2012 Queenstown Chess Classic starts with one hammered van

1/16/2012 – This nine-round FIDE rated tournament, which takes place from 15th-23rd January 2012 in Queenstown, New Zealand, was cast into jeopardy when the Hammer hardware van containing most of the tournament equipment was smashed beyond repair by an out of control oncoming vehicle. A salvage company came to the rescue, as you will see in our giant pictorial report.

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2012 Queenstown Classic under way

The 2012 Queenstown Chess Classic (incorporating the New Zealand Chess Championships) is being played from 15th-23rd January 2012 at the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown's premiere events venue. It is a nine-round FIDE rated tournament, with one game per day, and title norms possible. Time Control: 100 minutes for each player for the first 40 moves (followed by 50 minutes/20 moves and 15 minutes/remaining moves) plus 30 seconds increment for each move played, from move 1. This is equivalent to 2 hours for the first 40 moves, and thus conducive to top quality chess.

Half-point byes in the Queenstown Chess Classic: To give flexibility to chess enthusiasts combining the tournament with a holiday: Any player may elect to take up to two half point byes, to be taken no later than round seven. However, any New Zealand player who wishes to be eligible to win a New Zealand National Championship title (or an automatic Olympiad team spot) must play all nine rounds. Anyone taking a half point bye must advise the arbiter prior to the round starting the previous day. Half-point byes are not allowed for invited players who are receiving conditions.


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It surely qualifies as one of the World’s most remote – and stunningly beautiful – locations for an international chess tournament. Queenstown, in the Southern Lakes area of the South Island of New Zealand, this year attracted 148 adventurous players, plus accompanying friends and family. The tournament – sponsored by GM Murray Chandler – is held at three year intervals (2006, 2009 and 2012). While there is a certain logistical challenge involved (Queenstown doesn’t even have a chess club), the organizers now have a super-smooth routine in place in bringing in officials and equipment.

Or so they thought. This time, disaster struck. Nearing the end of a 1500 km three-day journey from Auckland, the Hammer hardware van containing most of the tournament equipment – clocks, chess sets, computers, DGT boards…) was smashed beyond repair by an out of control oncoming vehicle. Chief organizer Paul Spiller and his wife Joanne were lucky to escape unscathed. They were taken to hospital by emergency services for check-ups, and for a few tense hours the fate of the tournament equipment remained in doubt. Fortunately the day was saved by the salvage company agreeing to bring the written-off vehicle to Queenstown (some 60 km away), where passing GMs pitched in to help unload.

Pictorial report of round one and of one hammered van

Photos by Wolfgang Thiele


The chess banner flies at the Millennium Hotel – but where are the chess sets?


Several hours after the smash the wrecked van – containing the vital tournament equipment,
down to flags and scoresheets – is delivered to the venue. The date? Friday 13th.


Helping unload is German Grandmaster Klaus Bischoff. There was broken glass
everywhere, but incredibly only one laptop and a few clocks were damaged.


After unloading, Chief Organiser Paul Spiller salvages his number plate from his written-off
van. In New Zealand number plates can be any word you choose, within reason.


Sponsor Murray Chandler still looks worried – the equipment has not yet been checked for damage. Rustling up replacements in this remote wilderness would not be easy. Maybe play on Lord of the Rings chess sets


At long last: the arbiter table, ready for action


A colourful display of flags – in fact players from 18 different countries are playing


Paul Spiller opens the tournaments while arbiters Shaun Press, Keong Ang and
Craig Hall look on. The Queenstown event is run by a team of expert volunteers.


Phew. The Opening Ceremony is over and Paul and Murray are relieved that everything is back on schedule.


22-year-old top seed Li Chao (rated 2693) versus Karl Zeleco (rated 1990) in round one. Despite the 703 rating point difference, Karl put up a fight before succumbing – even reaching a single rook ending with equal pawns.


Despite a 451-rating point advantage WIM Christin Andersson was held to a draw by
talented New Zealand junior William Li. Maybe these Kiwis are a little underated…


Chess can be a tough game – sometimes you need Teddy for moral support


GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly and his wife Sudeshna look remarkably relaxed despite
a sequence of flights taking over 24 hours to get them from India to Queenstown.


Ingrid and Klaus Bischoff also played in Queenstown in 2006. This time they concentrated their pre-tournament sight-seeing on the majestic South Island, including a wonderful overnight stay on a boat in Doubtful Sound.


Mr and Mrs Quentin Johnson. Quentin is an enthusiastic player and organizer from
Dunedin, and also Treasurer of the New Zealand Chess Federation.


Sponsor Murray Chandler flanked by WGM Irine Sukandar (Indonesia) and WGM Vivian Gu (China)


WGM Kruttika Nadig, also from India, won her first round game, against promising
New Zealand junior Winston Yao.


Have you seen what Dr Nunn has said about my games? Li Chao is joined by GM Zhao Xue, mega-famous after her incredible result of 9.5/11 in Nalchik last October. In the middle is Zhao Xue’s mum.

GM Li Chao and GM/WGM Zhao Xue discuss the latest Gambit chess book, John Nunn's Understanding Chess Middlegames, which is a prize in the ChessBase Christmas puzzle. That tall fellow on the right is IM Paul Garbett, a well-respected player and past New Zealand Champion. And the lovely girl helping out on the bookstall...


... is actually Claire Barker, a fashion designer with her own label


Sponsor Murray Chandler, who is Managing Director of Gambit Chess Books, chats with Brian Jones, enthusiastic player and owner of Australian Chess Enterprises in Sydney and President of the Oceania Chess Confederation


Arbiter Keong Ang works hard preparing the live broadcast. His expert skills prevailed,
despite the demise of the main computer in the car crash. On the table the trophies


GM Darryl Johansen (right) looks a bit jet-lagged, but duly beat fellow-Australian David Lovejoy. And who is that thinking In the back-ground, playing his fifth New Zealand Championship? Why it is IM Herman Van Riemsdijk. From Brazil. Of course.

About the photographer: The multi-talented Wolfgang Thiele, originally from Kassel in Germany, now lives in Devonport, Auckland (in the North Island of New Zealand). His hobbies are photography and drinking coffee at the Stone Oven café.


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Previous ChessBase reports on the Queenstown Chess Classic

Chess Classic in Queenstown – an adventure down under
22.01.2009 – It is like a zillion miles away, and it takes you weeks to get there. Well, not quite – more like 34 hours. But the journey is well worth undertaking. You get ten days of chess, and can tack on another ten days of adventure and nature in one of the last wild spots on our planet. We didn't make it to Queenstown, but received this big pictorial report from our intrepid reporter Evi Zickelbein.
Murray Chandler wins Queenstown Chess Classic
08.02.2006 – This is LOTR country – Lord of the Rings to the uninitiated. It is the adventure capital of the world. for people who like fast jetboats or bungy jumping, an activity invented in Queenstown! But it also paid host to a big chess tournament, with many interesting new faces. Big pictorial report.
Lord of the Kings – Queenstown Chess Classic
08.05.2005 – Like to visit New Zealand? We know that it is on the other side of the globe, but it is Lord of the Rings country. The excuse for going: there is a very attractive tournament in Queenstown. You can combine chess with the holiday of a lifetime!

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