The tyranny of distance: the life of a young Australian chess player

by Cathy Chua

Earlier this year one of the encounters technology has made available for mind games took place – the 2019 Junior Speed Chess Championship. The technology is impressive, with the board, and video commentary by two masters, along with video of the players.

Smirnov, the Australian number one player was outranked by his US counterpart and lost, despite picking up a handy win in the first game. I wondered if it was the usual story of Australia suffering from its location in the world. For Smirnov it was an early morning start, something which chess players normally do anything to avoid. The timing was definitely against him.

If you are Australian, then the expression ‘the tyranny of distance’ has a meaning that has never gone away. The Internet and other technological advances have made the world smaller, but the gains for Australia have always been offset by the fixed disadvantages, which for the foreseeable future will not change.

Perhaps there is a future in which mind sports like chess are strictly fought over virtual boards. But for now the ones that count involve travelling to a point where competitors congregate and push wood, as the expression has it. Casting my memory back to days when I made these trips in the 1970s and 1980s, improvements are apparent for Australians. Read more »