THE first ever international chess event in Solomon Islands’ soil took place in Honiara from September 24-28 and wound up a resounding success.
The visiting Australian players lived up to their billing as favorites by occupying the upper half of the cross table of the 9-round closed competition. However, this did not come easy as the Aussies encountered stiff opposition from the spirited Islanders. Their surge came only in second half of the 5-day tournament.
Initially ranked 3rd, Shaun Press emerged as the clear winner of the first Solomon Islands international chess championship. Press, a mainstay of the Papua New Guinea team to 4 consecutive Olympiads since 2000, registered an unblemished record of 7.5 points from 6 wins and 3 draws. With steady and cautious strategy he grabbed the lead in round 7 and never relinquished it.
Press is concurrently the secretary of both the PNG chess federation and the Oceania zone. He maintains a blog known as ChessExpress where he posted daily highlights since day one of the chess event .
FIDE Master Brian Jones, editor and publisher of Australasian Chess magazine, was also undefeated and finished solo second with 7 points from 5 wins and 4 draws. Brian is renowned as slow-starter but with a strong finishing kick—a character he showed again in this event.
Tied for 3-5 places, all tallying 6 points apiece from identical 5 wins-2 draws-2 losses counts, are FIDE Master Lee Jones, Fernando Aguilar and Kerry Stead.
Brandon Tangaibasa is all alone in sixth place with 5 points scored from as many number of wins matched with 4 losses.
The lower half of the cross table were occupied by Scarden Tesua with 2.5 points, Price Tepuke and Takika Tuata with 2 points apiece, and Budds Maruia with 1 point.
Local chess officials were very pleased with the performance of their local players especially their most experienced representative, Aguilar, who led all scorers with a perfect score of 5 points at the halfway mark after 3 days of play.
Aguilar, however, tired out in the second half of the event. His winning streak came to a halt when he was held to a draw by FM Brian Jones, which enabled Press to catch up and shared the lead with him after 6 rounds. He finally capitulated the lead to Press when he suffered a heart-breaking loss to compatriot Tangaibasa in round 7.
His woes were compounded by a second consecutive drubbing from the resurging Lee Jones. He ended the event with a mutual draw with Press in the last round. Still Aguilar’s performance can be described as superlative for having held his own against the visiting Australians by scoring 50% initiated by his win against Kerry Stead in the first round.
Tangaibasa could have caught up with the triumvirate of Lee Jones, Aguilar and Stead. However, instead of a win he suffered an unfortunate loss in the last round inflicted by compatriot Tepuke, demonstrating the fighting form and spirit of the Islanders. He is the only national, aside from Aguilar, who has scored a win against the overseas guests when he defeated Lee Jones in round 5.
Aside from the experience of an international competition on local soil all the resident participants will obtain FIDE ratings -the main objective of this event which was concocted by Oceania zone president IA Gary Bekker and organized by the Solomon Islands Chess Federation. The next FIDE Rating List comes out on November 1.
A benchmark has been set by this event which the chess federation will use as standard in preparing for and participating in future international competitions.