The Australian Schools' Team Championships were held at various venues across Australia on 4th and 5th December.|
Each year, the winning teams from each of the Australian states' school chess leagues are invited to compete in the Australian Schools' Team Championships. Traditionally, this is held as an over-the-board event in early December, with the host state determined by rotation. This year, the event was held as a hybrid/online event for the second time in two years. While teams were spared the considerable expenses involved in interstate travel to the Championships in its traditional format, there were some challenges involved with arbitering and ensuring the integrity of this year's online tournament, all the while managing the technical specifics. And it meant an early start for both organisers and players in WA on both days. Fortunately, thanks to the help of many volunteers, it all ran quite smoothly.
WA was represented by the winners of the 2021 CAWA Schools Chess League: Perth Modern School in the Secondary Open and Secondary Girls' divisions, Oberthur Primary School in the Primary Open division, and Nedlands Primary School in the Primary Girls' division.
The playing conditions and anti-cheating measures were applied to a degree that is consistent with other high-level tournaments, although extra safeguards were needed for an online tournament. The chess server that we used was set up to prevent cheating, by tracking mouse movement and recognising whenever a player left the browser tab from which their tournament game was being played. Each arbiter would be tasked with watching 8 players (and their screens) at a time, and would ensure not only that the players were not able to access information from outside sources, including communicating with other players or watching other games. Zoom was used as a communication avenue between the state organisers and the national team of Peter Tsai (Chief Arbiter), Hughston Parle (Chief Organiser) and David Esmonde (Website and Technical Organiser), which enabled any venue-specific issues to be identified quickly and allowed the tournament to start and finish on schedule.
Each of our 19 players was required to participate using their own laptops. Due to the absence of any IT support at the time of the tournament, players were unable to connect to the chess server using the school network. However, team coordinators were generous in providing WiFi hubs to enable their respective teams to participate.
Each division comprised 6 teams: one from each of the participating states (ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia). The tournaments consisted of 5 rounds in a round-robin format.
The Secondary Open team from Perth Modern School (Chas Underwood, Christopher Manasseh, Ben Hurst, Alex Pimenov) scored 6.5/20, finishing 4th out of 6 teams, though they were unlucky not to score at least a couple more points. All players showed great tenacity, but the absence of top board Jamie Laubbacher meant that the match-ups were more difficult on all four boards.
The Secondary Girls' team from Perth Modern School (Anouhska Gupta, Heidi Gstaettner, Victoria Chai, Sophie Sadekova, Paula Gruber, Jasmine Wu) scored 7/20, finishing 5th out of 6 teams.
Our Primary Open team from Oberthur Primary School (Oscar Gao, Angus Chen, Francis Lopez, Adam Chung) scored 8.5/20 to finish 4th out of 6 teams. This team was the highest-scoring of our 4 WA teams. If not for some wasteful play in the early rounds, the team could have been in the running for a medal.
The WA Primary Girls' team from Nedlands Primary School (Nithuli Liyanage, Olivia Hou, Yonje Lee, Sherry Yan, Emma Chong) scored 5.5/20 to finish 5th out of 6 teams. This was a brave effort by a young team of players, many of whom show great potential, but the absence of their top board, Emily Zhang, was clearly felt.
The WA Arbiter Team comprised myself, John Pimenov and Alan Wolstencroft (for 2 rounds). My thanks go to my arbiter team, and especially to the team coordinators: Leanne Ensly - Perth Modern; Jessie Kong - Oberthur Primary; John Pimenov - Nedlands Primary. All three team coordinators were instrumental in providing the technical help needed so that all of their players could connect to the chess server on their own devices, and they were professional in ensuring that their players knew what to expect. Despite the confusing format, each player was made to feel comfortable, and knew at all times where they needed to be, and where they stood in the tournament. Again, our thanks go to Leanne Ensly who, for the second year running, secured the excellent venue, assisted in the planning and preparation for the event and arrived early on both days to open the library and help us with setting up.
Report provided by: FA Andrew Hardegen (Senior CAWA Vice-President)