Reykjavik Open 2014
Reykjavik: Before the storm
A couple of months ago, I competed in the Reykjavik Open, known as one of the top open tournaments in the world. Reykjavik hosted the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match and consistently boasts the highest number of chess Grandmaster’s per capita in the World. A country with a strong chess tradition is quite attractive for any chess player looking for a nice tournament. While I wouldn't consider myself a chess tourist anymore I am still on the lookout for new countries and experiences. I tend to get bored quite easily when playing too often in comfortable environments so it is important that I look for new stomping grounds. A tournament in a new country, with a diverse crowd, decent prizes, and good exposure is something that I can get myself motivated for. Reykjavik and Gibraltar both fit this criterion quite well. However, this wasn't the main reason I decided to participate.
I had already planned to play in Iceland since November. Why so early? Well, back in October I received an interesting proposition from Rogers SportsNet (big Canadian sports Media Company) to do an article on my chess career for their printed magazine. When I first read the email I was thrilled because I had been hoping to get some exposure in the mainstream media of Canada. Not necessarily just for myself but also the game. I think the status and recognition of chess in Canada is pretty poor and I feel some personal responsibility to change that for the better. I've followed sports my whole life in Canada and never heard of chess which is why this felt like a pretty big deal. I immediately met with the magazine in Toronto to try to make a good impression! Well, I guess the meeting turned out for the best because the following week we were already planning a tournament for Sportsnet to follow me behind-the-scenes and get a glimpse of chess. Iceland was a natural fit and from then on we planned things over with semi-regular phone calls and emails over the next few months.
All of this seemed quite exciting yet also frustrating. Had I received the email 6 months earlier things were different on paper; I was number 1 ranked in Canada and on the way up. Things would look good for the magazine. Now, I was #2, my rating had fallen significantly, and I was mentally and physically in bad shape. My chess confidence had been shaken considerably. It felt like the worst time for me to be featured! It was only natural for me to think about what an embarrassment it could be if I had a dismal result in Iceland. Still, I was conscious enough to realize I could not pass up such an opportunity. The constant thought of failure pushed me to make some changes. I felt fortunate to have a few months to get into shape. I viewed the tournament like a Rocky movie: do-or-die; an all-out brawl. Pressure felt comforting. Anger was good. I was absolutely happy going to bed every night and thinking about Iceland.
Stay tuned for next week where I will share some impressions on the tournament itself
Bussum, The Netherlands 12.05.2014