This match of 10 games between the Australian (Cecil John Seddon Purdy) and New Zealand (Ortvin Sarapu) champions for the "Championship of Australasia" was held in Auckland, New Zealand, during November 1952. It was organised and conducted by Auckland Chess League by authority of the New Zealand Chess Association.
This was a hard-fought match between two master players (Purdy IM 1951, Sarapu IM 1966) of different styles; Purdy the stronger strategically and Sarapu tactically.
Sarapu (28 year's old) an Estonian who had arrived in only New Zealand two year's before was to be the dominant player in New Zealand for the next three decades. He won his national championship four times in a row in 1951-1955, and went onto twenty national titles in total.
Purdy (47 year's old) had won the previous two Australian Championship, in 1949 at Melbourne and in 1951 at Brisbane. Purdy faced strong domestic challengers to his primacy, in particular from the Hungarian emigre master Lajos Steiner who won the Australian Chess Championship four times in 1945, 1946/47, and was to win again in 1952/53 and 1958/59, and Gregory Simon Koshnitsky who was Australian champion in 1932-33 and 1938-39.
The match was perhaps the end of Purdy's period of peak overt the board performances which commenced in the radio matches of the late 1940's, and he was not to win the Australian Championship again. Instead, he began to give more prominence to correspondence chess becoming the first Correspondence Chess World Champion (1950-53)
The match was suggested by Sarapu in September 1952. It would be the first first Australia-New Zealand chess match since the end of the Second World War. Originally, it was expected that it would take place in 1953 1, but it appears that matters proceeded at a great pace.
It was anticipated that a regular series of title matches between the champions of the two countries could become a regular event. The
Australia Chess federation raised £70 (approx £1800/$3,000 in 2014) as their share of the expenses 2.
The "Championship of Australasia" did not, however, become a regular fixture. Perhaps, the costs and the logistic challenge of 1,300 miles/2,100 kms and four days travel by sea or a day in a turbo-prop flying boat with the mail deterred any repetition?
1 - Monday, 10th November, 1952
2 - Tuesday, 11th November, 1952
3 - Wednesday, 12th November, 1952
4 - Thursday, 13th November, 1952
5 - Monday, 17th November, 1952
6 - Thursday, 20th November, 1952
7 - Sunday, 23rd November, 1952
8 - Monday, 24th November, 1952
9 - Wednesday, 26th November, 1952
10 - Sunday, 30th November, 1952
Adrian Errol Turner (1922-2005) was the umpire (‘resplendent in early Victorian side whiskers’) for the match 3
Progress of the match
Sarapu had White in the odd-numbered games.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sarapu 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 1 0 5.0
Purdy 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 0 1 5.0
With the match tied, they were declared co-champions.
The match was an exciting struggle with Sarapu taking an early two point lead only for Purdy to win two in succession to level the score. Sarapu won the seventh game and ninth games but Purdy twice managed to catch up despite the pressure of having to win the last game of the match.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sarapu 1 1½ 2½ 3 3 3 4 4 5 5 5.0
Purdy 0 ½ ½ 1 2 3 3 4 4 5 5.0
Gregory Simon Koshnitsky provides a contemporary view of the match:
"The indecisive result of the first Australasian championship is not in any way an indication of the course of the memorable match.
Sarapu's flying start (2 wins) indicated a possible walk-over and
gave much concern to Australian backers of their champion. Purdy's splendid rally which levelled the score after six games was followed by a cut-throat finish in which both players kept winning with the White pieces.
The match was closely followed on both sides of the Tasman, and the result (5-5) should give satisfaction to the many admirers of these two fine players.
From Purdy's point of view the fifth game was of special
significance, as it was the first game he won. It was also the
only game of the match won with the Black pieces".4
Official booklet: "C.J.S. Purdy, champion of Australia, correspondence champion of Australia, versus O. Sarapu, champion of New Zealand, 1951-52" Published: Auckland : Auckland Chess League, 1952 5
Many thanks to User: Benzol who found the missing scores - Games 2,3, and 9 - to complete the record of the match .
1 "The Advertiser", Saturday 13th September 1952, p.10
2 Gregory Simon Koshnitsky writing in "The Sunday Herald", Sunday 31 August 1952, p.11.
4 "The Sunday Herald", Sunday 14 December 1952, p.15