Smerdon wins Queenstown Classic

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David Smerdon wins in QueenstownDavid Smerdon finally seems to be on his way to become Australia's next grandmaster, next to Rogers, Johansen and Zhao. He scored his third GM norm in Pardubice in the summer of 2007 but still needs to get his rating over 2500. By finishing clear first at the Queenstown Classic with a 8/10 score, he could be one tournament away from applying for the title.

Photo: The Closet Grandmaster, who was live blogging during the event

The 2009 Queenstown Chess Classic took place January 15th-24th in the Millennium Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand. The event had a prize fund of NZ $50,000 (US $26,500; € 20,000).




Not many chess players will have the opportunity to play chess at such an exotic location - in fact, not many people will have a chance to visit New Zealand at all! And if you have booked a flight there, afterwards you might regret having entered a chess tournament... You want to enjoy as much of the fantastic natural beauty as possible, don't you agree?

Queenstown Bay

Queenstown Bay



Queenstown Bay

View from Queenstown



Well, quite a few players from Europe did go south, all the way to New Zealand, this year. A group of four friends, three from The Netherlands and one from Germany, travelled for 34 hours (with pit stop at Los Angeles and Auckland airports), and participated in the tournament. They are Sven Bakker, Freddie van der Elburg, and the married couple Evi Zickelbein and ChessVibes editor Merijn van Delft. Thanks to them we can present you the many pictures in this article.

But first, a bit more about the winner, IM David Smerdon. The first time David featured on this site, we weren't even writing in English yet! He had just played an excellent Turin Olympiad where he was close to scoring his second GM norm. Back then we predicted that for the first time Australia would be able to come with three GMs to the next Olympiad: Ian Rogers, Darryl Johansen and... Smerdon. Things went differently: Rogers had to quit playing chess due to health problems and Zong-Yuan Zhao became Australia's 3rd GM a year ago.

After studying for a year in Amsterdam, Smerdon then started to focus on his chess in 2007, playing many tournaments in a row. His victory at the ChessVibes Blitz was a prelude to more successes to come: less than two months later he won the Bangkok Open and scored his second GM norm, and in July 2007 he added his third at the Czech Open in Pardubice.

Smerdon

The winner: David Smerdon



Exactly a year ago, back in Australia, Smerdon started working in the financial sector and had to slow down his chess considerably. But in Queenstown (still a few hours flying, but compared to some other participants it was just around the corner) he was back. For real. After winning his first three (much weaker) opponents, he drew with GMs Mikhalevski and Wells. Adding an easy point to another 2250-player, Smerdon then won against three GMs in a row: Rozentalis, Bischoff and Mastrovasilis, which resulted in an untouchable 8/9 score with one more round to go. He lost that one, against Gawain Jones, but it didn't matter as he still finished clear first, winning 26 rating points.

[TABLE=587]

(Full standings can be found here.)

It was an unfortunate tournament for co-editor Merijn van Delft, who was surprised several times by local players who played stronger than their ratings suggested. But Merijn did manage to finish third at the blitz event (3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment) which was won by Jones and Mikhalevski who scored 9/11 in the final group.

At the moment he's still enjoying the New Zealand beauty - as the editor-in-chief I should add to that: "when he's not working on the next issue of ChessVibes Openings, which will be out tomorrow"! They've already visited Milford South as you can see in some of the photos below:

Leaving from Schiphol Airport

Leaving from Schiphol Airport



Blitz in the airplane

Blitz in the airplane



Preparing at LA airport

Preparing at LA airport



You can play chess within airplanes too!

You can play chess within airplanes too!



Queenstown Bay

Queenstown Bay



Preparing... for the jetboat this time

Preparing... for the jetboat this time



On the jetboat

On the jetboat



The beautiful scene at Milford Sound

The beautiful scene at Milford Sound



Dolphins at Milford Sound

Dolphins at Milford Sound



Tournament hall

Yes, some people could be found in the tournament hall as well



Bischoff and Hecht

Like these two German GMs, Bischoff and Hecht



Titled players

Actually all of these were titled players!



Bischoff-Smerdon

Bischoff-Smerdon, round 8, 50 moves, 0-1



Speech

The winner giving a speech at the closing ceremony



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