Aotearoa, or "the land of the long white cloud", or simple New Zealand as most of you know it hosted an exceptional event- the Queenstown Classic Chess Tournament. It is exceptional first of all for its occurrence-- only once every three years-- and secondly for the incredible beauty of Queenstown. Marvelously surrounding the lake Wakatipu on New Zealand’s South Island this resort town has most spectacular views of the nearby mountains.
I must confess that during my first days I did not feel much like playing. There were so many things to do, so many walks to trace, and new things to explore. Fortunately, I am not yet an extreme sports addict, as otherwise there would have been absolutely at all no time for chess-- after all Queenstown is the inventor of the bungee, Zorbing ball, and this is definitely not all. One can enjoy rafting, kayaking, mountain-biking, luge, skydiving, anything that is extreme!
But back to chess now. I felt a bit rusty at the beginning, since I had not played for a long time. However after four rounds I had not lost any points. The same went for the top-seeded Li Chao from China, who had a respectable rating close to the 2700 mark. We met in round five. I could not make use of my extra pawn, and simply blundered it in the endgame to split the point.
By the way, the organizers have found an original way to fight short draws. There was an additional rule for the top ten boards where players were not allowed to make draws before move thirty, and some severe punishments were introduced. Here is a quote from the tournament regulations:
“The aim of this rule is to encourage a competitive, fighting tournament, and we trust all players will adhere to this in a sportsmanlike manner. Genuine draws by repetition are allowed.”
The first penalty for disobeying the rule was 50 % deduction of any price money won, and second- one hundred percent. I do not know if this was the main reason for it, but the top players gave everything they could to make the event lively.
The next round was quite unpleasant for me as I managed to lose a somewhat better endgame against the ultra-solid Lithuanian GM E. Rozentalis, but I managed to recover in the next one with this sweet combination:
However the next day brought me a second defeat against the Chinese GM Zhao Jun and the battle for the first places was over. My opponent though did pretty well, and managed to save a crucial half point in his last game. Caught in a prepared line, he defended flawlessly and managed to hold on to tie for the first place:
Li Chao also had some difficult moments to deal with after pushing too hard in the last round, but still made it to the half point:
However the crucial game appeared to be on board three, where Darryl Johansen defeated the top seeded Gawain Jones to win the tournament thanks to his better tiebreak (the criteria was total number of wins).