Outdoor Chess at the Gold Coast in Australia

by Alexey Root
4/2/2021 – Australia’s Gold Coast metropolitan region is known for sandy beaches and surfing. And a simul. International Master Alex Wohl took on 20 chess players in an outdoor simultaneous exhibition. Woman International Master Alexey Root and Wohl report on chess activity at the Gold Coast’s Burleigh Market. | Photo: Kgbo [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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An outdoor simul in Australia

By Alexey Root and Alex Wohl

On February 27, International Master Aleksandar "Alex" Wohl gave a simultaneous exhibition to 20 players, mostly juniors. The simul was free for the players. Wohl scored 17 wins, two draws, and one loss. According to the Gold Coast Chess Club’s Facebook post, "Prizes for best play were awarded to Joshua Cooper and Micah Young who both drew their games and last minute stand in Adrian Andre won his exciting game." 


This simul was possible because Australia managed to get a grip on the Corona virus. The virus first arrived in Australia in February 2020 and in March 2020 the country went into a nationwide lockdown. Only essential businesses were allowed to remain open and people were only allowed out of the house, for exercise, one hour a day, and for food shopping. Schools were closed and classes, including chess, moved online.

The simul | Photo: Matt Smith

Queensland, where Alex lives, closed its borders for the first time in a hundred years, as did other states. New South Wales and Victoria were the only states with significant rates of infection, so the other states just shut their borders. By May schools reopened and life started getting back to a limited normal, although non-essential businesses remained closed.

"To us on the Gold Coast," said Alex, "the situation is quite surreal. We hear of the horror in the rest of the world, but aren't affected. I don't know anyone who has had Covid nor anyone who knows someone who has had Covid. The economic impact is the only noticeable impact here. Chess has returned to normal, almost. Our biggest annual international event, the Doeberl Cup is going ahead this year but without the international contingent. I now have to decide whether to go or not. If there is an outbreak while I'm in Canberra, and the Queensland border shuts again, I won't be able to come home without two weeks hotel quarantine...at my expense."

Outdoor Simul

Giving a simultaneous chess exhibition, a "simul," is physically demanding, because the exhibitor must walk from board to board. For an indoor simul, the temperature is regulated. With a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at 65 percent, Wohl’s outdoor simul presented extra challenges. The 57-year-old Wohl dressed for the weather, wearing shorts, sandals, and a short-sleeved shirt. 

The simul took two hours. While one might think that noisy shoppers would be the biggest distraction, the smells got Wohl’s attention instead. Wohl said,

The smell of the delicious food from the nearby stalls distracted me, especially the German sausage stand. I was very susceptible to delicious food smells because as usual, I hadn’t eaten breakfast. After all, I have been on a Keto-OMAD diet for a few years now. OMAD stands for "One meal a day", which is one form of intermittent fasting, Other forms are 16-8 etc. I generally have a coffee in the morning and then a meal when the sun goes down, around 6pm.

Keto is short for "ketogenic", which also has some variation, but the main concept is to limit the amount of carbohydrates ( sugar, potatoes, rice, bread and other grains) one consumes. Basically I just stick to animal products and vegetables. No processed food. A few years ago I was 115kg, had very high blood pressure and was pre-diabetic. Now I'm 85kg and all other health issues have disappeared as if by magic.

However, making dozens of trips to each chess board was still taxing. Wohl said, "I did get a bit sweaty towards the end. Not too bad, as the trees afforded some shade. Luckily, we were just a stone's throw from Burleigh beach, so I was able to cool off immediately afterwards."

The Opponents

In addition to being physically challenging, simuls can present chess challenges to the simul-giver, such as the number or quality of opponents. My previous articles on simuls for ChessBase included this quote from GM Lubomir Kavalek about simuls, "You played simply everybody who showed up." 

That quote seems to be true for Wohl’s simul as well. Although the simul was advertised as being for juniors, Wohl played adults in it too. Wohl said, "I knew of most of the juniors and the few adults who played in place of a few juniors who hadn’t turned up. They all kept score and were regular tournament and interschool players."

Outdoor Chess

While the Gold Coast Chess Club has held indoor chess events since 2016, its new initiative, as of the end of November 2020, is outdoor chess. Players gather at the Burleigh Market, known for its farm-fresh produce, each Saturday. Wohl’s exhibition was a special event on Saturday, February 27, at 9:45 a.m., after players had warmed up with social chess since 8:00 a.m. On other Saturdays, players gather for social, non-rated chess from 8 a.m. to noon.

Wohl said, "Outdoor chess is a magnet for casual chess players. Whenever chess sets are on display, be it a shopping centre, a park, or a market, as in this case, people are drawn to them, often families. I don’t know a better way to promote local chess activity."

Gold Coast Tourism

In addition to chess, Wohl is passionate about other Gold Coast offerings. He said, "For any water sports enthusiasts, the Gold Coast is really in the ‘Goldilocks Zone.’ It is not too cold, even in the depths of winter, and not too hot in summer. Any further north and swimming in summer becomes problematic because of deadly jellyfish and crocodiles."

Wohl continued, "We have all the benefits of a city, like shopping, fine dining, and nightlife, and all the beauty of rural Australia just a short drive away." Then he mentioned the beaches, again. If you are looking for Wohl, check at the Doubleroo Chess Academy first, and then search the beaches!



Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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