Chess Classic in Queenstown – an adventure down under

1/22/2009 – 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.

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Queenstown down under

You may be wondering why we are not at the Queenstown Chess Classic. Well, let us first remind you where the place is. Basically, if you look down at your feet, and then imagine looking through the entire globe, you will see an island group that is New Zealand. It takes like a week to get there. So we decided to wait until they move it somewhat closer, as they are currently doing (don't miss the wonderful little film!). The bad news of course is that it's going to take them around 250 million years.


Down under – Australia, New Zealand and the Arctic continent

As we told you last year Queenstown is set out along the S-shaped Lake Wakatipu, is home to the world’s southern-most wine producing region, and is also one of the few towns closest to the South Pole. The 45th parallel location of the town means that the Queenstown Chess Classic is possibly the southernmost FIDE-rated chess event in the world! If you see a bird flying over the tournament venue it is more likely than not to be a penguin.


The southernmost FIDE-rated chess event in the world?

The 2009 Queenstown Chess Classic, is being held from January 15th-24th January 2009, in the Millennium Hotel, with a prize fund of NZ $50,000 (US $37,000).

Standings after eight rounds

# Player Fed. Title Rating Pts

1

Smerdon, David C

AUS

IM

2463

7.0

2

Rozentalis, Eduardas

LTU

GM

2590

6.5

3

Mikhalevski, Victor

ISR

GM

2608

6.5

4

Mastrovasilis, Dimitrios

GRE

GM

2580

6.5

5

Bischoff, Klaus

GER

GM

2545

6.0

6

Johannessen, Leif Erlend

NOR

GM

2539

6.0

7

Dragicevic, Domagoj

AUS

2205

6.0

8

Saw, Geoffrey

AUS

FM

2257

6.0

9

Reilly, Tim

AUS

FM

2256

6.0

10

Jones, Gawain

ENG

GM

2540

5.5

11

Goldenberg, Igor

AUS

FM

2398

5.5

12

Wells, Peter

ENG

GM

2513

5.5

13

Ker, Anthony

NZL

IM

2321

5.5

14

Wohl, Aleksander H

AUS

IM

2342

5.5

15

West, Guy

AUS

IM

2346

5.5

16

Chow, Samuel

AUS

2267

5.5

17

Solomon, Stephen J

AUS

IM

2460

5.5

18

Johansen, Darryl K

AUS

GM

2455

5.5

19

Shen, Daniel

NZL

2098

5.5

20

Hecht, Hans-Joachim

GER

GM

2394

5.0

21

Brown, Andrew

AUS

1987

5.0

22

Krivec, Jana

SLO

WG

2343

5,0

23

van Delft, Merijn

NED

IM

2397

5.0

24

Motoc, Alina

ROU

WG

2358

5.0

25

Lyell, Mark

ENG

FM

2287

5.0

26

Smith, Robert W

NZL

FM

2281

5,0

27

Zawadzka, Jolanta

POL

WG

2385

5.0

28

Bakker, Sven

NED

2233

5.0

29

Van Riemsdijk, Herman

BRA

IM

2392

5.0

30

Ikeda, Junta

AUS

2247

5,0

31

Steadman, Michael

NZL

2273

5.0

32

Drummond, Matthew

AUS

2236

5.0

33

van der Elburg, Freddie

NED

2277

5.0

34

Stojic, Dusan

AUS

2219

5,0

35

Levi, Eddy L

AUS

FM

2219

5.0

We were just kidding with our introduction above. We did not make it this time, in spite of enthusiastic invitations of the organisers, but we do have a reporter down there. Evi Zickelbein is from Hamburg and undertook the daunting journey. As did other players. Below is her pictorial report.

The Queenstown Chess Classic 2009

Report by Evi Zickelbein

New Zealand is one of the dream destinations in the world, and any full-blooded chess player will quiver with excitement at the thought of playing in a chess event there. And if you can combine the participation in a strong Open with a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, the the rather strenuous trip to the other end of the world is well worth your while.

The invitations were sent by Murray Chandler, New Zealand's only GM, and fortunately we were able to book decent flights in October. Our 34-hour-journey took us from Amsterdam to London, Los Angeles, Auckland and finally Queenstown on the South Island. We were greeted with the great advantage of travelling all that way south: we landed in the middle of Summer. Back in Europe people were having to bear severe cold and frost, something we could leave behind for a period of three weeks.


Frozen plants – what we left behind in Europe


We start our journey at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, more or less heavily dressed:
Freddie van der Elburg, Sven Bakker, Eva Maria Zickelbein and Merijn van Delft.


Chess Players on a Plane – without Sam L. Jackson or special effects


Merijn tests the very strong cabin chess program called Kasparov ChessMate


At last we arrive at our destination – this is what it looks like, Queenstown Bay...


...and a view of Queenstown itself, with clear skys and bright sunshine


A view from our balcony window – sunshine, mountains, forests and wifi


My first encounter with a New Zealand Kiwi – who would have though they are so big?

Before the start of the tournament we had a little over three days to get to know Queenstown and its surroundings. We took our first steps by touring in a jet boat on Wakatipu Lake and Shotover River


Ready to go: Freddie van der Elburg, Eva Maria Zickelbein, Merijn van Delft, Sven Bakker


These boats sometimes travel at speeds of 85 km/h in waters that are just ten cm deep

In the Wakitipu Lake aquarium you can watch hungry ducks dive down three metres to argue with giant fisch over food pellets that tourists can drop in by inserting a dollar in a machine.


Climbing Queenstown Hill – I wanted to quit halfway, but the others egged me on


The incredible feeling you have when you reach the summit


Even I made it, as this photo clearly proves


And this is me too – I actually survived the paragliding in this spectacular landscape


The Queenstown Classics is held in the Millenium Hotel, which provides excellent facilities

The playing rate of the ten-round Swiss is a pleasant 100 minutes plus one minute increment per move, starting from move one. A speciality of the event is that every player can take two "byes" up to round seven, something I only know from Dutch weekends. In Holland it is to help young players who cannot go on until after midnight; in Queenstown it is in the interest of sight seeing, allowing players to visit Milford Sound and the fascinating world of the National Parks. Taking a bye gets you half a point. Here are a few pictures from the event:


A top pairing from round four: GM Klaus Bischoff vs IM Alex Wohl (1:0)


On table three IM Merijn van Delft loses to the young English GM Gawain Jones


WGM Jana Krivec – with thanks to Amiel Rosario for this photo


Sven Bakker playing against the young australian Talent Justin Tan, watched by a number of friends.


Sven was lucky to survive a tough rook ending and achieve a draw


The initiator and promoter of the Queensland Classic: GM Murray Chandler

Murray, who guaranteed the prize fund while searching for sponsors, said: ""I wanted to underwrite it as a thank you to the New Zealand chess community who were great to me when I was a junior and did everything they could to send me abroad. I've done very well as a professional player."


A picture of all the title holders – one of them is sure to win first prize

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