Chess in cloudy Salou

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Yesterday the open tournament of Salou started and with it the "Catalan Circuit". This circuit of tournaments in Catalunya, Spain (actually not seen as Spain at all by most of the Catalan people) is organized every year in the months May, June, July, August and a bit of September. Tournaments can be played seperately of course, but the main idea of the Circuit is to be able to win prices over the result in the consecutive tournaments.

The town of Salou, near Tarragona at the eastern coast of Spain, has about 16,000 inhabitants. In the summer months the actual number of people living here explodes because of the many (many!) tourists coming to enjoy their sunny holiday. By looking at the languages on the menus, they are mostly British, Dutch, French, German and Russian. But in early May most terraces are still almost empty. For now the waiters can take it easy, and the sun is still a bit laizy too, letting the clouds to most of the work.

This year the Salou open is organized for the ninth time. Wednesday, during the welcome cocktail, I met a player from Germany and he's already playing here for the fourth time so the tournament can't be that bad! And actually the opening speeches by the local suits did reveal a kind of friendly tournament atmosphere. The chief arbiter, who has encountered some health problems over the years but still did his job in all of the former eight tournaments, was given a small plate for appreciation. The president of the local chess club, Mr Francesc Li?ɬ±?ɬ°n Serra, is the tournament director too of course and he was thanked for his work in the local chess scene by the mayor of the town. With a glass of champagne the participants who had already arrived celebrated the start of a new event in their chess career. Most of the professionals, and especially some Russian grandmasters, would arrive a day later.

The strongest participants are GM Spraggett (2611), GM Fedorchuk (2603), GM Epishin (2564), GM Khamrakulov (2545), GM Hernandez Carmenate (2541), GM Mirzoev 2535 en GM Levin (2510). Today and most of the days, the rounds start ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú typically Spanish too ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú at 16.30 CET; the third (Saturday) and last rounds wil involve a small torture since they start at 09.30 in the morning. No less than ten boards are electronical ones, so they can be followed online. I think I have a good chance to play one or more games on these boards.

When I arrive in the playing hall around 16.30 CET, there are not many players already sitting behind their boards. When it's time, de hall is still half empty. Typically Spanish, I presume. I've played tournaments in Spain before but somehow never get used to them.

Mr Li?ɬ±?ɬ°n opens the tournament with a long story about the reason why they won't punish somebody with a zero when his mobile goes off. To cut it short, he said something like "the call could be important" and "a game should be won over the board". Every now and then he translates three words into English so for the non-Spanish speaking people it must have been completely unclear what he was talking about. Li?ɬ±?ɬ°n likes his drink and speaks with a charming directness and openness. And he means the world to the local chess scene and suddenly I recognize in him a well-known chess organizer from Apeldoorn. After he let the arbiter do his saying, who on his turn takes a lot of time to say 'you can start the game', finally the tournament, the Circuit Catalan and my chess sabbatical starts.

My opponent appears to be the man who I have met twice already in the hotel and whom I had tought to be one of the participating grandmasters. In reality he is about seven hundred points weaker than me, although he plays stronger than that. Meanwhile I have noticed that there is another guy from Holland in this tournament, altough he didn't show up for the first round and lost after his opponent had waited an hour. After I have won, I analyse for quite a while with my friendly opponent who says he only started to play chess three years ago. During the analysis I see him growing better and better and can't help but think that some day I'll meet him in a hotel and he will be one of the participating grandmasters.

Is this supposed to make me feel at home?

Yes I'm hungry... for the sea that is!

You have to be a bit crazy, don't you?

The Salou Beach in May... waiting for the tourists

The Hotel Negresco Princess

The view from the hotel at night

The opening speeches

Epilogue Before I was going to post this article, I had a quick look at today's pairings. Brilliant. I'm playing no. 1 seeded 2600 GM Kevin Spraggett live on board 1. And, no joke, the sun started to shine today?¢‚Ǩ¬¶
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