The Aussies are coming – in chess

1/3/2008 – Australia, a country with a giant sports obsession, has just 471 rated chess players (two GMs, 13 IMs). But it is an emerging chess nation that, by sending large contingents to major international events, is moving in the right direction. Australia sent seven players to the Commonwealth chess Championship. Here are photo profiles of each of them.

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Go Aussie, Go!!

Photo report by Praful Zaveri

This is one country which identify itself with sports. The Aussie pride take a big hurt if their sportspersons do not perform up to their expectation and, that is the precisely one of the reasons why they seek excellence in their every participation. They are nearly unbeatable in cricket, hockey, rugby and swimming, wherein they have churned out legendary icons like Sir Don Bradman (cricket), Sir Ric Charlesworth (hockey), Matt Bowen (rugby) and Ian Thorpe (swimming).

So, can they lag behind in chess? Certainly Not! Agreed, that they have now just 471 rated players with two GMs, 13 IMs and eight WIMs, with their strongest player, GM Ian Rogers, rated at 2545. But they are improving at a fairly rapid place and hopes to stamp their authority soon. They are moving in the right direction and this is indicative of the big contingent they are sending to major international events like World Youth. Now for the first time they sent a big team of seven players for the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2007. Here is the photo profile of each of them.

Harry Hughes: The youngest of the lot, Harry is an eight-year-old grade-III student of the Samford High School, Brisbane. He has taken to Chess since last two years and is being trained by WFM Kieran Lyons. His best performance to date is winning the Gold Coast Junior event in Under-10. He has also won quite few other junior events. He admits that he found the going tough in this event, as he did not have previous exposure of such tournaments. But Harry has promised to come back strongly in his next visit. His favourite player is not Kasparov or Anand. He idolizes fiery cricketers, fast bowler, Brett Lee and hard-hitting Adam Gilchrist!! He has taken a liking for India though he feels that it would be better if it is less crowded!

WFM Rebecca Harris: At first glance the 18-year-old would appear as glamour model, with her stylish attire. But she is a very serious chess player. Based at Sydney, Rebecca has been playing chess for eight years, with her best performance in the Youth Olympiad at Kualalumpur in 2002. A student of pyschology, she has taken chess lessons from IM Gary Lane. She normally plays 7-8 tournaments but admits that this event is very strong. Besides chess her love is jazz dancing.

WIM Alexandra Jule: She would like to become a Primary School Teacher. 18-year old Alexandra has been playing chess for 11 years now, and earned her WIM title at Fiji Zonals in May 2007, which was her best performance to date. Trained by Karry Croker, who is teaching chess in schools at Goldcoast, she has played in two World Juniors in Georgia and Turkey in 2006 & 2007. Alexandra is now herself assisting Karry in taking chess to all schools in Goldcoast but, her first priority is to become a school teacher. She is typical Australian, whose first love is sports. This was her first visit to India and was impressed by the playing strength of the Indian kids.

WFM Oliver Shannon: The 18-year-old is based at Canberra and studies bio-medical science. She has played in the World Junior 2006 but feels that this Commonwealth is much, much stronger. Unlike a majority of Australians, she hates cricket! Her first love after chess is basketball and netball. This is her first visit to India and Oliver feels that this is the most happening place in the entire globe. She is enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Indians!

Oliver Gareth: The 18-year-old is currently rated 2164. A native of Canberra, he studies computer science and is a big freak for computer games. Besides chess he loves Japanese fencing. He has played at Youth events at Greece, France and Spain. He found this tournament very different and exceptionally good.

Benjamin Harris: Brother of WFM Rebecca Harris, 15-year-old Ben is a tenth grade student. His best performance came in the World Youth and Doebarl Cup, where he clocked average rating of 2250. He has been coached by IM Gary Lane. Besides chess he is a big cricket fan of Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar.

IM David Smerdon: This is David's third visit to India. Previously he came to participate in the World Youth and World Juniors He is currently ranked third in Australia. David has already got three GM norms and has represented his country in two Olympiads. He also plays in the Netherlands league for almost six months in a year. He feels that Australians are beginning to taste success at international chess events. He himself was the entrusted the task of coaching the Youth team for the Antalaya WYCC this year, where three of his students came very near to winning a medal. A native of Brisbane, he is a big fan of cricketer Mathew Hayden.

IM Aleksandar Wohl: This player need no introduction. A veteran of four Olympiads, Alex, aged 44, is now based at France, where he stays with his wife and daughter. He plays professional chess in the French league and for Weilheim in the German league. His best performance was at the Turin Olympiad, where he clocked a rating performance of 2650 with a score of 7/8. He loves biking and collecting mushrooms! He simply loves India as he feels that it has the best food in the world – vegetarian food!


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