Chess holidays and tournaments

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:28 pm

Over the coming year (2011, which unfortunately is not an Olympiad year) I will have an increased amount of time available as leave from work (between 1 and 5 weeks). I am thinking of putting at least part of that time towards an extended chess trip, and wanted to ask here for advice on which regular tournaments and festivals are particularly good in terms of both chess playing and viewing, and also in terms of general tourism and being well-run and organised. I am really only looking for events in the UK and Europe. But setting limits like that is boring, so I'm going to throw out the following question instead:

If you had unlimited amount of money and time, which chess tournaments and/or festivals worldwide in 2011 would you play in or visit? And (coming back to reality for a minute) which single event would you pick to go to in 2011 if you could afford to go to just one of them? I am looking for events that are more than just weekend congresses, but more festivals of chess. I have a list of names in my head already, mainly of ones I've read about over the past 15 years, but wanted to see what events outside the UK people come up with first. I have given two below (from the UK) to start things off (and expanded the list later):

(1) Hastings International Chess Congress (Hastings, 28 December 2010 to 5 January 2011 - 9 days)
(2) Tata Steel Chess Tournament (Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, 14-30 January 2011 - 17 days)
(3) Tradewise Gilbraltar Chess Festival (Gibraltar, 24 January to 3 February 2011 - 11 days)
(4) Amber chess tournament (Monte Carlo, France, 2010 event in March - 13 days)
(5) Mainz Chess Classic (Mainz, Germany, big rapidplay event, 2010 event in August - 3 days)
(6) British Chess Championships (Sheffield, 24 July to 6 August 2011 - 14 days)
(7) London Chess Classic (London, 2010 event in December - 8 days)

What would you add to that list, from the UK and abroad?

EDIT: I'm going to add to the list above as suggestions come in.
Last edited by Christopher Kreuzer on Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:21 am, edited 4 times in total.

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IM Jack Rudd
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by IM Jack Rudd » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:32 pm

Gibraltar. You may decide for yourself whether you count that as UK or abroad.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:38 pm

IM Jack Rudd wrote:Gibraltar. You may decide for yourself whether you count that as UK or abroad.
Thanks. I've added that above. If you can fly there and cross water to get there, that's abroad for me. :)

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:39 pm

Anything in Hungary. Great country and outrageously strong chess tournaments.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:41 pm

Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:Anything in Hungary. Great country and outrageously strong chess tournaments.
I've heard of the First Saturday tournaments. I'm not really strong enough to play in those. :) Are there other events?

Michael Jones
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Michael Jones » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:48 pm

The only tournament I've been to abroad is the Melody Amber rapid/blindfold, which isn't really a 'festival of chess' in that it's the GM tournament only, no opens or other events attached - but it does have the advantage that it's situated in a lovely area from a touristy point of view and the games only take place in the afternoon so you can spend the mornings looking round Nice, Monaco, Menton or even over the border in Ventimiglia. I was also lucky enough to witness Anand's stunning queen sac against Kramnik: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=4515 and I even got Anand's autograph before the game :)

In the UK I'd recommend the London Chess Classic - that one is more of a festival, plenty of amateur events running alongside the GM tournament so you can play as well as watch.

I've never yet been free at the right time, but if I get the chance I'd like to play/watch at the Mainz Classic sometime.

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:51 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:Anything in Hungary. Great country and outrageously strong chess tournaments.
I've heard of the First Saturday tournaments. I'm not really strong enough to play in those. :) Are there other events?
To be honest I've only ever played in two foreign tournaments. The first was in Hungary. I'd had a great season, something like a 22-5-2 record, including a win over Chris Cooley and a draw with Steve Berrie, and on the back of this decided to enter an open in a small Hungarian town. I lost my first six games, then scored 5.5/6 against the tailenders and got paired against an aging Hungarian IM in the last round. Before we started he took me to one side and whispered that he would let me win the game for $10. I was outraged and turned him down. He played 1.a4 ... 2.h4 and beat me in about 25 moves.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:06 am

Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:
Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:Anything in Hungary. Great country and outrageously strong chess tournaments.
I've heard of the First Saturday tournaments. I'm not really strong enough to play in those. :) Are there other events?
To be honest I've only ever played in two foreign tournaments. The first was in Hungary. I'd had a great season, something like a 22-5-2 record, including a win over Chris Cooley and a draw with Steve Berrie, and on the back of this decided to enter an open in a small Hungarian town. I lost my first six games, then scored 5.5/6 against the tailenders and got paired against an aging Hungarian IM in the last round. Before we started he took me to one side and whispered that he would let me win the game for $10. I was outraged and turned him down. He played 1.a4 ... 2.h4 and beat me in about 25 moves.
Hilarious! Was the second tournament as much fun as the first one?

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:32 am

My second, and final, foreign tournament was much better.

I had a great job and was earning a fortune working for an oil company, spending about 3/4 of my time abroad, where all my meals, beer and other expenses were paid for. However after 18 months I was exhausted and told my boss I wanted to take two weeks holiday after my next trip in Spain as I had some friends I could stay with there. He told me I could only have a week and we agreed on that.

So after doing the work in Madrid I travelled west to Caceres to see my friends and discovered a chess tournament was just about to start. I entered it and at the end of my week's stay I was on 5/5. I called my boss and said "I'm not coming back" and put the phone down. I won the tournament with 8.5/9 and was awarded the first prize of 20,000 pesatas, which worked out at about £110. With my winnings I took my friends, their friends and their friends' friends out for a meal and piss-up and the bill came to 56,000 pesatas.

When I got back my boss didn't say a word about what I'd done, but two weeks later when the bonuses were handed out I was awarded £50. I'd been expecting £2500 (the secretary got £250). It was worth every penny I lost - there's nothing to compare to the feeling of winning a chess tournament!

Maria Yurenok
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Maria Yurenok » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:25 am

If you want to watch super-grandmasters play and their post-game analysis - the cheapest and very good option is London Classic if you are based in London.

If you want to participate in a tournament and combine it with a holiday - it depends what sort of holiday you are after. Greece has several opens in the summer, typically close to the sea. I've been to Kavala last year where they also had lower sections and even children's section. It was well organised and had several 2600+ players who you could easily watch on top boards after your own game. However, I expect the beaches might be better in Crete where I think they have a couple of opens. Although Kavala was an interesting historical place anyway and there was an excursion one day to some ancient ruins.

If you are after a cultural holiday I recommend Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg normally held around October/November so it's not too cold in Russia by then! St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I went there last year and the hotel was fantastic 4 star (with heavy discount for chess players) and the venue was in the hotel too. Well organised but I'm not sure there are other sections than open where you'd be seeded towards the bottom. I think they also had a children's tournament in the mornings. It was easy to observe grandmasters' games (again 2600+ rating) on top boards after my own game finished. There was also a rapidplay for two days before the main event and a blitz tournament a day after the main event.

Thailand Open is also great for the sun and different culture. It has a lower section too. It's held around April, but they change the venue every year. This year was in Bangkok so next year will be outside Bangkok - not sure if they decided where yet. GM Nigel Short played there this year and I played blitz against him and against the tournament winner (GM Sune Berg Hansen) in the Bangkok chess club on the last day! Ok, I lost both games :)

If I could pick one tournament next year it would be the British (top section) because I've never played there before and because I can try getting the women's title and a norm. However, I refuse to spend two consecutive weeks of my holiday allowance on chess in UK as in the same length of time I can play two tournaments abroad in two different locations spread out over the year instead.

I've been to Hastings (twice!!) but the weather is terrible there at that time of the year and there's not much to do in the town. However, it's nice to say you've been to the historical Hastings tournament, they have lower sections and weekend tournaments, players on top boards are easy to watch and there are some evening events like blitz. I suggest go there just for a weekend.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by David Sedgwick » Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:51 am

I can thoroughly recommend the Guernsey International Chess Festival, currently in progress. (7 rounds in 7 days)

I'm making my fifth visit as Chief Arbiter and I previously went five times as a player.

For more information please see http://www.guernseychessclub.org.gg/fes ... tival.aspx.

Watch this space, and that one, for the 2011 dates.

Stewart Reuben
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Stewart Reuben » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:46 am

As you would expect the FIDE Calendar list will be the most complete. http://www.fide.com/calendar/tournaments.html.
European Team Championship 2011 will be nearly as good as the Olympiad, although those in Istanbul in 2012 and Tromso in 2014 will be tremendous for sight-seeing as well.
World Open in Philadelphia in July will certainly have an event suitable to your playing strength.
US Open in August is not quite as good.
People rave about Benidorm in November.
There are huge numbers of Spanish events.
Capelle le Grand in February - 600 people year after year can't all be wrong.
Aeroflot Open in Moscow in February, the lowest section may be too strong for Christopher and it would certainly be too cold for me.
I don't know the dates and location of the World Amateur.
South African Open and Commonwealth Championship in Cape Town in July should be tremendous, followed by a one-off event in Nigeria and you can get back in time for the British.
Do you fancy a trip to the Gambia this winter, hospitality free? They are not in FIDE, so you might have to create your own tournament before going. I think that is what they want of me.
I am prejudiced, but you won't be able to beat Gibraltar. After all you can go on a day trip to Africa. Where else are you likely to be able to chat to Karpov, Carlsen, Adams, Ivanchuk, Korchnoi in the bar and Spassky if he is recovered from his stroke?
If you like Chinese food come to my New Year's Eve dinner in Hastings.
The venue in Sheffield for the British will be terrific.
Paignton is highly regarded.
Stewart Reuben

Ola Winfridsson
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Ola Winfridsson » Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:06 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Jon D'Souza-Eva wrote:Anything in Hungary. Great country and outrageously strong chess tournaments.
I've heard of the First Saturday tournaments. I'm not really strong enough to play in those. :) Are there other events?
Actually, you probably are! Nowadays the First Saturday tournaments include two, sometimes three, FM groups with participants rated about E1400 upwards. It's a great experience in any event, not least because of the venue itself, the Hungarian Chess Federation. It's a bit rundown, but the 'chess is in its walls' and there are some great photos etc on the walls (Budapest candidates tournament Budapest 1950, the Olympiad winning Hungarian side from 1978 - with grins of their faces going from ear to ear), a bust of Geza Maroczy etc. I just love playing there.

Another well-organized tournament is Ostravsky Konik in Ostrava (Czech Republic). It normally coincides with the first May bank holiday. They have two sections, one Fide rated open and one National open. Excellent playing conditions in the town's concert hall.
Maria Yurenok wrote:If you are after a cultural holiday I recommend Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg normally held around October/November so it's not too cold in Russia by then! St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I went there last year and the hotel was fantastic 4 star (with heavy discount for chess players) and the venue was in the hotel too. Well organised but I'm not sure there are other sections than open where you'd be seeded towards the bottom. I think they also had a children's tournament in the mornings. It was easy to observe grandmasters' games (again 2600+ rating) on top boards after my own game finished. There was also a rapidplay for two days before the main event and a blitz tournament a day after the main event.
That sounds great. I've always wanted to see St Petersburg. And talking about Russian tournaments I'd love to play the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, but unfortunately the lower sections there play with the 90min + 30sec per move, which I don't like at all.

My own aim is to play a tournament in Argentina next year when visiting a friend from Chile (we're both chess players).

Alan Walton
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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Alan Walton » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:02 am

I normally categorise chess tournaments before I enter them, into the following strength of entry/cost & time off/location

Here are my views of some of the tournaments I have entered over the last few years (and I beleive are still running)

Calvia Amatuer (Oct) - U2300 (no GM/IM), good prizes and reasonably strong, hotel & flights are about £400, though it is played in Magalluf

Canadian Open - Strong at the top end, good prizes, though is expensive going to N America, but Toronto is a great place

Czech Open - Massive tournament (B group is good enough for amatuers), very cheap, but Pardubice isn't the most exciting place

Gibraltar - Obviously very strong, expensive if you stay at the Caleta, Gibraltar is a bit dull at that time of year

British Champs - Worth entering if you have qualified (never play in the Major Open if you have any sense), very expensive if comparing with foreign tournaments, problem with having to take 10 days holiday.

For me I would recommend the Calvia Amatuer as a good tournament if somebody wants a holiday in Oct in Majorca, and play a relaxing tournament, and in the summer, try experimenting with different foreign tournaments around the world (though I will most probably play the British in Sheffield next year as it is commutable)

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Re: Chess holidays and tournaments

Post by Alex Holowczak » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:20 am

Lots of younger people go down Maria's line of thinking. Some play in two or three tournaments in continental Europe over the summer, rather play in (for example), the British.

That's the one problem with the British - the cost of living is too high here compared to continental Europe. It's not immediately obvious what the organisers can do about that.

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