Gawain Jones is new New Zealand Champion

by ChessBase
1/15/2016 – The first New Zealand Chess Championship was played in 1879. The 123rd edition took place from 2nd to 10th January in Devonport, an idyllic town close to Auckland. After nine rounds English GM Gawain Jones emerged as sole winner with 7.5/9, half a point ahead of Ju Wenjun, Ma Qun, and Nigel Short. IM Deimante Daulyte sends a large pictorial report.

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New Zealand Open Championship

Text and photos: Deimante Daulyte

View from Devonport to Auckland, New Zealand's largest city

Devonport is peaceful...

Devonport is a peaceful place, perfect for a chess tournament. You find everything you might need during your stay: a variety of shops, little cafés and restaurants, walking areas along the seaside, allowing you to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland. And if you get bored you can always take the ferry and ten minutes later you are in the heart of Auckland!

...and green.

The Esplanade - Devonport's biggest and oldest hotel

The tournament attracted a number of titled players from overseas, promising an interesting battle for the title of New Zealand Champion 2016 and the 1st prize of 2,000 NZ dollars. 66 players took part in the main tournament, including 6 GMs, 5 IMs, 1 WGM and 1 WIM. The top seeds were Nigel Short, Gawain Jones, Alexander Fier, Ma Qun, Matthieu Cornette, and Ju Wenjun.

The playing venue

Unless you read the report about the New Zealand Championship 2015 you may wonder why the tournament was played in a church. But the reason is very simple: GM Murray Chandler, the organizer of the event, decided to buy the church in late 2013 because he “got a bit bored” and established a chess centre in the church.

To tell the truth, the playing hall was just next to the church, on the left side of the picture, but nevertheless, you could find an analysis room in the real church where true chess lovers of the game gathered for the post-mortem analysis

The older generation...

...and young fans of the royal game

English GM Gawain Jones focuses before his game against Ma Qun from China.
Maybe he tried to remember the sharp lines of the Dragon?

Brazilian GM Alexander Fier is always ready to smile.

Whereas Nigel Short prefers to stay 100 percent focused before an important game

Chinese GM Ju Wenjun and German FM Thorben Koop

An encounter between two New Zealanders: FM Alexei Kulashko (left)
faces FM Michael Steadman who seems slightly surprised to be photographed.

Australian FM Tim Reilly (left, with White) against French GM Matthieu Cornette

Ma Qun playing White against Gawain Jones

CM Helen Milligan is from Scotland but now lives in Devonport and plays for New Zealand.

I first met Helen at the Chess Olympiad in Tromso 2014. Before the start of the round she gave me a nice souvenir in the form of a kiwi, and invited me to come to the New Zealand Open Championship. I was very excited about the opportunity to travel to another part of the world, and after the tournament I contacted Murray Chandler to ask if I could still get an invitation. Unfortunately, in August it was too late to ask for conditions because the tournament was to take place in January. However, I wrote to Murray again half a year later, expressing my wish to come for the 2016 event, and this time my dream came true.

I have not often met chess players who are willing to have a friendly chat just before the start of the game (and there is nothing wrong in that, of course). But whenever I played against a New Zealander in this tournament they asked if I was enjoying my stay there, if I had time to make some excursions, whether it was my first travel to New Zealand, etc. And even after losing the game, they would never say 'no' to a post-mortem analysis. This friendly atmosphere and love for chess just shows how much people appreciate having an international chess event like this in New Zealand.

The games in progress

GM Murray Chandler, the organizer of the event, at the closing ceremony

It's no secret that very few people enjoy long speeches during the opening and closing ceremonies. But here, too, New Zealand was special: No long boring monologues by organizers, politicians or sponsors, just a few honest words with a good sense of humour. I still remember vividly how Murray spoke about his good fortune to have had the chance to play in such great events as Biel, Wijk aan Zee, Hastings, and other tournaments, and how he wants to use his skills and experience to organize a big international event for the local chess players of New Zealand to give them an opportunity to play against strong players from other countries. We can only wish for more such enthusiasts around the world.

The arbiters

Oceania Women's Champion WIM Heather Richards from Australia
receives her prize from the president of Oceania Chess Confederation, Paul Spiller.

Oceania Champion FM Alexei Kulashko from New Zealand (right)

Nigel Short won the prize for the best senior.

Ju Wenjun (right) won the women's prize.

In her game against Short Ju Wenjun profited from Short's ambitious and risky opening strategy.


The local Member of Parliament Maggie Barry congratulates the New Zealand
Champions FM Alexei Kulashko and FM Mike Steadman.

Three players shared the 2nd-4th place but Ju Wenjun had the best tie-break.
Ma Qun finished third and Short Nigel finished fourth.

And the winner is... GM Gawain Jones from England. He scored 7.5/9,
won 10 Elo-points and took 2,000 New Zealand Dollars back home.

In his crucial game against Ju Wenjun Jones won quickly after the Chinese made a tactical oversight right after the opening.


Final standings

Pos ID T NAME Rtg PRtg Fed Pts DirE Cmlt
1 2 GM Jones, Gawain C B 2625 2687 ENG 7.5 0.0 40.0
2 6 GM Ju, Wenjun 2548 2608 CHN 7.0 0.0 38.0
3 4 GM Ma, Qun 2606 2627 CHN 7.0 0.0 36.5
4 1 GM Short, Nigel D 2684 2623 ENG 7.0 0.0 36.0
5 3 GM Fier, Alexandr 2607 2549 BRA 6.5 0.0 36.5
6 5 GM Cornette, Matthieu 2591 2528 FRA 6.5 0.0 35.0
7 8 IM Daulyte, Deimante 2378 2459 LTU 6.5 0.0 32.5
8 10 FM Kulashko, Alexei 2341 2454 NZL 6.0 0.0 34.0
9 16 FM Steadman, Michael V R 2252 2409 NZL 6.0 0.0 33.5
10 12 WGM Maisuradze, Nino 2288 2344 FRA 6.0 0.0 31.0
11 7 IM Koop, Thorben 2417 2355 GER 6.0 0.0 30.0
12 15 -- Drummond, Matthew 2255 2211 AUS 6.0 0.0 27.0
13 11 IM Dive, Russell J 2311 2402 NZL 5.5 0.0 31.5
14 9 FM Wastney, Scott 2345 2350 NZL 5.5 0.0 31.0
15 14 IM Ker, Anthony F 2283 2233 NZL 5.5 0.0 29.5
16 29 NM Dowden, R Anthony 2088 2114 NZL 5.5 0.0 25.5
17 20 FM Smith, Robert W 2208 2175 NZL 5.5 0.0 24.5
18 24 WIM Richards, Heather S 2165 2264 AUS 5.0 0.0 29.5
19 13 FM Hague, Ben 2287 2174 NZL 5.0 0.0 27.5
20 17 IM Garbett, Paul A 2250 2249 NZL 5.0 0.0 27.0
21 19 NM McLaren, Leonard J 2236 2157 NZL 5.0 0.0 27.0
22 26 -- Schaefer, Reyk 2134 2111 GER 5.0 0.0 27.0
23 18 FM Noble, Mark F 2241 2175 NZL 5.0 0.0 26.5
24 27 -- Moskow, Eric 2127 2061 USA 5.0 0.0 25.0
25 23   Gao, Hans 2183 2147 NZL 5.0 0.0 24.5
26 36 CM Rains, Edward 2016 2098 NZL 5.0 0.0 21.0
27 28   Duneas, John 2110 2040 NZL 5.0 0.0 21.0
28 38   Perry, Roger L 2005 2087 NZL 5.0 0.0 20.5
29 52 WFM Timergazi, Layla 1915 2163 NZL 4.5 0.0 25.5
30 30   Zhang, Leo 2087 2107 NZL 4.5 0.0 24.5
31 25 CM Ang, Alphaeus Wei Ern 2136 2070 NZL 4.5 0.0 23.5
32 37 -- Li, Shenyue 2007 2173 CHN 4.5 0.0 23.0
33 32 CM Vincenti, David 2061 2040 MLT 4.5 0.0 22.5
34 46 CM Milligan, Helen 1957 2058 NZL 4.5 0.0 22.5
35 42 -- Klyszcz, Michael 1979 1981 GER 4.5 0.0 20.0
36 47   Macdonald, Paul 1946 2003 NZL 4.5 0.0 18.5
37 58   Fan, Allen Chi Zhou 1825 1968 NZL 4.5 0.0 18.5
38 22 FM Reilly, Tim 2203 2054 AUS 4.0 0.0 22.5



Can you guess who attracts so many spectators to his games?

Here is the answer!

A big thanks to the sponsors of the event

We luckily had some time to look around, and I would like to share some impressions with you.

Auckland seen from the Sky Tower

The ferry from Devonport or Auckland needs only 40 minutes to
bring you to Weiheke Island and its stunning beaches.

New Zealand is probably the greenest country I have ever been to

White sand, blue ocean, beautiful nature - what more can you ask for?

Do you recognize this landscape?

If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films you will know where you are. The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour was one of the most memorable tours I have ever made! The precision with which all the little hobbit houses are made is a mind-blowing. Every single detail is carefully considered. Just take a look at these cute little hobbit-holes.

Believe it or not - these pastries are not real!

NZGM - any idea to whom this car belongs? :)

Our little personal oasis just behind the door of our apartment

A perfect spot for a hot summer day

Tournament site...


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