Sunday, 31 January 2016

Putt for dough

Better to win the ending than to win the opening. Such is the nature of chess that 40 good moves can get destroyed by playing one bad move. Especially if this one bad move is when there are very few moves to choose from.
Magnus Carlsen had a fortunate win over Hou Yifan at the Tata Steel event, when his opponent swapped into a king and pawn ending, and immediately moved the wrong pawn. Instead of 45 ... a5, which held the draw, she player 45 ... h5 and Magnus pounced with 46.Kb4. With the king invading via a5 and b6, Yifan had to retreat her king, but this allowed Carlsen to swap the queenside pawns, and Yifan resigned as her other pawns were about to fall.

Carlsen,Magnus (2844) - Hou,Yifan (2673) [C42]
78th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (11.1), 29.01.2016

Saturday, 30 January 2016

London System is falling down?

The London System (1.d4 2.Bf4 or 2.Nf3 3.Bf4) is another off-beat opening that is starting to appear more and more at top level chess. It's use may be more of a surprise weapon than an attempt to build it into a fully effective opening system, but the fact that Carlsen used it to beat Tomashevsky at Tata Steel does give it a stamp of approval.
However just because it is a surprise, doesn't mean it is going to work every time. Following Carlsen's lead, Karjakin used it against Michael Adams in round 10 of the same event, only to end up on the wrong side of the win/loss column. To be fair to the opening, after move 20 things seemed to fine for White, and optically White's attack looks stronger than Black's. Where it really goes wrong for White is at move 25 where Karjakin's plan to run his king to safety on the kingside ironically makes it less safe, as the queenside needed an extra defender to hold it together, that being the White king itself.

Karjakin,Sergey (2769) - Adams,Michael (2744) [A45]
78th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (10.5), 27.01.2016

Friday, 29 January 2016

Go gets a little harder (for humans)

Compared to chess, Go has been a far more difficult game for computer engines to master. The larger search space (up to 381 possible moves per ply to search) has meant that brute force techniques haven't been that useful. At first this problem lead to researcher only looking a smaller boards (9x9) but then a modified Monte Carlo method provided  the next leap in strength.
Now researches at Google have developed a program strong enough to beat the European Go champion. Using neural nets the researchers were able to train the program to recognise positions and moves that were likely to lead to a favourable position, and from there the program's strength grew. As mentioned in this report, at first the program was very week, but after examining 30 million moves, and playing against itself, it twigged to what was needed to be a strong player. Having conquered Go in Europe, the big challenge would be for the program to take on the best players in Asia. I am not sure whether this will happen (although I do not think Man v Machine matches in Go are banned, as they are in Shogi) as the researchers are talking about moving their research in other directions.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The traditional first round draw

It now seems to be an established tradition that World Champions (present and former)  who return to play in Open swiss's (after a gap of a number of years) are destined to draw their first round. Kramnik and Carslen have done this at the Qatar Masters, while Anand has joined this group, with a first round draw in the 2016 Gibraltar Open. His (non-overawed) opponent was IM Szidonia Lazarne Vajda, who did not seem to mind the 400 rating point gap.

Anand,Viswanathan (2784) - Lazarne Vajda,Szidonia (2359) [A00]
Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2016 Gibraltar (1.3), 26.01.2016

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Chess for the next two months

If you are local to Canberra (or the surrounding region) then the next two months is going to be pretty busy in regards to your chess calendar. There are a number of upcoming events, not just locally, which you might want to have a go at. Most of these are also FIDE rated events, so if you are looking at getting an international rating as quickly as possible, here is your chance.

  • ANU Chess Club Masters and Challengers begins on February 3. The top section is an 8 player RR, while the challengers is a FIDE rated swiss, open to all
  • 2016 ACT Championship is on the 12,13,14,20,21 of February. This is a 9 round FIDE Rated Open, played over 2 weekends (with a Friday night start). Details at ACT Chess Association Website
  • 2016 Dubbo Open 12/13 March, Dubbo NSW. This is a 6 round weekend with a time limit of G60m+10s (ACF Rated)
  • 2016 Ballarat Begonia Open, 12,13,14 March, Ballarat Victoria. The number 1 weekender in Victoria is celebrating its 50th edition. 7 round FIDE rated Open Swiss
  • 2016 O2C Doeberl Cup, 24-28 March. Australia's biggest weekend event. Top 3 sections are FIDE rated, with title norms on offer in the Premier. Full details at O2C Doeberl Cup homepage
And for those that can't get away on weekends, there is still plenty of weeknight chess in Canberra. Click on the ACTCA link for details of all the clubs.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Gibraltar 2016

Gibraltar 2016 is starting tonight with the usual GM heavy field. Although there is a clash with Tata Steel, the highly regarded open still has plenty of grunt at the top. Hikaru Nakamura is the top seed, and the top 10 players are all rated 2700 or above.
Unlike the Qatar Masters (and other type events), this is truly an Open, with players rated as low as 1600 in the field. While not quite rated that low, two young Australian IM's, Moulthun Ly and Justin Tan are also playing. Gibraltar  has been a happy tournament for Ly previously, as he scored one of his IM norms there a number of years back.
The first round begins this evening (or early morning Australian time), although you can pick up earlier coverage of the Challengers event, which starts in the morning their time. All the details and results are on the tournament web site.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Perfect scores at Australian Juniors

The Australian Junior Chess Championships finished today, and both the Open winner and Girls winner scored a perfect 9/9. IM Ari Dale took out the title of 2016 Australian Junior Champion, finishing two points ahead of 2nd place Tom Maguire. Dale also won the Australian Junior Lightning with 10.5/11, so over 20 games of chess he dropped a single half point.
In the Girls Championship Zhi Lin Guo also scored 9/9, 2 points ahead of Alanna Chew Lee.  The lower age groups were more closely contested, with a number of dramatic final round games, at least based on the score tables.
The numbers for the event were comparable to last years tournament in Canberra, and I'm assuming that the organisers were happy with how it went. I'm not sure where next years event is scheduled to be held, but wherever it is I expect another large and enthusiastic turn out.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Your favourite move

Do you have a favourite move? By that I mean a move you like to play in many games (as opposed to that one game where your sacrificed your queen for mate). In answer to this question, some wags might answer 'checkmate!', but that's not quite the question I am asking.
For me it is the move Neg5 (or Neg4 if I am black). As mentioned here if I get to play this move, it is almost always because I have the big kingside attack going. And it also means I have not one, but two knights involved in the party.
Having spent a lot of the summer player bullet/blitz/10s chess with my son (and losing 75% of the time), he seems partial to g4/g5, especially early in the game. Although he has a far better positional understanding of the game than me, when g4 hits the board, it usually means he wishes to hack me off the board ("bringing the heat" he calls it). It does turn up in both the Keres Attack against the Sicilian, and the Shabalov-Shirov Gambit against the Semi-Slav, so it is a reasonably sound strategy.
To add to his collection of early g4/g5 openings, he can look at the following game from Tata Steel. Carlsen (as black) plays 10 ... g5 against Eljanov, although this is to drive the Bishop back. Eljanov actually gets in g4 a few moves later to stop any kingside shenanigans, but goes a bit to far with a speculative piece sacrifice. Although it gets him a lot of pawns, Carlsen regroups, cleans up the pawn mass, and happily reaches a winning ending.

Eljanov,Pavel (2760) - Carlsen,Magnus (2844) [E10]
78th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (7.1), 23.01.2016

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Fast CC

It seems that Correspondence Chess is no longer safe from the demands of this modern, fast paced society. As an experiment, the CCLA is trialling 'Fast' CC events, to see whether this fits the gap between traditional CC and on line turn based games. Of course 'Fast' is still not fast by real time standards, but the time control of 100 moves in 60 days, followed by 100 moves in 10 days is still pretty quick. The idea is to both give players enough time to make it through most of the game at a sensible pace, while not leaving the final stage to drag out over a period of months.
The first event is underway, and it looks like the players are getting into the swing of things. There are few games where both players still have their 60 days on the clock (due to the fact that moves that take less than a day are essentially free), and a couple of games that have ended surprisingly quickly.
In the game below both players rattled off their moves quite quickly, but while White was hunting the rook on a8, it was Black who crashed through on the kingside.

Anderson,Len (1212) - Ward,Bill (1585) [A10]

Friday, 22 January 2016

Chess - a waste of time

Chess both encourages gambling and is a waste of time, at least according to Sheik Abdullah al-Sheik, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti. It also causes hatred and enmity between players, said the Sheik Abdullah, in response to a question on a television show.
Not being an expert in Islamic law, I have no idea how this holds up, but I suspect like most religious laws, it is probably (a) contradicted somewhere else and (b) ignored by those most expected to follow it. Its most immediate effect is probably on the Saudi Arabian Chess Federation who may have problems organising their next event.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

IM Junta Ikeda wins 2016 ACT Lightning

IM Junta Ikeda has won the 2016 ACT Lightning Championship with a perfect 9 from 9. In second place on 8/9 was Michael Kethro, who is cementing his reputation as a rising force in ACT chess. He lost to Ikeda but a win over IM Andrew Brown was enough to keep hold of the runners up prize. IM Andrew Brown took outright third, losing only to the players above him.
A good turn out of 30 players contested the 9 round event. There were no disputes at all in the event, and on the few occasions I (as the arbiter) had to make a ruling, both players were happy to accept the outcome.
This event is the traditional start of the chess year in Canberra, with the next big event being the FDIE rated ACT Championships, starting on the 12th of February.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Life's little coincidences

In 1986 I had an enjoyable two weeks in Melbourne, attending the Australian Junior Championship. While I was too old to play (I was 19 years old), I accompanied a couple of friends (Paul Ingwersen and Justin Marshall) who did take part. Apart from the chess I watched some cricket and saw a couple of interesting movies (The Wall, Where the Buffalo Roam, and Reefer Madness) and generally had a good time.
Fast forward 30 years and once again I find myself in Melbourne. Obviously I am a lot older, and my trip to Melbourne is due to work rather than chess. But in what is one of life's weird coincidences I find myself staying in  hotel located right next door to where the tournament took place in 1986 (on these very dates IIRC). At the time the Victorian Chess Centre was located in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, and the tournament was played in their rooms. Shane Hill (who later became an IM) won the 9 round event, ahead of what was quite a strong field.
The VCA maintained the premises up until 1990 when financial issues meant they had to give up the lease. But around this time the Melbourne Chess Club were able to sell their small premises in North Melbourne to purchase larger club rooms in Fitzroy, and provide a venue for future events in Melbourne (including the 1993 Australian Junior)

Monday, 18 January 2016

Canberra Chess for 2016

The 2016 Canberra club season begins this week. The Tuggeranong Chess Clubs first club night was this evening, while the Canberra Chess Club opens on Wednesday evening, hosting the 2016 ACT Lightning Championship.
The 2016 ACT Lightning Championship is open to all ACTCA members. It will be held at the Canberra Chess Club, which meets at the Hellenic Club, Moore Street, Canberra City. It will be a 9 round event, with a time limit of G/5m. Registration is from 6:45pm and round 1 starts at 7:00pm. Entry is $10 for adults, $5 for juniors (plus ACTCA membership fees for 2016 - $25 Adults, $15 juniors).
The ANU Chess Club starts on Wednesday 3rd February, with the Belconnen Chess Club on the 9th February. Details about all the Canberra chess clubs can be found here.

Hack meets counter hack

Long time readers of this blog will know that when the French Defence features on these pages, it usually doesn't end well for Black. The French is like the Washington Generals of chess openings, usually turning up to make the other side look good.
But it sometimes turns out that the French can carry some bite. If White ignores Black's play on the queenside, then one false move can end in disaster. So for the sake of fairness, here is an example from the Australian juniors where White's kingside hack was more hope than science and Black was able to counter attack with remarkable speed.

Willathgamuwa,Kevin - Gooch,Heath [C02]
Australian Junior Under 16, 17.01.2016

Sunday, 17 January 2016

2016 Australian Junior

The Australian Summer of chess continues with the 2016 Australian Junior Championship starting today in Adelaide. Last years event in Canberra had a big entry and it looks like a similar sized field has entered this year.
IM Ari Dale is the clear favourite for the Under 18 Open event, being rated almost 200 points above the second seed in the 13 player field. As is the trend in previous years, the field for this years event bears little resemblance to last years tournament (Thomas Johnston seems to be the only player to return from last years tournament).
The Under 16, Under 10's and Under 8's Open events have also started, with another 100 players in those tournaments. Full coverage of the tournament, crosstables and standings, plus some live games, can be found at the tournament website.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

2016 Tata Steel

The 2016 Tata Steel (Wijk ann Zee) tournament starts tonight, with its usual collection of the worlds top players mixed with players of the next tier down. The headliners are Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana, with So, Karjakin and Liren not far behind.
As in previous years the event is a 14 player RR, so the chances of interesting games each round is high. Alongside the top event is the Challengers event, with the winner qualifying for the top event next year. Last year Australian IM Ari Dale played in this event (with some success), although this year he is playing in the slightly more modest Australian Junior Championship.
The tournament website carries all the details of the tournament. Games should begin at 11:30pm Canberra time (assuming I've done my maths correctly), so it will be late nights for local spectators.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Keres 100 year Anniversary

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul Keres. Considered by many as the best player never to play for the World Championship title, he was born in Estonia in 1916, but passed away at the relatively young age of 59.
There have already been a couple of events to celebrate the anniversary, and Estonia have commemorated Keres by issuing a 2 euro coin with his picture on it (he previously appeared on the Estonian 5 Krooni note)
He first became widely known at the 1935 Olympiad, with his win over William Winter being quite well known. However he scored a number of brilliant wins at this event, including the following game against Gideon Stahlberg.

Keres,Paul Petrovich - Stahlberg,Gideon [C02]
Warsaw ol (Men) Warsaw (18), 1935

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

You be the Arbiter

Based on a question put to me by Miles Patterson, how would you rule on the following scenarios

  • Player A is trying to checkmate Player B with only 3 moves left before Player B can claim a draw under the 50 move rule. Player B however loses on time and Player A claims the game. Player B then claims it should be a draw as Player A does not have a forced mate in 3 (which is true) and he would then claim a draw. What do you rule?
  • Same situation as above but in this case Player A has K+N and Player B has K+B. What do you rule now?
  • Same situation as the second case but neither player has claimed a draw under the 50 move rule and it is now 72 moves since the last pawn move or capture. Does your previous decisions change?

My answers in a couple of days, but for now, help yourselves.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

IM Bobby Cheng is the 2016 Australian Champion

Despite a dramatic final round loss, IM Bobby Cheng did enough to take the title of 2016 Australian Champion. Leading the tournament by half a point after 10 rounds, Cheng was demolished in under 30 moves by a fast finishing IM Junta Ikeda to remain suck on 8 points. But when his closest rival for the title FM Karl Zelesco also lost, Cheng became the new Australian Champion. However Cheng's loss allowed IM Kanan Izzat to overtake him to win the overall tournament on 8.5/11. As Izzat is still considered an overseas player the first prize he won did not have a title attached to it.
Cheng finished outright second on 8, while Zelesco was third on 7.5. Tied for 4th was a quartet of young Australian IM's, James Morris, Junta Ikeda, Justin Tan and Anton Smirnov.
While the performance of the younger players was a standout (and will give the 2016 Olympiad selectors some headaches), there were also some players who had less successful tournaments. Soon to be GM Max Illingworth never got going in this event, and the tournament top seed only scored 50%. GM Darryl Johansen started poorly, but finished with 3.5/5 to reach 6/11. IM Stephen Solomon was another player who ended up on 50%, while young Canberra IM Andrew Brown had a complete nightmare, finishing on 2.5.
In the Reserves tournament Patrick Gong from Western Australia won with 9.5/11, with Michael Kethro (ACT) second on 9.
Links to all the results can be found at the tournament website.

Ikeda,Junta - Cheng,Bobby [C11]
Australian Champiomship (11), 12.01.2016

Monday, 11 January 2016

Nineteen Seventy One

One of the interesting stats that came out of the 2015 Qatar Open was that it was the first time since 1971 that a reigning World Champion (Magnus Carlsen) had played in an Open Swiss. Of course "Open" in this case wasn't exactly Open, as there was a lower rating limit on the field.
The previous reigning World Champion was of course Boris Spassky, who played the 1971 Canadian Open. This was indeed a real Open, with the tournament field ranging in strength from 2441 all the way down to unrated. Curiously Spassky did not have the highest rating in the field, this hnour going to Duncan Suttles (2441). In fact Spassky was one of the "unrateds" in the field, as the tournament crosstable was published with Canadian Chess Federation ratings. Spassky did in fact win the tournament (like Carlsen), although he tied with Hans Ree (on 8/11), with Spassky's last round win enabling to catch Ree, who drew his final game.
Apart from these two players (Spassky and Carlsen), I suspect not many World Champions played such events during their reign. This has less to do with hubris though, and probably more to do with the fact that Swisses were not that common before the 1960's, and up until the 1990's Round Robin events were still the most common events for GM's to play in.

H is for Hack

While just catching up with the final results from the 2016 New Zealand Championship, I came across the following last round game. CM Hilton Bennett decided to finish the tournament as brutally as possible, playing the Centre Game, with the plan of hacking on the kingside. The hack began as early as round 8 with h4, but it wasn't until Black castled short that it really got going. Given the complicated nature of the position, it was no surprise that both players missed stronger lines (my analysis engine kept screaming 'd3 for black' at me), but eventually White's attack paid off with a rook sacrifice on h8.
As for the overall event GM Gawain Jones finished on 7.5/9 after a draw with GM Alexandr Fier (the game finished with KvK) to win the tournament by half a point. A loss by FM Alexei Kulashko to GM Nigel Short gave a number of NZ players and opportunity to claim the NZ Champion title, but in the end only FM Michael Steadman scored the required point and both players tied for the title.

Bennett,Hilton P (1958) - Nicholls,Leighton (1910) [C22]
New Zealand Open 2016 Devonport, Auckland NZL (9.26), 10.01.2016

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Australian and New Zealand Championships heading towards conclusions

Both the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Championships are into the home stretch, although the outcome of both is still yet to be decided.
Going into the final round GM Gawain Jones leads the tournament on 7/8, half a point ahead of GM Wenjun Ju of China. Having already played each other, Jones faces GM Alexandr Fier, while Ju is up against IM Deimante Daulyte. While the winner is likley to be determined by these two matches, there is still a chance that  a couple of players could catch up, if both tournament leaders lose. One of these players is FM Alexei Kulashko who is currently the leading NZ player on 6/8.
The Australian Championship has reached round 9 (out of 11 rounds), with IM Bobby Cheng and IM Kanan Izzat leading on 6.5/8. Izzat had lead the event with 6/6, but a loss to FM Karl Zelesco and a draw with GM Vasily Papin has slowed his charge. Zelesco briefly shared the lead with Izzat after 7 rounds, but a loss to Cheng in round 8 has left him tied for third on 6 points. One interesting round 89 pairing is the Zelesco v Luke Li match up, with a draw by Luke Li giving him an IM norm (I assume) while Zelesco just needs Li to turn up to earn his.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Material or Tempii

An interesting twist on Man v machine took place on over the last couple of days. Hikaru Nakamura played a 4 game match against the chess engine Komodo. To make the match more even (and interesting) Komodo gave Nakamura some sort of odds for each game.
The first two games were pawn odds (with Nakamura playing White and Black), and they both ended in a draw. In the third game Nakamura was Black, but had an exchange head start (White gave up the a1 rook, black the b8 knight) and this also ended in a draw. In the final game Nakamrua was White, but rather than reverencing material, received 4 moves to start the game (e4,d4 and Nf3 plus whatever he wished on move 4). It turned out this was the only decisive game of the match, with the extra tempo not helping White.  In the end Komodo reached a winning rook and pawn ending, although it did take 58 moves before the engine triumphed.
So the result, although close, does prove two things. Firstly, engines are getting stronger at a faster rate than humans can improve, and secondly, a couple of free moves are nice, but if they can't be converted to material, then they end up being of very little use at all.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

f6 then f7

IM Ari Dale played quite the brilliancy in round 6 of the Australian Championship. Up against GM Darryl Johansen, Dale generated a good attacking platform, using his f pawn to open up the f file for his rooks. Having done so he first sacrificed one rook for the defensive knight on f6, and then followed it up with another rook sac on f7. With the Black king exposed it didn't take long for Dale's Queen and Knight to harass, and then surround the unfortunate monarch.

Dale,Ari - Johansen,Darryl [E43]
Australian Championship (6), 06.01.2016

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

2016 Australian Championship - Non Australians lead

After 5 rounds of the 2016 Australian Championship IM Kanan Izzat (AZE) leads with 5/5. In second place on 4/5 are FM Luke Li (NZL) and FM Karl Zelesco (AUS). GM Vasily Papin (RUS) heads the group of players on 3.5, which also includes one of the tournament surprise packets, CM Jason Hu.
While the tournament lacks a sufficient number of GM's for players to score a GM norm, the large number of IM's in the field make this title far more achievable. Li, Zelesco and Hu have already played the required number of IM's for the norm, and all are performing over 2450. Of course there is still the case of scoring well enough over the next 4 to 6 rounds, but I would be surprised if at least one the players does not earn a norm.
In the Reserves tournament, 5 players share the lead on 4.5/5, including Canberra junior Michael Kethro. He plays WIM Alexandra Jule on the top board in tomorrows round.
Results and coverage of the tournament can be found at the event homepage.

Monday, 4 January 2016

For a change of pace

Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones performing Hoochie Coochie Man in 1981. It was of course originally released on Chess Records, and also appears (3 times) in the much underrated movie Get Crazy.

2016 New Zealand Open

Three and a half hours flight away, the 2016 New Zealand Open is also being held. Unlike the Australian Championship, the New Zealand Championship is held every year, although the format moves between Open and restricted swiss, depending upon the circumstances. In recent years it has been run as an international open, and has succeeded in attracting a very strong field.
This years tournament is headed by GM Nigel Short who is one of 6 GM's in the field. GM Gawain Jones is 2nd seed, and with GM's Alexandr Fier and Qun Ma there are 4 2600+ players at the top. There are 66 players in the Open, and another 52 players in the Major, which is running at the same time. Given the respective populations of Australia and New Zealand, the organisers have done very well to get a tournament of that size.
After 2 rounds the top seeds are still cruising, with all the GM's on 2/2. The title of New Zealand Champion is of course awarded to the best scoring NZ player, and at this stage there are also 5 local players tied for first.
Coverage of the event can be found at the tournament website. There is live coverage of the top boards with pgn files being posted a little later. With the difference in time zones, you can start your morning watching the action from Auckland, before moving onto the Aus Champs in the afternoon!

Short,Nigel D (2684) - Li,William Xiang Wei (2030)
New Zealand Open 2016 Devonport, Auckland NZL (1.1), 02.01.2016

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2016 Australian Championship begins

The 2016 Australian Championship began today at the Fitzroy Town Hall in Melbourne. The Championship event attracted a strong field of 34 players, with 2 Grandmasters (one from Russia) and 12 IM's. In the field there are 4 non-Australian players, although with the exception of Russian GM Vasily Papin, they are currently resident in the country.
The first round saw a few of the top seeds held to draws. Top seed Max Illingworth drew with FM Karl Zelesco, IM Anton Smirnov drew with IM Mirko Rujevic, and IM Justin Tan drew with FM Zachary Lo. Otherwise the results went to seeding, although a number of games went right down to the wire.
Alongside the Championship is the Reserves event which has attracted a very large field of 149 players. At the top end are a few players who wouldn't embarrass themselves in the Championship proper, so the likely winner of this event could come from anywhere.
The tournament website is and from there you can follow the links to results, coverage and downloadable games.

Hu,Jason (2121) - Wallis,Christopher (2327) [D11]
2016 Australian Championships Fitzroy Town Hall, Melbourne, (1.13)

Friday, 1 January 2016

2015 Chessexpress Australian Player of the Year

Since I have been doing this blog, the last post of the year is usually about who I think is the Australian player of the year. Although it is a day late, I am still continuing this tradition.
While non-Olympiad years usually cut down opportunities for Australian players, there were still plenty of opportunities for Australian players to shine. IM Ari Dale performed well at the Tata Steel Challengers early in the year, while IM Moulthun Ly had a good result in the super strong Qatar Masters.
However the player who probably had the most significant results for 2015 was IM Max Illingworth. He won the 2015 Oceania Zonal (tying with Brodie McClymont) and after winning the playoff, qualified for the 2015 World Cup. Then at the end of the year he scored his final Grandmaster Norm at the Australasian Masters, starting with 6.5/7 before eventually finishing 2nd on 7/9. He also tied for 2nd in the 2015 Australian Open, as well as tying for 1st in the 2015 NSW Open.
Therefore, based on his results throughout the year, and for earning the Grandmaster title, I am pleased to announce that Max Illingworth is the Chessexpress 2015 Australian Player of the Year.