(NOTICE: This post has been edited from its original version with the addition of a direct quote from Peter Parr).
With only about a fortnight to go before the first round kicks off - the 2009 Australian Open Chess Championships, to be held in the northern Sydney suburb of Manly, is showing signs of being nothing more than an oversized weekender. The event appears to be beset with serious problems.
At the time of this writing, the highest-rated player is IM George Xie, followed by IM Mark Chapman (of South Australia) and two FIDE masters. Those four are the only titled players, local or foreign, who have so far entered the event. In contrast to the Australian Open, our Kiwi neighbours have attracted some serious ELO firepower to their upcoming Queenstown tournament to be held from 15th to 26th January. There are a number of familiar grandmasters - including Peter Wells (England), Klaus Bischoff (Germany), Eduardas Rozentalis (Lithuania) plus more - as well as international masters and FMs. There are also Australians who are listed as confirmed for the New Zealand tournament, but not for the Australian Open - for example, IMs Guy West, Solomon and David Smerdon.
Then this afternoon came further shock! Peter Parr, proprietor of Chess Discount Sales, withdrew his sponsorship which was valued, according to him, at AUD$5000.
Mr Parr (in a later email to myself): "This morning I was advised by email from the NSWCA President and ACF Deputy President Bill Gletsos that the Australian Chess Federation and the New South Wales Chess Association have not accepted my long standing offer of sponsorship. I therefore had no alternative but to withdraw my offer this afternoon."
This development means that the message currently appearing on the Australian Open homepage which promises a free copy of Informator or a glass chess set to each of the first 100 entrants is no longer valid.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, I've just now also learned that one of the organising committee members for the Australian Open, Chris Dimock, has also resigned. At present, Mr Dimock is listed as the contact for the Australian Open event.