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May 22, 2024

A farewell to The Echo’s chess column

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Chess Grandmaster, Ian Rogers. Photo supplied

Our chess column, which has run for more than two decades, has come to an unfortunate end. It was reprinted from the Canberra Times, and is the victim of cost-cutting at that paper. Grandmaster Ian Rogers here writes his last column.

Grandmaster, Ian Rogers

To my great regret, this will be the final chess column in the Canberra Times [and reprinted in The Echo], ending a 55-year tradition.

I have had custody of the chess column for nine days short of 30 years and would like to thank the readers who have faithfully followed the column through those years. I was always gratified by the numbers who entered the competitions, wrote to pick me up on an error, or detailed the lengths they went to in order to buy the Canberra Times when living outside the ACT.

Cease and desist 

The chess column was briefly available online, until I learned that the columns were often being republished under another person’s name in The Scotsman (and under my name without permission in Spain). As cease and desist requests were ignored by the Scot (apart from the concession ‘Maybe I should have changed a few more words’), the column has stayed unGooglable ever since. So its loyal readers in Canberra and interstate have always had to pay for the newspaper to read the column – and I am grateful so many have done so.

Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian chess grandmaster. Photo Wikimedia

Magnus Carlsen 

To finish my overview of the previous 30 years in chess, the last decade has belonged completely to Magnus Carlsen, who deigned to compete in and win the World Championship title in 2013 and then defended it successfully four times before his recent abdication.

The Norwegian has also been the world’s top ranked player for the entire decade, although his results in the just-completed Norway Chess tournament suggest that at 32 he may already be past his peak.

Nonetheless, Carlsen’s achievements in the past decade have caused him to be spoken of in the same breath as Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov as a candidate for the greatest player of all time. (Fischer had an extraordinary peak, Kasparov had extraordinary longevity and Carlsen has a bit of both.)

Grandmaster title 

In Australia, the decade has seen a generation of young players who feel as if earning the Grandmaster title is a feasible ambition – and quite a few have done so, including the first Canberra-born GM, Anton Smirnov. 

In part this is because Australia began hosting regular tournaments where GM ‘norms’ were possible: the revamped Australian Masters, Canberra’s Doeberl Cup and more recently the Gold Coast Open. However, it is still true that overseas competition is essential, with no Australian GM achieving all their qualifications at home.

Extraordinary numbers

In 2023 Australian chess tournaments are witnessing record entries, though the truly extraordinary numbers are seen online. Lichess, the smaller, open source competitor to chess.com, sees a million games played on its server each day, and there are plenty of Australian flags visible among those players.

The reasons for the chess boom are varied: lockdown leisure, The Queen’s Gambit, Carlsen’s media profile, the rise of streaming, Chess’s (alleged) educational benefits, etc. Tournament organisers and administrators have struggled to keep up.

To conclude, thanks again to my readers. Saying goodbye is not a decision of my making.


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Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Mr. Rogers,

    I have read one of your chess magazine articles in a German chess magazine. And I read about your work on the internet and I learned that you used to travel around the world and report on chess tournaments. Do you have expert level knowledge concerning the political crisis (conflict) that arouse between Russia and other countries? I would be glad if you were sending a reply.

    Tim Boetticher (Germany)

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