Emma, 6, faces a master

18:41, Mar 05 2014

There aren't many sports in which a 6-year-old can take on one of the world's best and be in with a chance, but that is what happened in Devonport on Sunday.

English chess grandmaster Nigel Short flew in from London the day before he took on 24 keen Kiwis simultaneously.

The event took place at St Paul's Church, bought last year by New Zealand's only chess grandmaster, Murray Chandler. "I'm not expecting to wipe the floor with them. There are some pretty strong players here," Mr Short said outside the venue.

"I expect to be beaten but hopefully not by too many."

That might have given Emma Salazar, at 6 the youngest competitor in the field, a glimmer of hope, but Mr Short was not one for giving chances.

"Towards the bottom there are some less-experienced players, so hopefully I'll be able to wipe them out quite quickly," he laughed. "No mercy."

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Emma, who has played chess since she was 4, was not the least experienced player there.

That title fell to 8-year-old Patch Johnson who, when asked if he thought he had a chance against the 60th ranked player in the world, gave an emphatic "no".

Top-ranked Gino Thornton planned his first few moves well before the game began, but even he was modest about his chances.

"As long as I'm not first to lose, that's fine."

Mr Chandler was instrumental in giving the youngsters the chance to take on a legend.

The pair played together for years and he was stunned when Mr Short told him to increase the number of opponents from 20 to 25.

"He's one of the greats of world chess," Mr Chandler said.

"He's a true professional."

As Mr Short predicted, the four hours of competition were tough, with two players getting the better of him.

Mr Thornton managed to beat the grandmaster, as did 15-year-old William Li, which Chandler described as "a great result for New Zealand".

Three competitors also managed to hold the Englishman to a draw.

Mr Short is in the country campaigning for Garry Kasparov in the upcoming world chess federation elections.

North Shore Times