by Ian Rogers
Australia has produced some top players with unusual playing styles.
Former Australian Champion Guy West taught himself to play with his knights pointed backwards, Grandmaster Darryl Johansen presses the chess clock so softly it is hard to believe he has touched it at all, while Olympian Junta Ikeda has had great success running himself down to a single second, move after move. (Ikeda has beaten Australia’s two highest rated Grandmasters through this method; the GMs became so sure that Ikeda would lose on time that they forgot about their own clock and lost on time themselves!)
At one memorable game during the 1982 Chess Olympiad in Lucerne Johansen found himself with 15 moves to make in 2 minutes yet maintained his super-cool technique, move after move.
However just as Johansen calmly reached out to caress the clock on the final move of the time control, his time expired. Johansen’s exclamation “F…!” could be heard throughout the Olympiad hall and rather ruined the effect.
Rising Australian star Moulthun Ly (cover and top) has a similar languid style – not for him the banging of pieces and clocks some use to establish psychological superiority.
At the recent giant open tournament in Gibraltar, Ly was playing top English Grandmaster David Howell (below), who outranked Ly considerably.
After 25 moves, with the position marginally favouring Ly, Howell leaned over the board and said “Would you mind moving like a normal human being and not a dead person?”.
The Grandmasters on the adjacent board cracked up laughing while Ly made sure that his next move was specially languid and slow.
Technically, such a comment could be deemed distraction, possibly attracting a time penalty, but Ly kept his sense of humour and drew the game easily.
The following game, from a Grandmaster tournament in January in the Czech Republic, illustrates Ly’s never-say-die attitude.