David Smerdon from Brisbane, Australia is the fourth Australian to become a grandmaster. Smerdon became an International Master at age 14, won the Australian Junior Championship in 1999, and won both his Grandmaster title and the Australian Grand Prix in 2009. He has recently completed a Master in Economics at the Tinbergen Institute in Amsterdam.
Name: David Smerdon
Date of birth: 17 September 1984
Fide rating: 2523
Chess.com username: GM Smurfo
How are you?
In the mood for an interview.
Good. What, then, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?
Gladiator. Russell Crowe showing some Aussie grit: "Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
Aussie Russel Crowe in Gladiator
And your favorite tv-series?
I have to confess to jumping on the Game of Thrones bandwagon. I've also watched all Blackadder, Boston Legal, Family Guy, Coupling, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory... okay, I guess I'm a bit of a tv series nut.
What kind of food and drink do you prefer?
At home, I'm usually cooking Italian, Thai, Indian or Spanish cuisine. Eating out, I like Japanese and Ethiopian, while every now and then I go back to my roots and grab a kangaroo burger from the local Aussie bar.
What is your favorite book?
The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams, for fiction, and Freakonomics - Levitt and Dubner, for non-fiction.
What music are you currently grooving to?
As I write this, I've got Pink Floyd's The Wall spinning on my old record player. My MP3 player is cued on Ben Howard's Every Kingdom.
Tell me a chess secret?
A forgotten idea is as good as a novelty.
What is your best chess memory?
Playing Kasparov and meeting Sting and the band on the same day in New York, when I was 16. It was for the World Schools Chess Championships. The final was played between my high school from Brisbane, the Anglican Church Grammar School, and Magnus Carlsen's school in Norway, NTG (though he didn't play). It was set up by the now defunct Kasparov Chess company, and Gary did an exhibition simul against the top 8 players (which were the top 7 from the Norway team, and me - that gives you an idea how outrated my school was!). Around move 40 I could have forced a drawn king-and-pawn ending but I only had 13 seconds left, and I blundered. Afterwards, Gary pointed out what I already knew - the ending was drawn. Also as part of the final (which was in New York), Sting and the Police were there, and also played a simul against Gary. So I met them both at the same time. Unfortunately I only knew one Sting song at the time ("Every Breath You Take"); it was only after I got a bit older that I appreciated the occasion better!
Who do you think is gonna win the world championship in november - Magnus Carlsen or Vishy Anand?
I think the world championship will be very close. I really hope Magnus will win because I think it's better for the chess world if the world's highest rated player is also officially world champion. However, I think Anand will be better prepared and of course his match experience counts for a lot. Contrary to most grandmaster opinions, I put the odds close to even - Carlsen 52%, Anand 48%. It all comes down to whether Anand can catch Carlsen out with at least two strong, game-winning novelties in the classical matches; if Carlsen gets on level terms out of the opening with both colours, he will win.
How old were you when you began to play chess?
Five or so.
Is the Internet a big part of your life?
Yes. I'm an economist, a budding academic, a chess fanatic and living a long way from friends and family. I live in these different circles every day, and that wouldn't be possible without the net.
What was your childhood like?
Active. I had a typically sporty, outdoorsy Australian childhood in Brisbane.
What was the most important advice your parents gave you?
What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?
Ian Rogers (The first Australian grandmaster)
What is your favorite chess game?
That's an impossible question. One recent game I found absolutely incredible, however, was Morozevich - Tomashevsky from the tie-breaks of the 2013 World Cup in Tromsø. Tomashevsky needed to win with the black pieces to stay in the match, from a completely drawn position. He niggled and jiggled for 169 moves before winning - the blitz game went over an hour, thanks to the increments - showing incredible resolve and tenacity.
What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art?
Chess studies are absolutely an art form. Correspondence chess and theoretical/endgame analyses are absolutely scientific. Over-the-board games themselves, however, are a most pleasurable hobby.
What is your inner being?
A toddler in a candy store.
What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the chess world?
I would like to see more female players reach the world's elite.
If you could give a beginner in chess only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Appreciate your losses, but don't take them to heart.
TEACHING CHESS IN PERU 2011: Smerdon worked for a charity in the slums of Peru, teaching chess, math, English and sports to some of the local children in one of the poorest villages of the region. As you can see that the lessons took place in a shack!
Who is your most difficult opponent?
Australian number 1 Zhong-Yuan Zhao. He knows me better than any chess player, and he definitely has the wood on me.
Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?
"Chess Traps, Pitfalls and Swindles" by I.A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in chess?
There's more to life than winning.
How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?
Words that come to mind: Busy, Boisterous, Active, Open-Minded, Human.
Do you think the future belongs to rapid chess and blitz?
No, but we need to keep it to remind ourselves that chess is about fun, mistakes and chances.
Would you participate in a Chess.com Death-match?
Yes and I believe I am, in November against GM Simon Williams (Editor's Note).
Do you have any thoughts on how Chess.com can get even better?
Yes - give me a job on your tv shows!