By Ian Rogers
Last month two teams of Canberra players met up with teams from Albury and Wagga Wagga at Junee jail to compete against each other and against inmates.
Junee jail established a chess club two years ago and claim benefits of socialisation and patience for those inmates who attend the club. (Schools tout similar benefits when placing disruptive students in their chess club.)
Chess teams have visited jails in the past; I recall joining my local club in Melbourne, Heidelberg, for a match against the high security prisoners in the Jika Jika section of Pentridge prison in the 1970s.
However such visits were generally one-offs, whereas the Junee prison chess club has been helped by regular visits from a Wagga Wagga team, who then developed the idea of an annual multi-team competition. (At Junee jail, inmates can only practice head-to-head; internet games are not possible.)
This year the Check in Mate trophy was won by the Canberra I team – Suptut, Priest, Egan and Keinan – with the inmates scoring respectably (even though some of their stronger players had not been given permission to compete).
While the Junee jail team competition is a new concept, chess has on occasion flourished in Australian prisons.
It has been two decades since Paul Dozsa almost single-handedly created chess clubs in multiple Australian jails.
The Hungarian-born Australian international, who claimed to have had a computer chip placed in his brain which forced him to freeload at restaurants, was locked up in prisons around the country and in each he would order sets and boards and start a chess club.
Dozsa was by no means the strongest player to be jailed in Australia.
Brazilian master Luismar De Brito spent six years in a Sydney jail following a drugs conviction. He bemoaned the lack of serious competition but has since resumed his chess career and represented Brazil at the 2014 American Continental Championships.
However the most famous Australian chessplaying prisoner was a mere club player from Sydney, John Killick, who found the chess competition in Silverwater jail so uninspiring that he asked his Russian girlfriend Lucy Dudko to pick him up by helicopter. The escape was so well planned (though short-lived) that one half-expected Dudko to turn out to be a master player and be vying for the Women’s Olympic team on her release.
This week’s game sees Dozsa, between jail stints in 2000, beat one of Australia’s best players.
NSW Championshp 2000
Black: J-P. Wallace
Opening: Sicilian Defence
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Be7 7.Be2 0-0 8.0-0 a6 9.Be3 b6 10.Qd2 Bb7 11.f3 Nbd7 12.a4!?
At the time, a trendy way to counter Black’s Hedgehog set-up.
12…Ne5 13.a5 bxa5 14.Nb3 Nc6 15.Rfd1 Qc7 16.Bf1 Rac8 17.Qf2 Rfe8?!
17…Nd7 was necessary.
18.Bb6 Qb8 19.Nxa5 Nxa5 20.Rxa5 Nd7 21.Bd4 Nc5?! 22.b4 Nd7 23.Qg3 Ne5?
The natural move, but losing. The ugly 23…f6 was obligatory.
24.Rxe5! dxe5 25.Bxe5 Qxe5 26.Qxe5 Bf6 27.Qf4 Bxc3 28.Rd7 Bc6 29.Qxf7+ Kh8 30.Rc7 1-0
(Photos courtesy of Junee prison.)