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Gardiner Chess Coach Focus: FA Shaun Curtis

Gardiner Chess Coach Focus: FA Shaun Curtis


by Andrew FitzPatrick

Gardiner Chess is keen to showcase our coaches and other people involved in the chess scene around Queensland. Our first person to be showcased is Gardiner Chess Events Manager Shaun Curtis.

[AF] You are very involved in chess these days, but how did you initially get involved in chess when you were younger?

[SC] I was fortunate enough to go to a school with a very good chess program and doing chess meant I would miss class for 1 hour a week which got my attention in year 1.

[AF] Worongary State  School was the top primary chess school on the Gold Coast for many years, what was your best achievement with the school chess team?

[SC] My primary school was fortunate enough to have a great program run by Gardiner Chess in the very early days and had high level coaching and competitions. The peak for me was being a part of the winning team at the Australian Inter-school Teams championships in 2004 (The first time QLD had ever won primary outright).

[AF] You are lucky enough to have had a number of coaches over the years – who made the greatest impression on your game?

[SC] I was coached by plenty of great chess coaches including Remi Broadway, Bernie Saavedra, Andrew Allan, Matthew Sonter, and Craig Duxbury, but my main coach and the one that made the greatest impact on my chess and served as a role model was Kerry Corker.

[AF] What has been your standout individual chess achievement?

[SC] I have had a few but I would say 3rd place Doeberl Cup Blitz 2018 would be hard to beat for me. [AF] Knocking off an IM in the 2015 Nell Van de Graaff Classic would have to also be up there!

[AF] Which famous players influence your chess game?

[SC] As a junior, I would say my play was largely influenced by players like Victor Korchnoi, however now I like to think my play is more Tal like, maybe a little less accurate.

[AF] What are some of the biggest advantages kids have these days when it comes to learning chess?

[SC] The biggest advantages are the frequency of tournaments, programs such as and to have Master level players providing lessons online at any time is an incredible tool to have access to that I wish I had.

[AF] What advice would you give to kids wanting to get better at chess?

[SC] The biggest thing is to take your time and have a plan – without a plan you are purely hoping for mistakes and luck to be on your side, sometimes it is, but often it isn’t.

[AF] How did you become involved in working with Gardiner Chess?

[SC] I decided to play in the Gold Coast Secondary tournament in my final year of high school after taking a 5 year hiatus from chess. At the event Andrew approached me to ask if I would be interested in working for Gardiner Chess casually once finishing school. I accepted and started the following February as a casual coach while trying to work out what I wanted to do.

[AF] What is your favourite part of your role with Gardiner Chess?

[SC] I love working with juniors and seeing them have the same passion and enjoyment for the game that I have and seeing them experience similar things that I had in my childhood. The absolute pinnacle for me is seeing my students improve and succeed.

[AF] Do you think it is possible for a regional team to realistically win the Queensland Inter-School Championships Open divisions?

[SC] I think it is reasonable and becoming more and more likely with the usage of and online coaching. Knowing there are rapidly improving schools such as Trinity Anglican School in Cairns that are frequent users of makes the possibility more and more achievable. [AF] Trinity Anglican School have finished 2nd (by 1 point) in the Primary Girls event in the last 2 years, making it seem more likely the Girls events are closer to be won than the open.

[AF] Do you have any goals for your own chess in the future?

[SC] I would like to get back into playing competitive chess at some stage in the future even at a club level but I would like to improve my rating as having a rating lower than many of my students isn’t great. [AF] Shaun is an example of his rating not being a true reflection of his own ability.

[AF] You have achieved the FIDE Arbiter Title in the past couple of years. Do you plan on working towards the International Arbiter title? Would you even plan to see how far you can go as an arbiter?

[SC] I do plan to acheive the title of International Arbiter and currently have 1/3 norms. I was planning on getting a second norm over the May long weekend however due to the COVID 19 situation the event was cancelled. I would like to achieve IA within the next 2 years.

[AF] What are your interests outside of chess?

[SC] My biggest interest outside of chess would have to be NBA basketball. I love basketball; playing, watching, following what is going on etc. That along with my partner and our dog take up most of my spare time outside of chess.

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