Thursday, 7 February 2008

Australian Championship/Open Issues (Pt 2)

For reasons to do with geography the Australian Championship is held every 2 years. Since 1971 the Australian Open has been held in intervening years, but of late has been in a steady decline. So much so that I think the ACF should dispense with it.
The major reason why I think it is finished is that it no longer serves a purpose. Indeed the "Australian Open" as a title only served to add some gravitas to what is essentially a big multi-day swiss that attracts some overseas titled players. If there hadn't been a Lidums tournament in 1971, then I suspect the title would not have existed.
These days the "big international swiss" events are the Sydney International Open and the Doeberl Cup. They now successfully cater to the market that the Australian Open used to have, leaving the Australian Open without a purpose. The two things the Australian Open still has in it's favour are (a) continuity and (b) a rotating venue. The importance of (a) (in theory at least) is that as long as there is an ACF there should be an Australian Open. However I think that is a tenuous claim at best, as the ACF have always had a hands off approach to organising it, instead relying on others to do the work instead. As for (b) while this provides the opportunity for different states/cities to host an international event (rather than just Sydney/Canberra with the SIO/Doeberl), again recent practice has shown an unwillingness for states to bid for this event (eg most bids have come from non state association organisers rather than the state associations themselves).
So once you strip away the more historical justifications for such an event, then there seems little reason for holding it.
The Australian Championship on the other hand still fulfills an important roll. However (and this may be heresy to some) it isn't to determine the "Champion" player of Australia. Instead it is probably the only restricted swiss in the country that brings some (but not all) of the leading players together, while providing a springboard for the next group down (sub 2300) to make their mark. Of course having the tournament billed as the "Australian Championship" is essential for this to work, as it provides inducement for the top players to play. Of course this state of affairs isn't a bad thing, although it would be nice if more of the top players decided to play (see Pt 1).

This leads me to a suggestion regarding the Championship and Open. (1) Drop the Open completely (2) Make the championship an annual event (finally) by (a) keeping the championship format the same for the years it is currently held and (b) institute a 10 player RR every other year.
Of course one obvious objection to 2b is funding. If sponsorship attempts are unsuccessful (as they normally are), running an Open along side it seems to be an obvious alternative. The question then becomes one of budgeting ie would an Open/Reserves generate enough income to support a Championship.
The other objection is who gets to play in a RR, but frankly, any chess administrator who thinks such a problem is too difficult to solve clearly isn't interested in finding a solution in the first place.
So is such a suggestion practical. Well the canning of the Open wouldn't take much work (as indeed there are no bidders for the 2009 edition anyway), but would an organiser be able to set up a decent replacement. Frankly I'm not sure. There are some organisers who could do it once but for such a solution to work properly the ACF (yes this is the ACF's issue) needs to have in-house expertise to do this year after year. Does the ACF currently have this expertise? No. Will it have it in the future? It very well may depend on the outcome of their review into the Championship/Open

** Note: Some comments to this post contain language that you may find unacceptable. Whether you choose to read it is up to you.


Anonymous said...

Wow. You completely overlooked the real thing the Australian Open still has in it's favour ... the Spanish Iquisition! No, wait, that's not it ... the fact that it's an eleven round event, played no faster than one round per day. As nature intended (I think nature intended only nine rounds and that will be corrected when I rule the universe, but for now, eleven rounds is a reasonable replacement)! Both the Canberra and Sydney tournaments are shorter events with the insane multiple rounds per day format, which remove any sense of visiting another place, or having time to play serious games. Please, let's not confuse convenience of shorter time scales with being a replacement. It's an entirely different sort of event, akin to rapid play.

We can only hope Queenstown continues every few years so that at least there'll be one serious tournament available near to Australia.

Shaun Press said...

True, I did overlook that, all the more damning as I much prefer 1 round a day (eg When the Chess Olympiad moves to 2 rounds a day I'm sure the Apocalypse won't be far off).
However although I didn't add much meat to my suggestion of a RR championship, the supporting Reserves (if there is one) would be just such a tournament. What I had mind was the whole thing running over 10 days (and not necessarily in January)starting on a Friday and running through to the following Sunday with a single rest day (after Rd 5) with the rounds played in the Evenings (7pm start), with the intention that players from the host city (Melbourne or Sydney) could both work and play (if you can stand 8 hours of work followed by 5 or 6 hours of chess). Whether this format is (a) acceptable or (b) popular I don't really know at this stage.

Anonymous said...

Would an Open/Reserves generate enough income to support a Championship?

1. Fuck right off. Why should ordinary players sponsor a bunch of mediocre wannabe-elite players, who they don't even get to play against.

2. One round a day is for up themselves cock suckers who , think they are God's gift to the game of chess, when actually, chess is the gift to them.

Anonymous said...

The Australian Open was first held in 1949, not 1971.

Denis Jessop said...


A brief comment or two.

1. It may just be a co-incidence but your proposal to scrap the Open and run the Championship every year is exactly the proposal recently put for discussion purposes to the ACF by George Howard. Perhaps that means that the last two organisers of the event are still suffering post-event trauma? Otherwise how could two such diverse great minds think alike?

2. It is true that an event called the Australian Open was held in Melbourne in 1949/50 and Cecil Purdy later speaks of it as a fixture always to be held in Melbourne, unlike the Championship which was held in Brisbane in 1950/51 for the first time since 1924. But I doubt that it was an ACF event or that it lasted for long. The ACF records show the Open as beginning in 1971.

3. It is by no means heresy to suggest that the winner of the Australian Championship is not necessarily the best player in Australia. He is simply the person who has the title of Australian Champion for the next two years. There is a clear parallel in professional road cycling where the UCI (International Cycling Union) and all its affiliated countries hold a World or national championship (as the case may be) each year. The winner gains the right (indeed the obligation) to wear his Championship jersey when racing for the next 12 months. But nobody in his right mind would assert that that person is necessarily the best cyclist the world or in his country. The same goes for many other individual sports such as swimming and athletics.

Denis Jessop

Anonymous said...

One thing that FIDE has achieved in the last ten years or so is to divide Australian chess. We now have those players that will only play slow serious chess (one round a day) and others that are time poor that need a quick fix (including some days with two rounds).

Now there aren't enough chess players in Australia to support both so maybe tournaments like Australian Open are just dead in the water!

Also, SIO might struggle in 2008 as students may not be prepared to take time off school or college.
Have we got our priorities all wrong in this country? Is work more important than play?

Brian Jones

Denis Jessop said...

In response to Brian, I ask, If the Australian Open is dead in the water why isn't the Australian Championship also dead in the water?

Assuming your assertion to be true, which I do not admit, could the answer be that the last four Australian Opens have been held at Canberra, Penrith, Mt Buller and Canberra while the last four Australian Championships have been held at Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta? That is, Opens in the bush and Championships in the cities.


Anonymous said...

Australian Championships have an emotional attraction as all players want to play at the highest level possible.

But yes Dennis, I agree, both are struggling without sponsored venues at attractive locations.

If we have to pay commercial rates for venues then 5 days are more affordable than 11+ days!