AUSTRALIAN Grandmaster Darryl Johansen has applauded Fiji's growth in the sport of chess.
The 2012 FIJI International Open Chess Championship winner said Fiji had taken a positive step towards development in the past 10 years.
"The last time I was here in Fiji was for the Oceania Zonals in 2002 and at that time there were only about five locals in the competition," Johansen said.
"And now in this tournament there were about 30 locals and majority of them were really young participants," said the 53-year old.
"This just goes to show that Fiji has taken a positive step towards the development of the sport in the past 10 years."
Johansen was unbeaten in the tournament winning nine out of nine matches and said the locals gave him tough competition.
"My toughest opponent here was the second seed International master George Xie and apart from him, the locals were a bit tough but they need more work," he said.
Women's division winner FIDE master Vivian Smith of New Zealand was also unbeaten in the tournament after nine rounds of competition as she won her first title in Fiji.
She said she had blood ties to Fiji and always feels at home whenever she is here.
"My grandmother's father was a chief, he was part-Fijian and part-Tongan, and my grandmother lived and worked in Suva for many years," Smith said.
"This is my third tournament in Fiji but first win and I am delighted with the result," she said.
She said the only local who really posed a threat to her was veteran Gloria Sukhu.
"She (Sukhu) had me seriously worried but fortunately she made a mistake and I took advantage of it."
Smith said she was really impressed by the number of local women that participated in the tournament.
"It was really good to see so many young girls participate, usually this is considered a men's sport but the girls are proving it isn't," she said.