Chess games go global

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Checkmate and cheque, mate – with $50,000 at stake.

Fans from around the world will be able to check out all the top moves live from the upcoming Queens­town Chess Classic.

The tournament – on at the resort’s Millennium Hotel from January 15-24 – is the biggest of its kind staged in New Zealand.

And cutting-edge com­­puter technology means chess fanatics across the globe can eyeball the action as it happens.

“The games on the top boards will be followed worldwide live on the internet,” says the organiser, chess grandmaster Murray Chandler.

“The boards the players use look like ordinary wooden chess boards but they contain hidden electronic sensors that transmit the moves played in real time.”

The competition boasts a whopping $50,000 prize fund and the overall winner will become the 2009 NZ Major Open Chess Cham­pion.

There’s an additional $6500 on offer in the NZ Rapidplay and Lightning Championships. And for under-18s, a Queenstown Junior Classic is being introduced over four mornings.

Three-­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­times NZ champ Chandler – who’s based in Auckland but has a holiday home here – won the Queenstown tournament in 2006.

He’s taking part again and expects international competition to be tough despite numbers being down due to the credit crunch.

“It’s likely we’ll have fewer entries than three years ago because of the shaky economic climate,” Chand­­ler says.

“However, we currently have 105 players confirmed and the tournament is considerably stronger at the top this time.

“Less Australian players are coming but there’s an increase in strong European participants, including several Russians. Eleven players also hold the prestigious title of grandmaster and additionally there are six women grandmasters.”

Chandler adds: “One to watch in Queenstown will be Alina Motoc from Romania. She recently won an individual bronze medal on her board in the World Chess Olympiad in Ger­many.”