'Mind athletes' vie for spot in NZ chess competition

TRACY NEAL TRACYN@NELSONMAIL.CO.NZ
Last updated 12:28 28/05/2014
Max Martin,
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

CHECKMATE: Jacob French, of Broadgreen Intermediate, goes through a range of emotions before losing a game in the inter-school chess tournament at Nayland College.

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The hush throughout Nayland College hall yesterday was broken by a clatter of hands hitting timing clocks as another round of competitive chess began.

Almost 100 senior and intermediate students from schools around Nelson and Tasman were engaged in battle for honours in the inter-school regional chess competition to decide which five teams would win a spot in the forthcoming national competition. This year it is to be held in Nelson.

Forty five students from junior schools competed the day before. The tournament not only tested players' logic and strategy skills but also pitted them against the clock.

Tournament organiser Bruce Pollard, of Chess Power in Auckland, a company set up to encourage and teach chess to all levels throughout New Zealand, said the game was strongest in Nelson from what he had seen so far.

"I've run a few tournaments around the South Island and I've been playing chess for 50 years but I'd say Nelson is the best area we have," he said of Chess Power's involvement in running the tournaments. "We had 48 seniors and 47 intermediate students and the day before we had 45 juniors.

"Those are good numbers and why we had to run the contest over two days in Nelson," Pollard said.

He said the level of interest here had a lot to do with how it was promoted in schools.

Nayland College maths teacher and chess club organiser Andrea Adair said the game's appeal lay not only in the challenge of the contest but the protocol surrounding it.

"There's good old-fashioned camaraderie, manners and sportsmanship for mind athletes," Adair said.

She said a growing issue today with all the distractions of social media was the ability for people to concentrate.

Chess helped to calm down active minds and help the students focus, Adair said.

Golden Bay High School students Siddhartha Ishwara, Tomo Clere and Noah Haerewa were part of a team of seven from the school in yesterday's tournament.

They said they played chess simply because it was fun.

Siddhartha, 12, said he had been playing "as long as I can remember", possibly from the age of 5 or 6.

"It's a fun game and involves lots of strategy," he said.

Noah, also 12, said playing chess made you feel smart, even if you weren't.

Rosie Brazendale, of Golden Bay High School, competed in her second regional contest.

She placed second in last year's inter-school tournament.

The 11 year-old said she enjoyed the game because it was fun and involved strategy.

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- The Nelson Mail

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