Chess contenders in a muted zone

Hungarian grandmaster Bojkov Dejan plays top-seeded Li Chao of China yesterday in the Queenstown...
Hungarian grandmaster Bojkov Dejan plays top-seeded Li Chao of China yesterday in the Queenstown chess classic. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
The silent world of the chess player has reigned in the Millennium Hotel this week as 148 national and international players challenge each other in the Queenstown Chess Classic.

Distributed around the hotel's giant lobby each day since Sunday have been 74 chess boards with a player on each side making not a sound, as pawn, rook, bishop, knight, king or queen were moved on the boards.

The players do not make eye contact. Some get up and walk around the room for a bit - others do not move an inch.

There are national champions and others just learning, but they all have one thing in common and that is the chess code of silence.

Yesterday top-seed Li Chao of China and Bulgarian grandmaster Bojkov Dejan, the only two to have won four in four rounds, displayed best how the silent discipline is played. In fact, Dejan showed this reporter a muting function on her camera that was once unknown.

While Chao sat contemplating his next move, Mr Dejan slowly strolled past other matches, taking it all in.

To scan the room you would not find a single sign of conversation or banter.

Cellphones are switched off and smiles are few and far between, because chess is also a game of intense concentration.

Perhaps if one took the time to learn how to play they would enjoy the silence, but others might find it simply intimidating.

Some results from the Queenstown Chess Classic after four rounds: Hamish Gold (Otago) one win, placed 123rd; Bob Clarkson (Otago) two wins, 84; Helen Milligan (Auckland) three wins, 18; Anthony Karr (Wellington) two wins, 105; Paul Garbett (Auckland) three wins, 21; Stephen Lukey (Christchurch) three wins, 32; Danie Shen (Auckland) three wins, 27; Luke Lee (Auckland) two wins and a draw, 38.


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