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Sarapu - Purdy Australasian Championship Match

Ortvin Sarapu5/10(+4 -4 =2)[games]
Cecil Purdy5/10(+4 -4 =2)[games] Chess Event Description
Sarapu - Purdy Australasian Championship (1952)

This match of ten 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. It 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.

The players

Sarapu (28 years old), an Estonian who had arrived in only New Zealand two years 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 years old) had won the previous two Australian Championships, 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, 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 over the board performances which commenced in the radio matches of the late 1940s, 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 (see 1st World Correspondence Chess Championship (1950)).


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 (approximately £1800/$3,000 in 2014) as their share of the expenses. 2 However, the "Championship of Australasia" did not 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"). 3

Progress of the match

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Sarapu 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 1 0 5 Purdy 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 0 1 5

Sarapu had White in the odd-numbered games.

Progressive score:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Sarapu 1 1½ 2½ 3 3 3 4 4 5 5 Purdy 0 ½ ½ 1 2 3 3 4 4 5

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.


Gregory Simon Koshnitsky gives 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. Auckland Chess League, Auckland 1952. 5


1 The Advertiser, Saturday 13th September 1952, p. 10.
2 Gregory Simon Koshnitsky writing in The Sunday Herald, Sunday 31 August 1952, p. 11.
3 Box Hill Chess Club News & Weekly Bulletins 29.12.05 (
4 The Sunday Herald, Sunday 14 December 1952, p. 15.

Text by: User: Chessical. Many thanks to User: Benzol who found the missing scores of Games 2, 3, and 9.

 page 1 of 1; 10 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. O Sarapu vs C Purdy 1-0451952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC78 Ruy Lopez
2. C Purdy vs O Sarapu  ½-½321952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipA46 Queen's Pawn Game
3. O Sarapu vs C Purdy 1-0341952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipE28 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
4. C Purdy vs O Sarapu ½-½371952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC97 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin
5. O Sarapu vs C Purdy 0-1311952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipB32 Sicilian
6. C Purdy vs O Sarapu 1-0381952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC75 Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defense
7. O Sarapu vs C Purdy 1-0311952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC09 French, Tarrasch, Open Variation, Main line
8. C Purdy vs O Sarapu 1-0351952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC99 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Chigorin,
9. O Sarapu vs C Purdy 1-0501952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC42 Petrov Defense
10. C Purdy vs O Sarapu 1-0421952Sarapu - Purdy Australasian ChampionshipC18 French, Winawer
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-27-15  asianwarrior: Why was it called an Australiasian champiomdhip when neither of them have asian root?
Mar-27-15  Retireborn: Australasia is a geographical/geopolitical term which was coined by a Frenchman in the 18th C.

Derived from Latin, it literally means "South of Asia".

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: <asianwarrior> Have a look at the individual player bios. Both were playing for their adopted countries. Sarapu was playing for New Zealand and Purdy for Australia.
Mar-28-15  offramp: <asianwarrior: Why was it called an Australiasian champiomdhip when neither of them have asian root?>

Yeah! And only only of them is Australian!

Mar-29-15  optimal play: One of many memorable trans-Tasman contests over the years covering a wide variety of competitions -- the most recent of which took place just yesterday at the M.C.G. with Australia defeating New Zealand in the cricket world cup final!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: Haven't been outside to look but I think the flags are flying at half mast here. Congrats to Australia though. The Aussies deserved to win being the better team on the day. Maybe we shouldn't have beaten them at Eden Park earlier in the competition and given them the wake-up call.


Mar-29-15  optimal play: Or maybe Brendon McCullum shouldn't have had a 'brain implosion' in the first over?!


Mar-29-15  optimal play: "In any sporting event Australia v New Zealand is always an exciting contest."

- Michael Clarke

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: It was a good note for Mike Clarke to retire on.


Mar-29-15  offramp: It wasn't a good match, though. It was one of the worst matches of the tournament! It was a bit of a walkover. Most of the ODI final matches I've seen have been a bit garbage.
Mar-30-15  morfishine: The winning's side celebratory and boisterous antics belie the mind-numbing and stupefyingly boring nature of the game itself. Curling is more exciting than cricket


Mar-30-15  offramp: <mind-numbing and stupefyingly boring nature of the game itself.>

Yeah!! It's like that bore-fest chess!

Mar-30-15  morfishine: Exciting match!
Mar-31-15  offramp: When the Australian team arrived in New Zealand the average IQ of both countries went down.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: "Purdy the stronger strategically and Sarapu tactically."

This has been a common trope explaining lots of matches through the last c.150 years. But in reality, both players won games as they needed to, making use of both tactics and strategy. See my (unfortunately duplicated) comments on Game 1 O Sarapu vs Purdy, 1952

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