Chess master shows no mercy

ROB KIDD
Last updated 16:58 02/03/2014
Fairfax NZ

From young and old, 24 Kiwi competitors lined up to challenge English Chess Grandmaster Nigel Short.

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There aren’t many sports in which a six-year-old can take on one of the world’s best and be in with a chance.

But on Auckland’s North Shore today that was exactly what happened.

English chess grandmaster Nigel Short flew in from London yesterday morning and this afternoon, the jet-lagged giant of the sport was preparing to take on 24 keen Kiwis simultaneously.

“I’m not expecting to wipe the floor with them. There are some pretty strong players here,” he said outside Devonport’s St Pauls venue.

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

That might have given six-year-old Emma Salazar – the youngest competitor in the field – a glimmer of hope. But 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.”

Emma, who had played since the age of four, was not the least experienced player there.

That title fell to eight-year-old Patch Johnson who when asked whether he thought he had a chance against the 60th ranked player in the world, answered emphatically.

“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.”

New Zealand’s only chess grandmaster Murray Chandler, who bought the venue last year, was instrumental in giving the youngsters the chance to take on a legend.

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

“He’s one of the greats of world chess,” Chandler said. “He’s a true professional.”

As Short predicted, the four hours of competition was tough, with two players getting the better of the legend.

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.

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

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