Gibraltar, Zurich, Jerusalem, Reykjavik


A long period of traveling is behind me. I'm finally back home after attending the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, the Zurich Chess Classic, the European Championship in Jerusalem and the Reykjavik Open. Yes, in just two months I've crossed Europe pretty much!

Gibraltar is always nice to visit, especially mid-winter. The weather is simply much more pleasant than in Amsterdam around that time of the year. On top of that, the tournament always has its special atmosphere due to the many women participating! Brian Callaghan and Stuart Conquest are doing a great job making it a really social festival.

The main purpose in Gibraltar was producing the live show together with Lennart Ootes, a Dutch freelance chess professional who always assists me for these shows. You can still find all material on Livestream here and especially the Masterclass by Veselin Topalov is highly recommended! 

GM Veselin Topalov, sitting next to GM Stuart Conquest

After spending one week back home in Amsterdam, I travelled to Switzerland to attend the Zurich Chess Classic. During the first weekend my girlfriend joined me and together we did quite a bit of sightseeing. A guided tour through the city revealed many highlights, such as Augusto Giacometti's Entrance Hall in the main police station or the house where Lenin lived for a year.

The tournament was, as always, organized at the highest level. The players must feel special when playing their games in the luxurious Hotel Savoy Bayer en Ville, in the heart of Zurich!

This year I produced a video about the tournament which you can watch here. 

It was quite special to see Viktor Korchnoi behind the chess board again!

After spending just four hours at home, I headed back to the airport, met with Lennart again and together we flew to Tel Aviv. We couldn't immediately drive to Jerusalem because a rare snow storm had blocked all traffic on the road to the Holy City! The next day we went, and started setting up our equipment.

The start of a tournament is always a bit hectic, and before I knew it, it was Thursday morning and I hadn't been outside the Ramada hotel yet! That couldn't be right.

Together with GM David Klein I paid a visit to the Israel Museum, which happened to be rather close to the hotel. The museum's highlight were the Dead Sea Scrolls, but it also provided an excellent showcase of the history of Israel, part of which is known to anyone. However, learn about it while being in the place where it all happened is something special.

Later I would also visit Masada, the last stronghold of the Jews in the year 70. When the Romans finally managed to storm the mountain (after 3 years of besiege), all 960 killed themselves before they arrived. An impressive site to visit, located right next to the Dead Sea.

Chess sets and chess players floating in the Dead Sea

After Jerusalem Lennart and I went straight to Reykjavik. We spent just four hours at Amsterdam airport before taking the next flight, and this way we went straight from summer back into winter!

It was already the fourth time that I visited the Reykjavik Open and even though the weather was the worst of all these editions, at some point I concluded that it's impossible not to have a great time there. A great venue, lovely restaurants and bars all on walking distance. And... great people.

This year was extra special because for the first time ever I got to see the northern lights. Usually you have to travel somewhere without artifical light to be able to see it properly, but this evening it was quite visible at 9pm in the center of Reykjavik!

The northern lights!

All I can say is that I feel blessed that my job allows me to see so much of the world and meet so many different people. But yes, it's also nice to be back in Amsterdam for a while. Not for too long though: next is the 2nd Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, starting 16 April.