By Sebastian Jule
Day 1- the journey begins
I say goodbye to my girlfriend and parents and jump into the fully loaded car to begin the first drive of my two-week trip, to run the term 3 interschool chess competitions. Although I have run many different school competitions throughout the years, this would be the first time heading north to run the Central and North Queensland events. For years Gardiner Chess has been organizing these events, so I was excited to be able to give it go and have my own adventure. Before I leave, the first priority is of course to set up the Bluetooth through my phone. Even though radio has its moments, no way I was going to drive all those hours unless I could listen to the music I wanted, instead of Justin Biebers ‘Despacito’ every 30 minutes. Fortunately, I wont have to drive this journey alone. I stop off in Brisbane to pick up Matt Gilpin and we hit the road again. Matt will be running the first few tournaments as well, before he heads back to Brisbane after the Central Queensland North tournament in Rockhampton on Wednesday.
We make our way up north and decide to stop at Gympie, as it’s a pretty standard place to stop on any trip north or south. Rather then doing the norm Maccas drive by, I tend to opt for a foot long Subway if I can. It makes me feel like I’m one of those healthy people, even though some Italian herbs and cheese bread with old English cheese with sauce begs to differ. With dinner sorted, we hit the road again for the last stretch up to Bundaberg. Pouring with rain and truck after truck after truck after an elderly couple in a camper van after truck, we eventually arrive at the Motel. Early enough so Dianne could check us in before missing the 4th quarter of the Crows vs Port Adelaide footy game. Swiss perfect files loaded up, the venue mapped on Google and a sneaky episode of Air Crash Investigations, it was time to get some sleep, excited to begin tournament number 1.
Day 2 – getting my face out there
7:00 o’clock, the alarm goes off but it is quickly ignored. 7:20 and I finally roll out of bed. A cup of tea for breakfast and I prepare myself for the first tournament on the list. Even though the Wide Bay North tournament isn’t the biggest event on the trip, I’m still feeling a bit nervous. We arrive on time and begin to set up for the day. Allan Menham from the Bundaberg chess club is there to help for today and tomorrow. Coming from Gold Coast tournaments I’m expecting some kind of chaos, whether it be late arrivals or unregistered schools showing up. Although there was the small issue here and there, the most of it was super smooth. Schools were on time, teachers were organized and the students were more then happy to help set up. This was a huge relief considering we had 113 in total. From there the day ran super smooth, even allowing us to add an extra round into the event.
Throughout the day I hear that channel 9 will be stopping in to do a short piece on event. This was great for the promotion of chess and Queensland and for Walkervale State School, who was the host of the event. Although this was a great addition to the day, it suddenly dawned on me that I was the one most likely to have to speak to the reporter. Now I’m not the worst public speaker in the world, but there’s something about being on TV that adds a bit more pressure. I started thinking of what I was going to say and I realized that I know very little about the overall event. I mean, what is Wide Bay? How far does it stretch? It was just the name of the event to me. I make a slightly panicked phone call to Andrew to get somewhat of an idea of what to say. Thankfully he sent through a bit of a spiel to go through which calmed me down a bit. I mean, I know it’s only like 10 seconds of talking but it was a big deal to me!
2:00 o’clock comes and we have almost finished the last round, and I’m feeling like I have been able to avoid a potential fail army clip. The tables and chairs are almost all packed away apart from the last few games of the event and in the corner of my eye I see those dreaded nine dots covering a massive camera enter at the back of the room. Crap… Of course they had to come during the busiest part of the day when we are trying to work out prizes and finish packing up the room. Thankfully Matt and Allan are all over it and were able to get everything finished without me. Consistent to last year, Norville State School won the primary event. However, a massive upset in the high school competition with Bundaberg State School taking out first place. Shalom College has won the event for the last five years so this was an awesome achievement.
Pouring rain outside, and not really able to hear myself, I manage to spit out something that sounds relevant to the event. After it was done, I felt pretty silly about how much I worried about the whole thing. I mean, it was over in less then 30 seconds. Although, I could’ve at least have taken my sunglasses off my head during the interview… Bring on Wide Bay South tomorrow!
Day 3 – today was a good day
This motel delivers breakfast to your room… Winning! Awesome way to start the day. The tournament today was at Tinana State School in Maryborough. Overall we had 130 students, 3 players short of the term 3 record. The event was in the school hall so there was plenty of room for activities. Allan drove down from Bundaberg to help us out again, which was greatly appreciated. It was a little bit of a late start since some schools had to travel a fair way to get there. I would like to give a Special mention to St Mary’s Catholic College (Kingaroy!) for making it to the event.
So we eventually pair the first round and try to get things started. No issues with the primary schools event not even a single student missing. Such a rare thing to happen. The Secondary however had to be re-paired due to a typo in one of the student’s club information. Unfortunately for us, the Swiss perfect program decided to have one of its typical episodes and print two different sets of pairings. This was rather annoying but was eventually sorted out without putting us too far behind. From then on the day was again super smooth. Now a day doesn’t run smooth because of us. A day runs smooth because of everyone else, and that’s what happened today. The Tinana school coordinator, Robyn Young was great in making sure everything was available for us, including providing us lunch. All of the visiting schools coordinator’s were awesome with entering their students and having everything under control. Shout out to the poor coordinator who had a student be sick on the bus trip there. Unlucky! The students who competed today were all fantastic. The level of sportsmanship and enthusiasm shown by the kids is incredible. No one trying to cheat or lie so they can win. Everyone keen to learn something from every game, and not let losing discourage him or her from playing the next one. This is what makes me enjoy being a chess coach! The competition ended with James Nash High School taking out the Secondary event as well as the highest point scorer over the three terms. The primary competition was a close one, with St Helen’s winning by half a point of Tinana. Tinana did however have the most points from the three terms.
A quick pack up after presentation and we were on the road again by 2:30. We now had to drive four and a half hours up to Rockhampton for tomorrow’s event. Pretty tired from the day, we made our way through some less then exciting scenery up to Rockhampton by 7:00. Another Subway sandwich and we checked into the Motel for the night. 930km down and 3 feet of Subway sandwich devoured, I am finally able to put my feet up and rest before another big day of chess to come.
Day 4 – rinse and repeat
Another breakfast delivery, so good! We get ourselves ready for another big day and check out of a less then luxurious motel. Thanks a lot Andrew… Today’s event is the Central Queensland North competition, hosted at The Cathedral College in Rockhampton. Overall we had 95 students competing today with the majority being in the secondary event. Once again it was a really smooth day. As soon as we got there, the students from Cathedral College knew exactly what to do to setup. It is clear how much of a relationship Andrew has built with the teachers and students over the past seven years. All the students from primary and secondary all knew the drill on how the tournament was going to run and were very well behaved.
Over the three terms, Rockhampton Grammar School scored the most points in not only the primary but the secondary as well. Today’s event was no different, with Rockhampton Grammar School Primary taking out first place. However, the competition was much closer in the secondary event. There were three teams within half a point of each other going into the last round. Rockhampton Grammar School, St Brendan’s and The Cathedral College, dominating the top boards. At the end of the round it was St Brendan’s finishing on top, winning ahead of second by 2.5 points. All of the players from St Brendan’s deserve huge credit for their efforts considering the lack of opportunity they get to practice their chess. Not only did their first team do well, but also their second team missed out on third place by only half a point. I really hope to see them again down at the state championships in October.
Throughout all of the events in the last few days the thing that has stuck out the most to me is the general attitude of all the players. All of the students have shown a great attitude towards their chess and are really keen to learn new ideas. All the tournaments so far have been very competitive and the number of players has either improved or matched the previous terms. I am looking forward to seeing the growth of chess in Queensland continue, and the up and coming students becoming great chess players in the years to come.
After a long few days, our dynamic duo would come to an end. Matt would be heading back to Brisbane this afternoon after the tournament. It has been great few days and having Matt help run these events has made things run really well. It’s obvious that he has been doing this for a long time. From there it’s an hour and a half drive back down to Gladstone for the Central Queensland South event tomorrow. Although the event will be smaller on numbers, I hear that there are some very good chess players attending. I’m looking forward to another competitive day.
Day 5 – flying solo
Today starts with the standard 7:00am wake up, breakfast and turning on the morning show. However, today I am on my own. I will be running the Central Queensland South interschool’s competition held at the CQ University. This was a nice venue with fairly new facilities. There were only 35 students registered going into to the tournament, however Benaraby State School and Gladstone State High School made it as well, pushing our numbers up to 54. Huge credit to the Gladstone coordinator for getting students there at all, having issues with their bus last minute. Due to the numbers of the event, the primary and secondary students would be competing in the one tournament.
The tournament got underway with no issues and ran smoothly throughout the day. Since it was all running ahead of time, I was able to have a bit of a break after the fourth round. During which, I threw out a challenge to all students to get in teams to play me in a simul. Any group who was able to beat me would win $10. Luckily for me, I managed to keep my money.
We get through the last round and begin presentations around 1:35. Since it was a combined competition of primary and secondary, the primary students did really well to score points against the older students. There was a three-way tie for first place in the primary individual standings all scoring a fantastic 4.5/7. Calliope State School took out the primary division, which was a huge achievement considering this year is their first time competing in interschool competitions. The Secondary standings were pretty dominated by the Gladstone SHS, with two players scoring a perfect 7/7 from the same team. In the team’s event, Gladstone teams 1 and 3 took out 1st and 3rd place, with a Chanel team grabbing 2nd place.
After presentations were finished, I was able to run a coaching session for all the students. Not having a display board and unable to hook my computer up to the projector, I had the students get into pairs and find a board and play through a famous grand master game as I called out the moves. I chose to go through Paul Morphy’s ‘Immortal Game’, which has plenty of tactics and exciting sacrifices. Although the set up wasn’t ideal, the session went really well; with many of the students getting involved asking questions and learning some new ideas to improve their chess.
Fortunately I was spending the night in Gladstone, so there was no long drive after a busy day. I was able to come home and crash in bed. Literally! As soon as I got back to the apartment, my head hit the pillow and didn’t rise until 8:30pm. It has been a huge first week, with lots of tournaments, driving and Subway sandwiches. Although it was busy, it has actually been a really good week. Every tournament has gone very well, and all the students, coordinators and parents have made things very easy. It has been very fulfilling seeing the joy and excitement from the players in these events. All of them keen to learn as much as they can, and all having such great sportsmanship. It reminds me of when I was competing in these events myself. Its hard not to get excited about a team with limited resources and having to travel a long way winning their event and qualifying for the state finals. Students entering an event by themselves when the school doesn’t send a team. All of these factors are what makes chess such a special game. It brings people together of so many different areas and backgrounds to all share their enjoyment of the game. I have really enjoyed this first week of competitions, and am looking forward to seeing some of these teams again for the state finals. Tomorrow I hit the road again to make my way up to Mackay for the event on Monday. I am looking forward to a few days off and getting ready for another big week of chess to come.