It's amazing to know that the SIO was, ironically enough, going to be Gareth's last chess tournament for a very long time.
Mom, Jenni Oliver, informs me that, "He felt his chess was bad, he wasn’t enjoying tournaments and there was no social side". She added, "I had to pull out every motherly ploy to get him to agree to play the SIO – I always hoped he would enjoy it and it would revitalize his chess interest."
TCG is very glad to bring our readers this interview with Gareth. Of course we're also very thankful that he's taken some time for this out of his obviously very busy schedule. There is actually an accompanying game analysis of Oliver vs Smerdon but, for some reason, the file we received seemed a bit corrupted. An emergency email is on its way and hopefully we can present that soon.
Did you expect to play as well as you did?
I actually expected to do rather badly in the tournament! I have not been doing much chess since the beginning of the year, no actual playing just coaching, and did very little in the way of preparation for the tournament itself.
What's your secret for that excellent performance anyhow? Give us a few tips.
Probably the biggest reason that I did so well was that I was completely relaxed coming into the tournament. I was seeded 55 and had no expectations of doing well, which always tends to bring out your best chess. I was also completely fresh, having not played the Doeberl and I always find that if you play two tournaments back to back you do not play as strong a chess in the second. Finally, while I have not been playing any chess recently, my mind has still been kept awake in that form of thinking by maths and physics at uni, so that may have kept me reasonably sharp.
I understand from a reliable source that this was going to be your last tournament. Why was that?
As always with these things there was a combination of different reasons. One of the big ones was time, as with uni and a number of other different things I now wish to do I don’t have the time to play regularly or do as much study as I should.
I also found that I was not looking forward to playing in this tournament. Chess has always been something I do because I enjoy it, and if I had lost my enthusiasm for it then it would be best to take an extend break from any tournament chess till I actually wanted to do it again.
Now that you turned out a good performance here, will you consider sticking it out in chess or will that be it for a while? Any chance you'll go hunting for that second or third norm?
The tournament has certainly invigorated me, although more of that comes from enjoying the chess games I played and the social side of the event than the result itself. I will probably not playing large amounts of chess but I thinkn that now I will play the major local tournaments and consider some of the overseas ones.
Your win against Smerdon wasn't your first one against an IM. You also beat Zhao in Doeberl last year (and a draw with Lane). How would you rate your game with Smerdon; that is, which was tougher and why?
I’m not really sure how to rate them in terms of toughness. In my game against Zong, I never really felt like I beat him, more that he beat himself. He sacked a pawn for an attack, which I managed to hold off and so subsequently won the ending. Against David I felt that I actually beat him, by improving my position etc, so in that way the game was much tougher as I had to do more than simply defend.
Other than chess, what have you been up to in life?
Currently I am at uni studying a computer science degree, along with physics as elective subjects. I have been doing Kendo (essentially Japanese fencing, using a Katana equivalent weapon) for a year, as well as learning some Viking era sword fighting.
We'd love to hear your impressions of the Sydney International.
I found the SIO an excellent tournament all round. The venue was very good, particularly in terms of its location as there was many tasty restaurants in easy walking distance which resulted in great social gatherings, at least for us younger players after the final round each day. The field itself of course was fantastically strong, giving Australians the much needed opportunity to play against that level of field without having to travel overseas. While the two games per day is not ideal, the shortening of the tournament is worth it as it makes it much easier to fit into peoples schedules.