The beauty, challenge and prestige of chess will take centre stage in Tauranga this week as the city hosts the 127th New Zealand Chess Congress.
Three international Grandmasters and six Masters will be among about 100 players taking part in five tournaments, which make up this year's championships. A new king, or queen, of New Zealand chess will be crowned.
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Mount Chess Club chief organiser and former New Zealand champion Bob Smith said the 10-day event would provide plenty of strategy, challenge, and excitement.
Smith would know. He is one of those players taking part, ranking 12th out of the 39 players in the section.
"I would be cramming in chess strategy but I'm coaching someone and organising this, so I'm behind in my preparation," he said.
"I'm not actually expecting to do well but I couldn't resist the opportunity to play because it's the only time it's being held in Tauranga. I'm not going to pass up this opportunity."
It is the first time in 127 years the championships will be held in the city. Matches will be held at Trinity Wharf from tomorrow.
Players are coming from Russia, Brazil, India, England, the Philippines, Malta, Australia and Guam. Smith hoped visitors would enjoy the beauty of Tauranga's waterfront and Mauao.
"It's going to be a great chess get-together with all of these people from all over the world and all over the country, something for people to look forward to."
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The Grandmasters playing in the New Zealand Open Championship are Vasily Papin (Russia), Daniel Fernandez (England) and Darryl Johansen (Australia). They join current joint New Zealand champions and International Masters Russell Dive and Anthony Ker, both from Wellington.
Other International Masters playing are Brandon Clarke (England), Herman van Riemsdijk (Brazil), Leonid Sandler (Australia) and Paul Garbett (Auckland).
Despite the titles, a person could play chess for three hours but lose the entire game with just one move. Such circumstances made the game "unforgiving", which was part of the attraction, Smith said.
"It's a lifelong challenge. I think it's also art, in a way. You can get a lot of pleasure in playing really, really good games. Although, you can have the reverse if you play a bad game which can play in your mind and you may get very little sleep."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges will open the championships and play an opening move.
Bridges said it was great the city was hosting the championships and he was looking forward to opening the event.
"The main reason I am is my personal connection through my son who loves to play. It's great for the brain and should be taken up by more people, politicians included."
The tournament will be broken into the New Zealand Open Junior Championship; New Zealand Major Open Championship; New Zealand Rapid Championship; New Zealand Lightning Championship; and the New Zealand Open Championships.
The event has a minimum total prize pool of $10,000 and the top winning New Zealander will qualify for the 2020 Olympiad team.