Just as the Australian soccer team's world record win over American Samoa in a recent World Cup qualifier became the subject of international derision, the Oceanic chess zone has been a laughing stock since its creation in 1998.
The Oceanic zonal tournament is one of the weakest World Championship qualifying tournaments in the world; apparently an attraction for the players who supported the split from the rest of South-East Asia in 1998.
However the outcry against the large number of low rated Masters being created from our zonals led to Oceania's own politicians urging the world body FIDE to restrict Oceania to one 'soft' International Master title per event and two soft FIDE Master titles.
This year's open zonal tournament on the Gold Coast was less than world class, with Australia's top three and all but one of New Zealand's best players absent plus a tail made of amateurs happy to pay a large entry fee to be allowed to compete in a World Championship qualifier. Add to this mix the new fast FIDE time limit and two games per day and the likely winner was anybody's guess.
After a final round which could have seen a six-way tie for first place, top seed Michael Gluzman fell over the line and, after a playoff with long-time leader Mark Chapman, qualified as Oceania's representative at the 2001 World Championship.
Chapman's result, although impressive, would not normally have been enough to secure even an International Master result. (Three such results plus a minimum rating of 2400 are needed to earn an IM title.) However because Chapman was the top-scoring non-International Master who achieved a 2/3 score in the zonal, he recieves the IM title automatically.
In a much more representative women's zonal, Ngan Phan-Koshnitsky outlasted favourite Irina Berezina-Feldman to qualify for the Women's World Championship and also earn the Women's IM title. The key game in that tournament came in the penultimate round when Berezina, after surviving enormous pressure from Phan, made an ill-conceived winning attempt when the game had reached the 30 seconds per move phase and was severely punished.
This week's game is the key last round encounter from Easter's Doeberl Cup; Sydney's Gary Lane in brilliant form against the Australian Open Champion.
Lane - Djuric
Canberra Doeberl Cup 2001