By Sebastian Jule
Day 10 – it’s easier the second time round… right?
After a very welcomed three-day break, it was time to get back into the reason why I’m here, to run chess tournaments. Thankfully, the boss man has joined me for the remainder of the trip. Andrew flew in on Sunday night on a flight that was delayed an hour trying to depart Brisbane. Damn pilots calling in sick. The plane flies itself these days anyway.
We arrive at Andergrove State School at 8:00am for the Mackay/Whitsundays term 3 interschool’s’ competition. Lucky for us the hall was set up with tables and chairs, with boards and pieces the only things needing to go out. However, with some help from the local students that took no time at all. Although everything was already set up, we were anticipating around 150 students to attend today’s events and counting the tables; we were going to fall a little short. We managed to find a couple more tables around the hall and prepared for the large number of players. We ended up having 149 students playing in today’s event, beating the previous record for the region of 137 students. This was great to see and really proves all the work that Andrew and all of the schools for the region have put into promoting chess.
We get underway only a little behind schedule, but we were able to catch up throughout the day. Although today ran really smooth, it was pretty full on. There were a lot more hands up then in the previous events. However, they were mostly checking if they had checkmated their opponent. It was a big day of Andrew and myself breaking it to kids that even with their extra two queens, rook and bishop that they had still managed to stalemate their opponent. And no… if they leave themselves in check, you cannot take the king and win the game. Nice try buddy!
Even though it was busy, that didn’t distract us to notice how close both competitions were throughout the day. From the 5th round in the primary event, there were five schools within 2 points of each other. Even after the last round, there was two-way tie for 2nd place and a two-way tie for 3rd place. Despite all this, it was Mackay Christian College coming out on top. They were able to finish 1.5 points ahead of 2nd place. It was a similar story in the Secondary competition as well. The top three teams finished within 1 point of each other after the last round. Mercy College and Pioneer High both just missed out on the top prize, with North Mackay State High School edging their way to victory. Well done!
Luckily for us we were able to head back to the Motel for one more night, before heading up to Townsville tomorrow for the North Queensland Interschool’s on Wednesday. With the afternoon to ourselves, I was able to get a load of washing done and chill out for a bit, while Andrew continued to chip away at his email inbox. It must suck being the boss sometimes. We decided that we would head down to the bowls club for a nice meal and have a go at the weekly poker tournament they have going. Not having played in over a year and a half, we were both feeling pretty rusty. However that didn’t stop us from being the last two players standing, out of the forty players to begin with. Even with Andrew either raising or going all-in when I was small or big blind. What a jerk!
Day 11- the winning streak continues
After a bit of a sleep in, today we were tasked with driving up to Townsville for the Central Queensland North on Wednesday. Although it was going to be a decent five-hour drive, we seized the opportunity to pop into Airlie Beach for most of the day. Considering the only other time I have been to Airlie Beach was when I was 10 years old, I was pretty keen to see how much it had changed throughout the years. Plus Andrew always loves to visit when he gets the chance. Even though we knew that we would have to do a fair bit of driving, today did start with a laugh. We load up the car and check out of the motel. We drive out of the motel onto the main road and we hear a bang. Andrew very quickly remembers he had left a chess set, board and clock on the roof of the car. Luckily I was able to jump out at the next lights and run back to save them before anyone could run them over. This is why we don’t have nice things Andrew!
Before we made it into Airlie Beach, we could already see the damage that this year’s recent cyclone has left. Many trees blown over or without leaves, businesses still closed with no signs of reopening and boats that are completely ruined. This was very sad to see.
We made it into town and were glad to see that a majority of businesses had been able to reopen, with about twenty percent still closed with obvious structural damage to the buildings. Even though the Lagoon was still closed, there were a lot of backpackers soaking up the sun. I have been fortunate enough for most of this trip to have had very nice weather all the way up the coast, and today was no different.
We pull up near the beach and Andrew shows me around the marina and along the water. There were so many sailboats in the harbor and lots further out in the ocean. After making our way to the Sailing Club, we learned that they was an event on for this week with gatherings and parties happening each night. Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to stay to party with the boat people. Before leaving the Sailing Club, Andrew decided to try and continue his luck and had splash on the pokies. Putting in $10 and walking away with $46, he was pretty stoked.
Although Airlie Beach is an awesome place to check out, the main reason we stopped in was because I wanted to introduce myself to the Chief Pilot of GSL Aviation. I am hoping to get my first shot in the aviation industry, considering I finished all my training in June this year. After a bit of a wait I was able to see the Chief Pilot Josh and have a quick chat about the company and myself. Although there was certainty they would need an extra staff for the holidays, it was good experience to speak to someone about the industry. He recommended speaking to the manager at their Cairns base, so I will try and pop in there for a chat as well. I would like to thank Andrew for hanging around while I did this; I know he would’ve preferred to have gotten back on the road much earlier.
It wasn’t until 4:00 that I was able to speak to Josh, so it meant that we wouldn’t get into Townsville until around 8:00pm. So we start making our way up the coast and had a good run, not hitting any traffic. We did notice there were lots of fires from burning sugar cane. Since it was dark, we could clearly see the fires burning which looked pretty cool. We stop in Ayr for dinner before driving the final leg up to Townsville. Andrew points out the McDonalds and KFC as potential options, but a quick Google search tells me there is a Subway in town a little further along the road. Another foot of sandwich demolished and we make our way to Townsville for the night. It sounds like tomorrows numbers wont be as big as the previous tournaments, but there are a lot of schools that haven’t registered. Plus we have to drive up to Cairns straight after the event finishes. Tomorrow will be a big day…
Day 12 – quiet but not
I woke up so tired. I could not get myself to sleep last night. Andrews constant snoring didn’t help. Luckily this motel did room service breakfast, so I didn’t have to worry about food. I quickly try to wake up and make myself look presentable and we headed out to run the North Queensland interschool’s event. Before we even leave the motel, it already sounded like today was going to have a few issues. Unfortunately due to other commitments, some of the regular schools that normally attend weren’t able to make it. This meant that the numbers were lower then we were hoping for. Not only that, the schools who would be there had not yet sent through their final player lists for the day. This meant that we were basing our numbers from previous terms. Luckily today we had Lee Whalley with us helping out. Lee is the president of the Townsville chess club. He was able to do a lot of the setting up with the host school kids, while Andrew and I added more then 80 player’s names before tournament started. This meant we started the tournament very late and weren’t sure whether or not we would get a seventh round in. Considering this was the tournament to qualify for state, its not something we like doing.
Although we had a pretty rough start, the rest of the day went really well. All of the students were really well behaved and we very good at getting their results in after each game. Having a smaller number and a large venue, the rest of the day was very comfortable.
Due to the lack of schools able to attend this tournament, the primary division only had Townsville Grammar School and Weir State School competing. Townsville Grammar School’s top four teams placed in order in the team’s event, with Brian Hayes taking out first place in the Individual standings, scoring a perfect 7 out of 7 score.
In the secondary competition, it was Townsville Grammar School taking out first and second place. However, Townsville High School placed equal second as well, but got edged out on countback to take third. The individual was a close finish, with Brendan Pierotti winning first with a perfect 7 out of 7. There was four-way tie for second place only one point behind, all giving Brendan tough games throughout the day.
The Townsville region has some very strong students and a lot of up and coming players who show a lot of potential. It’s really disappointing to see the numbers drop as much as they have been, and the lack of primary schools in the competition. I ran most of the competition today while Andrew went around and spoke to the coordinators about trying to boost numbers back up in the region. Its going to be a big goal of ours to build the region back up and try and get more schools on board. With the introduction of ChessKid, it will be much easier for teachers to organize and plan interesting lessons for students. Allowing them to take the skills they have learned home and play online. I believe this is an awesome program we have been given to use and I hope that schools in the regional areas jump on board on its expansion.
After we finish and pack up the equipment, we hit the road for the drive up to Cairns. We are expecting the Far North Queensland Interschool’s event to be massive, estimating close to 350 students to attend. The drive is around 4 hours, which is really draining after just running an interschool’s tournament. I’m excited to finally meet David Long, coordinator for the Trinity Anglican School in White Rock. David and his wife Anna, were very close with my sister Alex when she was teaching up there and has done tremendous amounts of work for Cairns chess for over 15 years. Tomorrow sounds like it will be hectic, but I’m excited to see tomorrow will compare to tournaments down south.
Day 13 – just casually breaking records
I crashed last night. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. It was the first time that I felt really drained from this trip. It worked out kind of well actually, because I needed the rest for today’s event. It was going to be the biggest of the trip so far by a long way. We had to get to the venue earlier today since it was going to be a bigger set up. Luckily for us, the TAS grounds staff had set up all the tables and chairs. I was in charge of looking after the premier events as well as the high school open. Both premier events would be on stage where I was, while the high school open would be on one half of the main area to my left. I was going to be busy.
The results for the Primary premier division saw Trinity Anglican School edging out Our Lady Help of Christian by half a point to grab first place. Freshwater did an awesome job to win third place. In the Secondary competition, it was St Stephen’s grabbing first place, leading the competition by three points. Trinity Anglican School took out second, beating Cairns State High School by half a point.
The overall numbers for the day was 342! Which is awesome as it beats the previous record of 305 made last term. This just outlines the efforts put into by all the teachers and coordinators for the Far North Queensland region. This is by far the largest regional tournament and close to the largest in Queensland, only getting beaten by the Gold Coast events. I suspect that the numbers are going to continue climbing throughout the next years as well.
We finished the tournament and headed back to the hotel. Andrew still had work to do, so I decided to go for a walk and get my haircut. Unfortunately I am one of those people who have to get a trim every month otherwise my hair gets a mind of its own. It was nice to have a rest after the day instead of jumping in the car and driving somewhere else. Plus, tonight we went out for dinner at the Water Bar and Grill on the Cairns esplanade with David Long, which does amazing steak and ribs. We decided to try the ‘reef and beef’, which was prawns, steak, mash potato and vegetables. So good!
After dinner Andrew went to the Casino while I caught up for drinks with some people who worked at GSL Aviation in Cairns. It was good to be able to meet more people in the industry and learn about their experience in the company. From there I met Andrew at the Casino to find him $50 poorer, going down in a couple of spins on the roulette table. Determined to win some money back, he decided to have another crack at Sic-bo. While he went to the ATM, I threw $30 down on a couple of spins at a different roulette table. Luckily for me, I walked away $60 richer. However, Andrews attempt proved unsuccessful, losing once again. Unlucky mate.
Today was the last event we would be running until we get back to the Sunshine Coast on Monday. This meant for the next three days we would be slowly making our way back. It’s been a big week full of events and driving, so I’m so excited to start the journey for home. It will be tough being in the car for so long once again, but its nice that we are able to take our time a bit heading down. We would be making our way to from Cairns to Bowen on Friday. On Saturday we changed our plans to make our way to Rockhampton instead of Gladstone since there would be another poker tournament there and we still had a false sense of confidence to give it a go. Following that on Sunday we would head down to the Sunshine Coast to stay with Andrew’s auntie before the last tournament on Monday. It’s going to be a big few days, but I can’t wait to get home. Hopefully there aren’t too many camper vans on the way.
Day 17- I see the light at the end of tunnel.
The last few days have gone pretty quickly. Probably because they have been spent mostly in the car. We made it done to Sunshine Coast and spent the night at Andrew’s aunties place. Not only was it a nice change to stay somewhere other then a motel room, but this place was perfect. It was on the north side of the Sunshine coast, right near Mt Coolum and the airport. It had an amazing view over the ocean to the east, and the hills to the west. It was my ideal house near the water. This was refreshing after such a long journey in the car, as well as preparing for another huge event today.
Along the way we stopped into Mission Beach due to part of the Bruce Highway being closed. It was a nice little beachy town with cool little cafes providing delicious seafood. I was able to pop into a small shop along the beach and get my girlfriend a little something. I thought jewelry would be a safe bet. Good call.
Our stop into Rockhampton proved unsuccessful. The only reason we decided to stop at Rockhampton rather than Gladstone was to give poker another go. However when we got there, we found out that they were playing ‘Omaha’ poker instead of the standard ‘Texas Holdem’. I’ve never played ‘Omaha’ before so that sucked. Needless to say both Andrew and myself didn’t hang around very long.
Other than that the trip back down was pretty smooth and we made really good time. It’s pretty hard not to with Andrew driving.
We arrived at the Lake Kawana Community Centre earlier than normal since we would have to do all the setting up of tables and chairs before the students arrived. This wasn’t ideal at the end of a two-week trip but that’s just the way it goes. Luckily we had six people helping us run the tournament today. The venue itself was quite nice, and proved more spacious then we were first expecting. I was in charge of the younger students today, while Andrew looked after the high school and premier divisions.
The tournament started off slightly behind schedule, due to the amount of changes we had to make to different schools teams when they arrived. Unfortunately, the majority of the changes were in my sections. I secretly think Andrew knew this would happen, hence why he offered to run the other divisions. Once we got underway, there was the usual chaos expected from the first couple of rounds while students worked out where they were playing, as well as removing students who were in the draw that weren’t supposed to be. The turn out for the competition was awesome. We had 333 all up, which was just shy of the Cairns tournament a few days prior.
The results for the Primary competition had Matthew Flinders Anglican College taking out first and second in the Premier event, with Chancellor Primary coming in third. The Secondary also saw Matthew Flinders Anglican College having two teams finish in the top three, taking out first and third. Edging them out by half a point was Nambour Christian College grabbing second place. Winning the individual was Lucas Hubner from Caloundra City Private School, scoring a perfect 7 out of 7. Awesome job!
Something that I noticed from being back in the south-east coast of Queensland was the attitude of the students. There was a higher level of competitiveness of the players. Although this sounds like a positive thing, it came at the cost of sportsmanship and honesty throughout the games. Along my entire trip up to Cairns and back, I only had one instance of a student claiming their opponent was cheating and the other denying it. In this tournament alone, I had nine separate cases of this happening. It seems to get even worse in the tournaments further south in the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Team’s determination to win is overshadowing the enjoyment of the game and respect for the students playing. This isn’t happening from anyone in particular, but I feel its something that all of us need to work together on trying to improve in the future.
With over 4,000km driven, 45 hours in the car and 10 feet of subway sandwiches devoured, I had finally made it home. This was a huge trip and was something that I didn’t think would take it out of me as much as it did. I have massive respect for Andrew and how he has been doing it solo for the past (7 years). Although it was tough, it was awesome to experience chess in the other parts of Queensland. Seeing the excitement from students who’s only chance to play against other schools being the events we ran. As well as the disappointment knowing it will be another 6 months until we are back again for next years events. It was nice to be able to put faces to names of people who are big part of chess for their region.
I am so grateful to Gardiner Chess for allowing me to go on this trip and see the benefit that chess has for schools and their students. I feel that chess in these regions has grown so much and from the numbers at the events this term, it is continuing to get bigger. The introduction of ChessKid will be a great tool for schools with limited access to resources and coaching, allowing to students to always have somewhere to practice their chess. I am happy to be home after such a long trip, but I will be the first one to put their hand up to head up north again when next years events arrive.