An international chess tournament is returning to Queenstown for the third time, attracting some of the highest-ranked players it has ever seen.
New Zealand Chess Federation president and chief organiser Paul Spiller said Queenstown was the ideal place for the tournament because it catered to the tourism aspect of the competition.
It was also chosen as the destination by event sponsor Murray Chandler, New Zealand’s only grandmaster, because he liked Queenstown.
The event had been held every three years in Queenstown since the inaugural contest in 2006.
It was “pretty much unique” and had proved to be successful in the past, attracting top players from around the world. Next year’s tournament had already attracted some of the highest- ranked players so far, he said.
Twelve grandmasters had confirmed their entries including grandmaster Li Chao who was the third-best Chinese player and about 35th in the world, Indian grandmaster Surya Ganguly, who has won the Indian Chess Championship six times and is rated in the top 100 in the world, grandmaster Gawain Jones of England who recently won the Commonwealth Chess Championships in South Africa, Oceania Champion grandmaster Zong-Yuan Zhao of Australia and top female Zhao Xue of China who recently won the Women’s World Cup tournament.
The tournament will also include top players from New Zealand and Australia, he said.
“It’s a serious business playing chess … very intense.”
He hoped to get 150 players plus an entourage of supporters.
He estimated it brought in about $2 million to the local economy.
Chess as a sport was growing, especially in the junior ranks, he said. New Zealand had a strong inter-school tournament system and it was very popular. It would be interesting to see if some of those talented young players competed in this tournament, he said.
The tournament consists of nine games. One is played each day, running four to six hours on an electronic clock.
The competition was open to anyone, with $30,000 in prizemoney. In co-operation with the New Zealand Chess Federation, the Queenstown Chess Classic will also combine the official 119th New Zealand Chess Championships. This event has two automatic Olympiad team qualification places on offer, one each for both the open and the women’s team.The 2012 Queenstown Chess Classic takes places at the Millennium Hotel from January 15 to 23.