The perfect tournament

GM dbojkov
0 | Chess Event Coverage

I wanted to make the best tournament, at the best possible place.

This is how Murray Chandler explained his decision to choose Queenstown as the place of the Classic tournament, an extremely rare event in the chess calendar which takes place every three years.

EventQueenstown Chess Classic | Games in PGN via TWIC
DatesJanuary 15th-23rd, 2012
LocationQueenstown, New Zealand
System9-round Swiss
PlayersTop rated players were Li Chao, Gawain Jones, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Eduardas Rozentalis, Sune Berg Hansen, Zhao Jun, Dejan Bojkov, Zhao Xue, Klaus Bischoff and George Wendi Xie 
Rate of play1 hour and 40 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 additional minutes for the next 20 moves followed by 15 more till the end of the game, all of these with an increment of 30 seconds per move

By GM Dejan Bojkov

Murray is the only Kiwi GM so far. He has lived for a very long time in London, UK, but recently moved back to his native New Zealand. Even though he is a proud citizen of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, he uses every possible moment to visit Queenstown. And with a good reason!

Picturesquely surrounding the Wakatipu Lake, the town is a real jewel with its fresh air, clear waters, the remarkable mountain range and nature. It is also the birthplace of the most extreme sports ever, like bungee and zorbing ball.There is a little bit of something for everyone, no matter if you like the extreme, or the silent way of spending your time.

Lake Wakatipu, an inland lake in the South Island of New Zealand. With a length of 80 kilometres (50 mi), it is New Zealand's longest lake, and, at 291 km2 (112 sq mi), its third largest.

This is also the place where 148 people from 19 countries competed in a chess event, between 15th and 23rd January. Eleven of those players had the highest chess title, and there were 46 titled players in total.

The rate of the play reminded of the good old days: 1 hour and 40 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 additional minutes for the next 20 moves followed by 15 more till the end of the game, all of these with an increment of 30 seconds per move.

Some games lasted more than 7 hours. One example was the game Zhao Xue vs Max Illingworth from round seven, which lasted for 177 moves! In that game the young Australian spoiled an extra three-pawn advantage in the endgame, and had to defend a rook-and-knight versus rook endgame.

The trick was, however, that this position arose on move 98, and Illingworth did not want to claim the draw, but to break the record for the longest game! I am quite sure he did it just for this one though…

There was an additional rule for the top ten boards. They 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 of disobeying the rule was a 50% deduction of any price money won, and the second 100%. 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 top seeded player, Li Chao, was leading, or co-leading throughout the whole event, but before the last round things became very complicated. The Chinese GM, and his compatriot Zhao Jun, were leading with 7/8 (they had already played together) followed by a group of three players with 6.5 each. Two of them were facing the Chinese. Trevor Tao (6.5)-Li Chao(7), Sune Berg Hansen(6.5)-Zhao Jun (7), and Gawain Jones (6)-Darryl Johansen (6.5) were the top three boards.

The top player’s chances seemed higher because of the almost three-hundred point difference that he had with his opponent. Furthermore, he caught his opponent in a home prepared line straight from the opening, and took over the initiative right from the start.

Li Chao could have entered a risk-free endgame with an extra pawn on many occasions, but preferred instead to keep the pressure, and try to outwit his less experienced opponent. Trevor Tao was a completely new name for me, but his stubbornness in this decisive game was indeed impressive!

[Event "Queenstown Classic"]
[Site "Queenstown NZL"]
[Date "2012.01.23"]
[Round "9.1"]
[White "Tao, Trevor"]
[Black "Li, Chao b"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A16"]
[WhiteElo "2422"]
[BlackElo "2693"]
[PlyCount "175"]
[EventDate "2012.01.15"]

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. g3 Nxc3 5. bxc3 g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. Rb1 O-O 8.
Rxb7 Bxb7 9. Bxb7 Nd7 10. Bxa8 Qxa8 11. f3 Qd5 12. Qc2 Ne5 13. Nh3 Nxf3+ 14.
exf3 Qe6+ 15. Kf2 Qxh3 16. Ba3 Be5 17. Qb1 Rd8 18. d4 Bf6 19. Bc5 e5 20. Bxa7
h5 21. Qe4 Qe6 22. Bc5 Qxa2+ 23. Qe2 Qb3 24. Rc1 Bg5 25. Re1 Bf6 26. Qe3 Qc4
27. Rd1 Rb8 28. Rd2 Rb3 29. Rc2 Rb1 30. Qe2 Qd5 31. Kg2 Bg7 32. Qe4 Qc4 33. Qe2
Qd5 34. Qe4 Qd7 35. dxe5 Qd1 36. Qe2 Qd5 37. Bd4 Rb8 38. Rd2 Re8 39. c4 Qe6 40.
f4 Qc6+ 41. Kf2 Bf8 42. Be3 Rb8 43. Qd3 Rb4 44. Qd5 Qa6 45. c5 Ra4 46. e6 fxe6
47. Qg5 e5 48. Qxe5 Ra1 49. Qd5+ Kh7 50. Qd3 Qxd3 51. Rxd3 Ra2+ 52. Kg1 Kg7 53.
Rd7+ Kf6 54. Rxc7 Kf5 55. Bf2 Ke4 56. Kg2 Rc2 57. Rc8 Bg7 58. Re8+ Kf5 59. Rd8
Ke4 60. Kf1 Bb2 61. Re8+ Kf5 62. Re2 Rc1+ 63. Kg2 Bg7 64. h3 Rc3 65. Re7 Bf6
66. Rf7 Rc2 67. g4+ Ke6 68. Rxf6+ Kxf6 69. Kg3 Ke6 70. Bd4 Rc4 71. Bh8 Rxc5 72.
Kh4 Rb5 73. Be5 Rb3 74. gxh5 gxh5 75. Bc7 Kf5 76. Be5 Rd3 77. Bc7 Rd1 78. Be5
Rh1 79. Bc7 Ke4 80. Be5 Kf3 81. Bd6 Kg2 82. Kxh5 Rxh3+ 83. Kg6 Rg3+ 84. Kf6 Rd3
85. Ke6 Re3+ 86. Be5 Rf3 87. f5 Rxf5 88. Kxf5 1/2-1/2

At the closing ceremony, the arbiters pointed out that he rarely plays international tournaments, but when he does them, he plays them well. This was the case here, too, as he not only managed to repel the attack, but after taking an advantage of some of his opponent’s mistakes even emerged with position with two extra pawns in the endgame. Alas, he blundered the exchange, and the Chinese GM escaped slightly scared only. (Trevor Tao did score his third IM norm in the event.)

Meanwhile, on board two Zhao Jun was defending after getting caught in an extremely sharp and dangerous home-prepared attack. The Chinese showed nerves of steel and managed to save the half point and share the victory after a prolonged battle, and a model defense.

[Event "Queenstown Classic"]
[Site "Queenstown NZL"]
[Date "2012.01.23"]
[Round "9.2"]
[White "Hansen, Sune Berg"]
[Black "Zhao, Jun"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A48"]
[WhiteElo "2572"]
[BlackElo "2569"]
[PlyCount "148"]
[EventDate "2012.01.15"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. c3 O-O 5. Nbd2 d5 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Bd3 Re8 8.
O-O e5 9. e4 exd4 10. cxd4 dxe4 11. Nxe4 h6 12. Qb3 Re7 13. Rfe1 hxg5 14. Nexg5
Nf8 15. Nxf7 Rxf7 16. Bc4 Be6 17. Rxe6 b5 18. Qxb5 Nxe6 19. Bxe6 Qe8 20. Qb3
Kf8 21. Bxf7 Qxf7 22. Qb7 Qd5 23. Qxc7 Nh5 24. Re1 Kg8 25. b3 Kh8 26. Qe7 Rf8
27. Qe6 Qa5 28. b4 Qxb4 29. Qxg6 Rxf3 30. Qxh5+ Kg8 31. Re8+ Rf8 32. Qd5+ Kh8
33. Rxf8+ Bxf8 34. g3 a5 35. Kg2 a4 36. h4 a3 37. h5 Bg7 38. Qf7 Qxd4 39. Kh3
Qe4 40. f3 Qe3 41. f4 Qe4 42. Kh4 Bh6 43. Qf6+ Kh7 44. Qd6 Qf5 45. Qxa3 Qf6+
46. Kg4 Qe6+ 47. Kf3 Qd5+ 48. Ke3 Qxh5 49. Qd3+ Kg8 50. Qc4+ Kh8 51. a4 Bf8 52.
Qc8 Kg7 53. Qd7+ Kf6 54. Qc6+ Kf7 55. Qc7+ Ke6 56. a5 Bc5+ 57. Kd3 Qd5+ 58. Ke2
Qe4+ 59. Kd1 Qd3+ 60. Ke1 Qxg3+ 61. Ke2 Qe3+ 62. Kd1 Qd3+ 63. Ke1 Qc3+ 64. Kd1
Qb3+ 65. Kd2 Qb2+ 66. Kd1 Qb1+ 67. Kd2 Bb4+ 68. Ke3 Qe1+ 69. Kd4 Qd2+ 70. Ke4
Qd5+ 71. Ke3 Bc5+ 72. Ke2 Qc4+ 73. Kd1 Qd3+ 74. Ke1 Qe3+ 1/2-1/2

But, those two did not have the chance to take the trophies back home, as there was a big surprise on board three. Gawain Jones sacrificed a piece for two pawns, had a chance to force perpetual but rejected it to lose to the eventual winner Darryl Johansen. He finished first on countback (most wins).

[Event "Queenstown Classic"]
[Site "Queenstown NZL"]
[Date "2012.01.23"]
[Round "9.3"]
[White "Jones, Gawain C B"]
[Black "Johansen, Darryl K"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B20"]
[WhiteElo "2653"]
[BlackElo "2403"]
[PlyCount "116"]
[EventDate "2012.01.15"]

1. e4 c5 2. d3 Nc6 3. f4 d5 4. Be2 Nf6 5. e5 Ng8 6. c3 f6 7. Nf3 Nh6 8. Be3 e6
9. d4 Nf5 10. Bf2 cxd4 11. cxd4 fxe5 12. fxe5 Be7 13. Nc3 Nh4 14. Nxh4 Bxh4 15.
g3 Be7 16. Bd3 O-O 17. O-O Bd7 18. Qh5 g6 19. Bxg6 hxg6 20. Qxg6+ Kh8 21. Qh6+
Kg8 22. Be3 Qe8 23. Bg5 Rf7 24. Bf6 Bxf6 25. Rxf6 Rh7 26. Qg5+ Rg7 27. Qh4 Rh7
28. Qg5+ Rg7 29. Qh4 Rh7 30. Qg4+ Rg7 31. Qf4 Qh5 32. Rf1 Qg5 33. Qf2 Ne7 34.
Ne2 Ng6 35. a4 Bxa4 36. Rxe6 Bb5 37. Rf6 Qg4 38. Re1 Bxe2 39. Rxe2 Rc8 40. Re1
Rf8 41. Rf1 Rxf6 42. exf6 Rf7 43. Qd2 Nf8 44. Qe3 Ne6 45. Rf2 Qe4 46. Qc1 Kh7
47. Qf1 Kg6 48. h4 Qxd4 49. Qb1+ Qe4 50. Qf1 Qe3 51. Kh2 Qe5 52. Qd3+ Qe4 53.
Qc3 Nd4 54. Qa3 Nf5 55. Qxa7 Ne3 56. Kg1 Qb1+ 57. Kh2 Ng4+ 58. Kg2 Qe4+ 0-1

Queenstown Chess Classic 2012 | Final standings (top 30)

1GMJohansen Darryl KAUS24037.50.074
2GMLi Chao BCHN26937.50.065
3GMZhao JunCHN25697.50.064
4IMAkshat KhampariaIND24147.00.065
5GMRozentalis EduardasLTU25927.00.064
6 Tao TrevorAUS24227.00.064
7GMHansen Sune BergDEN25727.00.054
8GMGanguly Surya ShekharIND26397.00.054
9GMBojkov DejanBUL25536.50.065
10FMIkeda JuntaAUS23496.50.065
11 Bird AndrewAUS22166.50.065
12FMSteadman MichaelNZL22586.50.065
13WGMSukandar Irine KharismaINA23256.50.064
14 Dragicevic DomagojAUS22776.50.064
15FMIllingworth MaxAUS23886.50.055
16FMCheng BobbyAUS23756.00.065
17FMSmith Robert WNZL22736.00.065
18 Zelesco KarlAUS19906.00.064
19FMStojic DusanAUS22946.00.064
20GMBischoff KlausGER25376.00.055
21IMDive Russell JohnNZL23456.00.055
22IMMorris JamesAUS23546.00.054
23GMZhao XueCHN25516.00.054
24GMJones Gawain C BENG26536.00.054
25IMSolomon Stephen JAUS23756.00.054
26IMLy MoulthunAUS23766.00.045
27IMWest GuyAUS23236.00.044
28IMGarbett Paul AnthonyNZL22905.50.055
29IMVan Riemsdijk Herman CBRA24015.50.055
30WGMNadig KruttikaIND22345.50.055


The winners Zhao Jun, Darryl Johansen and Li Chao

Darryl had just become Australian champion for the sixth time, and could not hide his excitement. “If anyone have told me before the event that I will win both the Australian championship, and tie for the first in Queenstown I would have considered him completely insane”, said the modest gentleman at his closing speech. But he did it, despite the early draw in round two, and thanks to the seven wins which he scored in total (three of them in the last rounds).

Darryl Johansen wins to events in a row

Gawain Jones did not leave New Zealand empty handed and took back home the price for the most beautiful game, and Michael Steadman collected the New Zealand’s trophee.

Michael Steadman, best of the local participants

Naturally beautiful, nature beauty!

Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

You can find Dejan's blog at

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