As a chess reporter I attend many chess festivals and top tournaments, but last week I was reminded that many times the game is enjoyed on a small scale. I played the Geraardsbergen Open and liked it just because of that: as a small and relaxed event where everyone was just enjoying themselves.
The tournament was held close to the Saint Adrian Abbey. The abbey's old coach house served as the playing hall, as you can see in the photo, courtesy Geraardsbergen Open.
It probably helped that the games were not FIDE rated, and so there was less pressure for many participants! What also helped was the fantastic weather, so that everyone could analyze their game in the sun while enjoying one of the many excellent Belgian beers. (One of my favorites was Spartacus!)
I don't think playing non-rated games influenced my chess much, but maybe a little. It was definitely easier to take certain decisions. It's a bit like the chess expression "it's always easier to sacrifice other people's pieces!"
Something similar happened in another game. You can also call it "lazy intuition" when you make a move that "look good," and then you don't really calculate if it's really good. In serious play you shouldn't do this obviously! But also here it turned out that my intuition was right. The typical knight sac on d5 was probably correct.
My chess wasn't only sunshine (the weather was). After scoring 3/3 I played against the only grandmaster in the field, dropped a healthy pawn on move 13 and decided to resign right away. A day later I did exactly the same against a lower rated player!
It's a bad habit of mine, to not put up a good fight when things go wrong, but at least here I had a bit of an excuse: I was on a holiday and wanted to catch some sun. I took two byes and went for a nice bike ride with a friend of mine. Despite riding on city bikes (with seven gears, but still) we managed to climb the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen which was literally a highlight!
When in Geraardsbergen it's not difficult to find the Muur.
The cobblestone path uphill which goes as steep as 19.8 percent.
The chapel at the top of the Muur.
The Geraardsbergen Open is recommended for anyone likes to play some chess in what is perhaps the most relaxed atmosphere possible. Or if you like cycling and you're up for a challenge!