The venue is located on top of a mildly steep hill. By the time I reach the point where the road levels off again, I'm huffing and puffing for my life. Just as well, this sedentary business for woodpushers and bloggers alike makes for a pretty unhealthy lifestyle. We all need a little jolt through the system, something, anything to get the blood flowing. And if the uphill walk isn't enough, there is always anyone of the dozen or so "extreme" activities on offer here in this so-called "adventure capital" of the world. Apart from a bungee jump, there's a freefall swing from the top of a cliff face down to the bottom of an opposite cliff! Or one could go parasail. I saw someone do exactly that as I went on my walk this morning through the Queenstown Gardens. Seems like a cool thing to do.
Today, we will miss two overseas stars as they've opted to take their byes just as the action is hotting over-the-board. Jana Krivec and GM Rozentalis will not be here as, I suspect, they'll be out there jumping off a cliff or perhaps taking a crazy ride down a canyon on a tiny inflatable boat.
But, as we know, over-the-board action can have its own adrenaline rush. Yesterday's board 1 clash, Smerdon - Mikhalevski, saw a Sveshnikov Sicilian that surely had the audience on the edge of their seats. Some lovely dancing there by the Australian. One peculiar detail is that Mikhalevski's queen didn't move until the 35th when she exchanged with her opposite number. This game finally ended peacefully, one of only 8 games drawn in yesterday's round.
As impressive were the excellent outings of the local men, Smith, Croad and Steadman. They, too, drew their matches against more fancied opposition. Croad was clever, eventually reaching a position where he faced Wells' K and R pawn, but allowing himself that crucial tempo to hit the f1 square, thus drawing. Smith, too, deserves kudos aplenty. Despite being quantity and quality down for a good stretch of his duel, he defended well enough to also reach a drawn K+P ending. A disappointment for his Brazilian foe who earlier declined the New Zealander's peace offering.
On board 11, the steady climb of GM Johansen back to the top boards continued. With a R pair versus Stojic's Q, the wily grandmaster knew that patience was in order. He was spot on. Stojic over-reached with a pawn push, creating a weakness in his camp. That was all that Johansen needed.
Today we see an all GM action on the top 3 boards. That will be a delight to our internet viewers. While on board 4, IM Smerdon, needing the critical rating points to finally gain that GM title, will be up to something against England's GM Peter Wells. We'll also be keeping an eye on board 10, Ikeda - Motoc. The Romanian visitor's play so far has not been particularly impressive. Junta could so some damage. He's done it before, he can do it again.
Finall, for those who have been asking, I've finally created a Flickr set for Queenstown. Click here.