The very mention of chess conjures images of Ron and Harry, foreheads blistering in sweat and blood as they painstakingly battle to recover the Philosopher’s stone and defeat the malicious Lord Voldemort. Instead, our very own Junta Ikeda sits poised with his eyes on the prize, in conquest of yet another opponent. If only chess had been that easy for Ron and Harry.
Last month, Junta competed in The Doeberl Cup, one of Australia’s most prestigious chess tournaments which takes place annually in University House over Easter Weekend. It attracts up to 270 domestic and international players every year, and holds the title of the biggest Australian chess event with only the two-week Australian Championships attaining similar status. The Doeberl Cup was named after its primary sponsor, Erich Doeberl, and since its inception in 1963 has grown more popular, attracting a diverse crowd of competitors. The tournament is the longest running weekend chess event in Australia and in recent years it offers around $19,000 to the winner, the largest chess prize in the country.
Junta explains that as always the event this year was very competitive with “the mix of International Masters and even Grandmasters from overseas”. The player who holds the most number of wins, 12 to be exact, is Grandmaster Ian Rogers. Cam Cunningham, the ACT Chess Association President comments that “Canberra has a rich chess culture and it one of the strongest cities in the country”. This year, Junta scored 6/9 and placed equal 7th-12th out of a field of 70, a result which he hoped would be the perfect warm-up for his next adventure in Pattaya, Thailand.
For Junta, his affection with chess began when he was just young boy in primary school. Taught by his father, his talent soon became clear as he began competing in school and eventually developed into one of Canberra’s best (and youngest) chess players. However, despite travelling all around the world to play chess, Junta remarks that the Cup was an opportunity for fun, and he doesn’t even consider himself to be a professional player! In fact, he says that most of his time is spent studying and working in Canberra just like any other student. However, his most recent major tournament, the Bangkok Open, which was held from the 12th-19th April, showed significant promise, with a win over 7th seed Polish Grandmaster Kamil Dragun, and a close loss to previous Bangkok Open winner and previously 3rd ranked world player Nigel Short.
Junta says that this year was especially exciting because it was the 15th session of the event and “there were 350 players in the two sections from 44 countries around the world”. Junta goes on to explain that not only was he excited to play more chess, but that he also enjoyed the five-star hotel where the tournament was held and taking a breather from study and work in Canberra.
Junta hoped that he was able to play some “good chess” in Thailand to recover from his slightly under par performance in the last couple of tournaments. It seems that for this ANU student, chess is not just any ordinary hobby, but a burning intellectual pursuit which he hopes to continue for the rest of his life. Happy gaming, Junta!