Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Australian Championship/Open Issues (Pt 1)

"If you lower your expectations far enough, then anything can be a success"

I am tempted to attach the above quote to the current state of Championship events in Australia. Over the last two years we have seen a poorly attended Australian Open (yes I was an organiser of this event) and a better attended Australian Championship. Some might even go so far to say that this indicates that the Open was a failure but the Championship was a success.
I would disagree, as I don't believe numbers are everything. Indeed I would argue that the "success" of the 2008 Australian Championship is in fact a troubling sign for future Championship events. An increase in numbers from the Open disguised the fact that the number of titled participants did not. In Canberra (so far away, no where to stay) there were 4 titled Australian players (GM's Rogers and Johansen, IM's Zhao and Rujevic). In Sydney (4,000,000 people) that number stayed the same (GM Johansen, IM's Solomon, Lane and Xie). What is more troubling is that while the previous couple of opens (Mt Buller, Canberra) have been poorly attended, they have at least provided reasonable prize pools. Of course this resulted in both tournaments running at a loss. The 2008 Australian Championship avoided this trap by reducing the prize money (by almost 50%) but this left first prize for the Championship at $1500. To put this into perspective, this is also the first prize in the O2C Doeberl Cup Under 2000 section. So if Kasparov's argument about prizemoney determining championship status is to be believed, then there is some undervaluing of the Australian Championship going on here.
And this gets me to the core of my argument. There seems to be an acceptance that the Australian Championship can be devalued in some ways (prize money, format) as long as the thing is held. Of course this then becomes a slippery slope where the current format becomes the norm, until it become imperative to lower the bar further.

So to remedy the situation, I think we need to have a look at the whole Championship/Open format .... (To be continued in Pt 2)


Denis Jessop said...


I fully support a review of the format etc of the Australian Championships and Australian Open. In fact such a review is now being put in train by the ACF.

A couple of brief comments on your thesis so far.

1. Titled Players

If one looks at the top players in Australia as listed in the current rating and removes all players below IM the result is as follows:

2605!! 0 NSW Rogers, Ian [GM]
2560!! 0 NSW Zhao, Zong-Yuan [IM]
2471!! 0 VIC Smerdon, David C [IM]
2439!! 7 VIC Johansen, Darryl K [GM]
2429!! 21 QLD Solomon, Stephen J [IM]
2414!! 15 NSW Xie, George [IM]
2377!! 7 NSW Lane, Gary W [IM]
2352!! 26 QLD Froehlich, Peter [IM]
2337!! 1 VIC West, Guy [IM]
2312!! 14 VIC Sandler, Leonid [IM]
2303! 7 SA Chapman, Mark [IM]
288! 0 NSW Feldman, Vladimir [IM]
2232!! 16 VIC Rujevic, Mirko [IM]

that is, 13 players of whom Rogers has retired and Froelich, West, Sandler, Chapman and Feldman hardly ever play at all, most of them preferring to coach juniors. Rujevic is also doubtful. That leaves 6 or 7 players who could be expected to play though perhaps West, Sandler and Rujevic would be more likely were the event in Melbourne. The position regarding activity of our leading women players is even worse.

Consequently, as things now stand, expecting more than 6 or 7 titled players is not a reality. GM Dejan Antic, who is not registered as an Asutralian player will usually enter but his future here is uncertain. My hope here is that the rising young players, headed by Zong-Yuan Zhao and David Smerdon, will eventually render the absence of the "coaching IMs" irrelevant.

2. Downgrading the Championship

As I'm sure you know, the event at Parramatta was organised quite late and there was not a great deal of sponsorship. Thus the prizes were smaller than usual. To assume from this that the ACF is happy to see the event downdgraded is a false assumption. I believe that, had the only bid been the CV bid, the event would not have been held as the ACF would not have accepted it for pretty much the reason you mentioned - it would not have been an event of acceptable standard. As it was, the CV bid was third of three in the Council ballot.

Denis Jessop

Shaun Press said...

(1) Clearly we are looking at the same evidence, but drawing different conclusions. Sure a lot of those players no longer play (coaching is easier and financially stable), but I wouldn't exclude them as evidence of a problem, as they are the evidence of a problem. Why these players don't play in what is supposedly the peak chess event in Australia is a serious question.
(2) The lateness of a successful bid is no longer an exception, but rather the rule. And I am sure the ACF wasn't happy with the prizes on offer in this years Championship but I wonder where the ACF will draw the line between acceptable/unacceptable. If the ACF implicitly encourages people not to bid (as has been claimed elsewhere), until it becomes a sellers market, then almost anything goes. So is the ACF able to fix these problems or will these problems continue to drive the decision making process of the ACF?

Denis Jessop said...


For the present I'll confine myself to commenting on the suggestion that the ACF implicitly encourages people not to bid until it becomes a sellers' market. I don't accept that, or rather I wouldn't accept it if I knew what it meant (who is the seller and how can the statement be sustained?) The ACF would like bidders to abide by the time table in the relevant by-law that would enable an event to be allocated 18 months or not much less in advance. However in recent years (say the last 10 at least) the combined effect of a lack of bidders and a lack of resolution by the ACF to encourage early bidding (a near impossible task I might say) has resulted in many last-minute bids. Just as the ACF events format needs overhauling, so does its event allocation process - even more so.

Denis J

PS I relent and comment re point 1 that the fact is that the players in question don't play in either the Championship or the Open or in many other events either. Perhaps one has to ask the same question in relation the chess players generally even at club level though IMs have more to lose if they rely on their rating as a selling point for a coaching business. Isn't there also the question of "conditions"?

Anonymous said...

Hi Shaun,


This January I had the choice of playing in the Aussie Ch'p (as the TAS rep) or the NZ Ch'p. The NZ event was much more appealing. It had a great venue (top hotel conference room) and was somewhere other than West Sydney (I enjoyed playing in the 2007 SIO but I didn't want to go back to Parramatta so soon). In fact it was in a hard-to-beat locality (the Auckland waterfront). It also had almost all of NZ's top players with a few strong visitors to boot. I played several FMs and a GM (and players from three different contries). As an additional bonus I also avoided having to play too many super-talented, uber-coached and under-rated Aussie juniors - LOL. (Playing Mr Illingworth in the 2007 SIO caused me pain enough for one playing season).

And in coming years: if its a choice between a Queenstown Classic in NZ or an Aussie Ch'p or Open at the likes of Mt Buller: no prizes for guessing where I'll go!

See you at the 2008 Doeberl though.

Cheers, Tony Dowden