Doeberl Cup, The

Fifty Years of Australian Chess History

Bill Egan

Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
336 pages

The Doeberl Cup is not only Australia’s richest tournament (i.e., it offers the largest prizes – around $19,000 in recent years), it has also been a yearly “happening” since 1963. During that time all the best Australian players have frequented the event, while foreign chess luminaries like Larry Christiansen, Eduard Gufeld, Paul van der Sterren, Simen Agdestein and many, many more have also tried their luck in snagging the cash and glory.

This large book covers the first forty-nine Doeberl Cup tournaments, and discusses the 50th with the title: 2012 – Into the Future. The chapters are designed in a most original way. For example, they give the date and the winner. There follows a quotation about chess, many of which I’ve never seen before. After that we get a taste of Australian news from the Canberra Times, with the story taking place during the tournament weekend. Next up is chess news from the year of the event. And next… well, let’s take a closer look:

Chapter 1: 1963 – Winner John Purdy

“O thou whose cynic sneers express
The censure of our favorite chess,
Know that its skill is Science’ self,
Its paly distraction from distress.
It soothes the anxious lover’s care,
It weans the drunkard from excess.” (Abdullah In al-Mu’tazz)

The World (tournament weekend headlines)

* Police arrest Doctor in Profumo enquiry: Police yesterday arrested Dr. Stephen Ward and charged him with living on the earnings of prostitution.

The Chess Year

* Tigran Petrosian becomes world champion, beating reigning champion Mikhail Botvinnik by 12.5 – 9.5 in a match that ran from March 22 till May 20.
* Max Fuller wins the Australian Junior Championship.

Venue: Haydon-Allen Building (ANUY) DoP: G. Treimanis Entry: 29 Prize Fund: £100.

After this we get a write-up about the event, a profile of the winner (Purdy) and a second profile (close to two pages) of Frank Arthur Crowl. I enjoyed how the chapter ended with Crowl’s Favorite chess book: My System by Aron Nimzowitsch. “He soaked him up like a sponge.” – CJS Purdy.

As a fan of Cecil John Seddon Purdy, who was way ahead of his time when it came to lucid chess instruction, I was delighted to absorb the personal bits and pieces about him and his family. And this highlights one of the book’s major attractions: history! The mix of news, players’ lives, and anecdotes bring this book to life and make it hard for me to not ignore the games and round-by-round and leap into the next chapter and its secrets!

I have to admit that I was also mesmerized by each year’s Entry and Prize Fund. As given above, the first year only saw 29 people play in the event (the £100 prize fund might seem tiny by today’s standards, but that was quite a reasonable sum way back in 63!), but 40 followed in year two and, as time went by, more and more people began to view the Doeberl Cup not as a mere tournament, but as a multi-cultural event. A good example is the 2010 edition, which featured 30 FIDE title holders: China’s Li Chao (2613), Ukraine’s Vladimir Malaniuk (2582), the United Kingdom’s Gawain Jones (2556), India’s Magesh Chandran Panchanathan (2543), Abhijit Kunte (2528), Dibyendu Barua (2479), Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury (2429), Atanu Lahiri (2368, Dinesh Shrma (2361), Bulgaria’s Dejan Bojkov (2505), Slovakia’s Stefan Macak (2470), and New Zealand’s Helen Milligan and Hilton Bennett.

Other than the prose, The Doeberl Cup is filled with annotated games and game fragments. And, when you reach the final page, you’ll find a little gift waiting for you: a CD-ROM disk with over 6,000 games from the event!

If you are an Australian then this is a must own book. But if you love chess history, annotated games, wonderful photos, and the ups and downs of a seemingly endless parade of great players, then you’ll find that the $39.95 price tag is money well spent, no matter what country you’re from. Personally I had a great time reading this book (a true labor of love from author Bill Egan), and I’ll make sure it has an honorable home on my bookshelf, ready to be grabbed and enjoyed many more times in the future.