Canberra Times, January 28, 2001
It is axiomatic that the winner of a chess tournament must have some luck, and the final day of the Australian Junior Championships in Canberra last Tuesday saw Zhao Zong Yuan enjoying good fortune in spades.
Half way through the last round of the Championships - arguably the strongest ever held - Zhao probably believed that the national under 18 title was beyond reach.
The Coffs Harbour 14-year-old International Master trailed Brisbane's David Smerdon by half a point and his chances of surviving, let alone winning, his final game appeared slim.
In addition, Smerdon, Australia's other teenage International Master, was well on top against Sydney's Michael Lip and seemed likely to complete a convincing start to finish tournament victory.
However, after disappointment in 2000, fate smiled on Zhao in 2001 as he turned around his game against Melbourne's Denis Bourmistrov to score a win against the run of play. Almost simultaneously, one careless move by Smerdon, the 1999 Champion, led to the top seed's only loss of the tournament and handed the title to Zhao.
In a humble acceptance speech, Zhao acknowledged his luck and paid tribute to Smerdon, 16, as his inspiration. It is likely that neither Zhao nor Smerdon will compete again in a national junior tournament, concentrating on adult and international junior events.
With Australia's two top girl players, Laura Moylan and Catherine Lip, competing in the open division of the junior championships, the race for the Australian Girls' Championship was wide open and Melbourne 11-year-old Michelle Lee became the youngest-ever winner of the U/18 crown when she edged out Shannon Oliver of the ACT.
Overall, the national titles proved that the south-eastern States have been moving ahead, at the expense of former junior power Queensland. The 12 national titles decided in Canberra were shared four apiece by Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. The ACT's result was particularly commendable, with Dusan Stojic's 100% score in the U/12 tournament being the third consecutive year that an ACT player has taken out that division.
Australian Junior 2001
Australian Junior Championship
Australian Girls' Championship
Correction: Based on his first nine games in the New Zealand Championship Chris Depasquale scored an IM result.