The annual NSW State Chess Championships began this afternoon. Unfortunately, due to work and study commitments - yours truly will not be able to cover the first round. But I do hope to be there for all other rounds. As usual, we'll bring you games, photos and exciting commentary.
One thing I'm praying for is that the NSWCA bureaucrats actually remember to lay out the carbon-copied scoresheets so we can easily keep track of games. (Speaking of the NSWCA, it looks like the webmaster has changed the colour of their website).
This year's top section is rather weak. Here are the ten players in the round robin.
Alex Mendes Da Costa
My money is on FM Greg Canfell, a four-time winner of the event including a trifecta between '96-'98. However, I think fellow fide master, Max Fuller will surely give Greg a good challenge. Max is himself a multiple title-holder having won it for the first time in 1965!
Despite his powerful performance in last year's World Youth's - I doubt if Raymond Song possesses enough stamina over the long haul. With more maturity, OTB and mentally, Ray will definitely be stronger in years to come. As for the rest, I do like Andrew Bird and I reckon he'll nip at the heels of Canfell and Fuller right throughout. In last year's edition, Andrew beat Canfell in their individual match-up and completed the event in equal third (5/9). Da Costa is a fast improver but possibly needs more work against stronger opposition. Last year he won the second section on 8/9 and finished with the same number of points on first in this year's Junior Masters. It will be interesting to see how he handles a sustained 2000+ opposition.
The others are highly seasoned players but I doubt if they'll pose a serious challenge. For the sake of solidarity, I'll say a prayer or two for my compatriots - Capilitan and Cabilin.