Rookie Anton keeps older ego in check
Ellie Harvey
April 20, 2009

“I LOST to an eight-year-old boy!” exclaimed Richard Voon, aged 69, after his final game at the Sydney International Open chess championships yesterday. “It’s all right,” he went on, “he’s a nice kid”.

Mr Voon, who played his first championship in 1974, came from Melbourne for the tournament at Parramatta. “I beat him in Canberra though in the tournament before this one,” he added quickly.

But eight-year-old Anton Smirnov said it wasn’t a particularly difficult game yesterday. “He made some mistakes, and after I got a piece, I tried to attack [other] pieces …” he said in launching into a detailed explanation of how he won the game. “Sometimes I plan and sometimes I don’t.”

However, Anton’s opponent was by no mean the oldest – one man, born in 1928, is 10 times older than Anton, who has been playing since he was four. Anton shrugged off the age gap: “I think everybody’s older than me”.

Almost 150 players, including some from India, Iran and the Netherlands, gathered in Parramatta Town Hall for the championships. The competition has been running for three years, but the economic crisis has put its future in doubt as the organisers struggle to find sponsorship. “I really hope they can continue the tournament because it’s such a good opportunity for Australian players to get grand master or international master results,” said a spokeswoman, Cathy Rogers.

A nine-year-old Sydney boy, Sean Gu, is the under 12 Australian Champion. He taught himself to play aged six when his father bought a chess program for the computer. Sean has since won an Australian championship and competed at the world championships in Turkey.

Citing the reason for it all as, “I just like playing,” says the aspiring grandmaster. His father says his Sean’s success will require continuing hard work and passion.

Grandmaster Darryl Johansen of Melbourne won the title after a four-way tie-break. The four players shared the $10,000 prizemoney.


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