17 grandmasters to contest chess classic

Rooks, knights, queens and pawns will be the centre of attention next month when the New Zealand Chess Federation hosts the 2009 Queenstown Classic International Chess Festival in the resort.

The inaugural event held in 2006 proved highly successful, promoted and sponsored by New Zealand's only chess grandmaster, Murray Chandler.

Chandler, ranked in the world's top 20 players in the 1980s, is the New Zealand champion and recently represented the country on board one at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany.

In 2006, 193 players from 19 countries took part in the 10-day Queenstown event, including four grandmasters.

Chess federation president Paul Spiller said this time many of those players were returning, but the field had been "significantly boosted" with 17 grandmasters and "women grandmasters" scheduled to play.

"This will be the strongest field of chess players ever to assemble for an event in Oceania," Mr Spiller said.

The grandmasters competing are: Eduardas Rozentalis (Lithuania), Darryl Johansen (Australia), Gawain Jones (England), Klaus Bischoff (Germany), Peter Wells (England), Leif Erland Johannessen (Norway), Hajo Hecht (England), Victor Mikhalevski (Israel), Dimitrios Mastrovasilis (Greece), Vladimir Potkin (Russia), Murray Chandler (New Zealand), Karolina Smokina (Moldova), Jana Krivec (Slovenia), Alina Motoc (Romania), Yana Menikova (Russia), Irina Zakurdjaeva (Russia) and Jolana Zawadzka (Poland).

Mr Spiller said the 2009 event was offering the largest prize pool ever put together for an Oceania chess event, totalling $50,000.

The event, being held at the Millennium Hotel from January 15 to 24, will incorporate the 116th New Zealand championship - the longest running national chess championship in the world.

It will also act as a qualification event for the Oceania world championship qualification event being held in Australia next year.

During the Queenstown Classic International Chess Festival, the Queenstown Junior Chess Classic will be held from January 18 to 21.

To be eligible, players must be under 18 years old at January 1, 2009.


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