Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and is back to 2700

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Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and back to 2700Although officially on a sabbatical from chess, in between his poker events GM Loek van Wely does play some chess tournaments here and there. Recently he participated in the Curaçao open, won all his games and saw his live rating climb back to exactly 2700.

The Curacao Chess Festival 2011 took place July 22-31 at at the World Trade Center Curaçao. The tournament, a 9-round Swiss, consisted of an Open and Youth (under 19) section. The time control was 1 hour 30 minutes for the whole game with an increment of 30 seconds per move from move 1.

This year's tournament was themed "chessing in country Curaçao" referring to enjoying chess on the island of Curaçao in its newly constitutional status, as it no longer forms part of the formerly grouped islands known as the Netherlands Antilles. The tournament website therefore was portrayed in colours of Curaçao's national flag.



In recent years quite a few grandmasters have played in the tournament, but this edition was much was weaker. One grandmaster did fly to the bounty island: Dutchman Loek van Wely. Together with his girlfriend WIM Lorena Zepeda of El Salvador he not only played games, but also did his best to promote chess on the island.

During the opening ceremony of the 11th Curaçao Chess Festival, on July 21, 2011 Van Wely gave a lecture about his experience as a professional, and also gave a simul against 33 opponents. After 3.5 hours he ceded only half a point, to former champion of Curaçao Wim Blijtstra.

Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and back to 2700

Loek van Wely in Curaçao: a simul before the tournament



Van Wely was top seed in Curaçao, and in fact with a second seeded player rated almost four hundred points below him, the tournament could be described as a clock simul stretched over nine days. Therefore, besides winning the Curaçao Chess Festival 2011 the real challenge was to maintain a 100% score. Van Wely managed.

The second spot went to 15-year-old FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (USA) with 6.5 points. Wim Blijstra (Curaçao) came third, also with 6.5 points, and the fourth and fifth places were for WIM Lorena Zepeda and WFM Alena Kats (USA). The two ladies also shared the prize for best performing female players.

Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and back to 2700

A 100% score in a relatively weak field



And so, despite being on a chess sabbatical and focusing on poker instead, Van Wely made a remarkable re-entry in the world's top ranked players. After winning seven more points in Curaçao, he reached a live rating of exactly 2700. Ard van Beek, a good friend of Van Wely, spoke to the tournament winner and sent us the following comments from the Dutch grandmaster.

"Indeed, this year I hardly played chess. I have participated in quite a lot of poker tournaments, but so far without great results. Between poker tournaments I usually give chess training to youth players in the Netherlands. All this was done with the idea that once I am settled next year in the USA, and my poker game is still not rewarding, I can support myself being a chess trainer.

Last year I planned to take part in a volunteer project that would promote chess in countries where the sport is not much practiced. I would travel through Central and South Africa with some grandmasters to give chess clinics to school kids. That project unfortunately was cancelled at the very last moment.

The organizers of the Curaçao Chess Festival then approached me, asking if I wanted to give a summer chess clinic in Curaçao as well as a chess simul. Curaçao is working hard on a program to promote chess among youth, and successfully. They decided that presence of a really strong player could stimulate the youth even more.


Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and back to 2700

Van Wely with his cup, and girlfriend Lorena



Coincidentally, time wise this chess clinic fitted perfectly in my USA trip; I am travelling through the United States from mid May until late August to alternately play poker and chess tournaments. And once I promised to give the chess clinic, I figured it could not hurt to combine this clinic with the participation in the annual chess festival.

Alexander Shabalov and Jennifer Shahade (both former USA champions) and other previous participants had told me some great stories about Curaçao and this particular tournament with it’s unique character combining a holiday on a tropical bounty island, with sports and chess. I calculated that winning the tournament's first prize would cover my expenses made to stay on the island so the decision was easily made.

Looking back I must say it was a great experience to explore the island, teach the children, play chess and tennis, taste from some surprising local dishes and meet a lot of nice people. I believe that the basic idea to stimulate chess on the island must have been fairly successful considering the fact that the tournament was covered in all newspapers as well as by different radio stations and local television.


Van Wely promotes chess in Curaçao, and back to 2700

Teaching the kids!



It was extra nice that my planned victory in Curaçao took me back to the magical 2700 boundary that I have been aiming for the last couple of years. I see it as a reward for my voluntary work."

Van Beek: "Contrary to previously published articles about you, where you profiled yourself as untouchable and merciless, today you seem to be remarkably mild! You said you like to work in chess as a volunteer. In the wake of your chess career, at your old age, you seem to have become quite soft?"

Van Wely: "Chess has done much for me. It seemed about time to give back something to chess! For too long too many chess players have been concerned with themselves only. To me it seemed not a bad initiative to cooperate on improving the image of the sport. Besides that I find it great fun to teach my knowledge to young people. It's a mistake to think that I would be in the autumn of my career, grown old and became soft. I'm motivated, mentally stronger, and harder than ever..."

Update: currently Van Wely is playing in the US Open. So much for that sabbatical...

Kingloek's games rounds 1-8 (last not available)



Game viewer by ChessTempo


Curaçao Open 2011 | Final Standings

Rank Name Score Fed. BH SB Rating TPR W-We
1 GM van Wely, Loek 9.0 NED 49.0 49.0 2683 3068 +0.99
2 FM Ostrovskiy, Aleksandr 6.5 USA 51.5 33.0 2294 2316 +0.36
3 Blijstra, Wim 6.5 NED 50.5 33.0 2239 2332 +1.12
4 WIM Zepeda, Lorena 6.0 ESA 47.5 27.75 2187 2181 +0.00
5 WFM Kats, Alena 6.0 USA 46.0 24.75 2097 2221 +1.10
6 Lopez, Jasel 5.5 ARU 51.5 27.5 2127 2196 +0.71
7 Dekker, Marvin 5.5 AHO 42.0 22.75 2084 2105 +0.28
8 Wouters, Edwin 5.5 NED 38.0 21.0 0 * 1864 1864
9 Maduro, Sherman 5.0 AHO 48.5 23.25 2033 2022 -0.19
10 Matoewi, Roger 5.0 SUR 48.0 24.0 2150 2165 +0.19
11 van Woerden, Michiel 5.0 NED 46.0 20.75 2074 2051 -0.29
12 Pesqueira , Jose 5.0 ARU 40.0 18.5 1981 2056 +0.50
13 Kats, Michael Alex 5.0 USA 37.5 17.5 0 * 1958 +0.50
14 Wagenaar, Harm Theo 4.5 NED 49.5 19.5 2084 2045 -0.43
15 de Mey, Juan Pablo 4.5 ARU 44.5 20.25 1905 1931 +0.13
16 Vreugdenhil, Frans 4.5 NED 39.5 16.75 2070 1900 -1.31
17 Zalm, Norman 4.5 AHO 31.5 11.0 1834 2013 +0.84
18 Hodgson, Norman 4.0 AHO 39.5 13.0 1848 1406 -0.31
19 Duijvesteijn, Andre 4.0 NED 37.5 12.25 0 * 1797 1797
20 Richardson, Quirino 4.0 AHO 36.0 11.0 1756 1742 -0.19
21 Tjong-A-Hung, Edwin 4.0 AHO 36.0 13.0 0 * 1891 1891
22 Pop, Serapio 4.0 AHO 33.0 11.0 0 * 1774 1774
23 Cuellar, Oscar 3.5 AHO 38.0 10.25 2093 1796 -2.26
24 Fayad, Michell 3.5 AHO 35.0 5.75 0 * 1264 1264
25 de Jong, Teije 3.5 NED 33.0 8.75 0 * 1664 1664
26 Salim-Moussa, Seydi 3.5 AHO 33.0 9.25 1816 1727 -0.38
27 Capella, Gregory 3.5 AHO 32.5 7.25 1742 1553 -0.86
28 Elisa, Kingsley 2.0 AHO 31.5 3.0 0 * 1489 1489
29 Salim Moussa, Faraj 2.0 AHO 28.5 3.0 0 * 1546 1546
30 Izijk, Jimmy 1.0 AHO 40.5 20.25 2049 0 +0.00



Photos © Ard van Beek



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