at least draw that game. Jule already has enough points for the WIM title, but a draw would make that a certainty, as there is a group of players on 5 points. Given the small size of the Womens Zonal field, there are a couple of pairings that almost guarantee at least 2, and possibly 3, players will reach 6 points.

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