By IA Kerry Stead
Queensland is known for its big things … the Big Pineapple, the Big Mango, Big Mal Meninga, amongst others … and it seems that chess tournaments also fit into this category!
Over the past fortnight, almost 700 students have played in two primary school tournaments on the Gold Coast (311 at St Stephens in Upper Coomera & 368 at Robina State School in Robina). Prior to that, 117 Secondary Students competed in the Secondary school tournament at Somerset in Mudgeeraba in February. Those numbers are HUGE, especially for a chess tournament!
To compare these events to other interschool events in Victoria is difficult to do – the vast majority of interschool events in Victoria have under 100 players, with very few getting over 150 (the Secondary Final is around 200 players, but that is one of, if not the biggest each year). There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that most chess coaching companies in Victoria run their own tournaments, targeted to schools that they run coaching programs in. While this means that there are many more tournaments run in Victoria (I would often be involved in running two interschool tournaments per week in Melbourne), they are typically much smaller in terms of numbers of players at each of these & I had never run an event with more than two divisions in a single tournament! In Queensland with Gardiner Chess running the entire interschool competition on behalf of the Chess Association of Queensland (CAQ), then the issue of scale is simply non-existent!
Welcome to Queensland, where everything is bigger! (Below: Gold Coast North and Gold Coast South photos)
As is typical with being an arbiter at a school event, there is almost no chance of actually following the chess, with at best a brief ‘Hello, Good Luck!’, or ‘How many points are you on?’ being the most that can be said to students across the course of the day, in between recording results, resolving disputes and scanning the hall for raised hands! Of course at the end of the event, there might be some time to look at the results & there will inevitably be a number of upsets throughout the day, but that is something you expect from all chess events – ratings are just an indication of what might happen, rather than a definitive determiner of results!
Another difference between Queensland & Victoria with interschool chess is the use (or lack) of chess clocks during the tournament. In Victoria it is standard for clocks to be used at all interschool events, whether kids are in Prep or year 12. This is another function of size – its much easier to run a tournament with clocks on all boards when you only need 50 or 60 clocks, compared to events when you would need over 150! In this case the compromise of using clocks in the higher grades & adjudicating games after 20-25 minutes for the lower grades makes more sense, though it did take me a while to re-adjust my brain to adjudicating a position!
Of course I’ve been warned that the finals near the end of they year have around 800 players competing! [Ed: 963 players in 2018] Hopefully I’ll have time to prepare for such a mass of humanity!