Wijk aan Zee! A small town on the coast of the North Sea, in the municipality of Beverwijk, with the broadest beach of the North-Holland, Wijk is once again the heart of the chess world! The prestigious chess tournament Tata Steel Chess, formerly called Corus or Hoogovens, takes place here at the beginning of every year!
Due to its seaside location, Wijk aan Zee has become a popular destination among tourists. Although this is reflected in the village economy (which consists to a large extent of bars and hotels), Wijk aan Zee continues to function more or less traditionally. A sense of community is maintained that is hard to find in other seaside villages, and which manifests itself through a vibrant public life and a strong organisation potential.
This is probably one of the reasons why this chess tournament is organized in such a professional way: everybody loves chess here and people like to get involved in the organization. Everywhere you go: supermarket, shops, restaurants, even outside of the city, chess and Tata Steel Tournament is a common subject! You feel like you suddenly landed in the middle of a chess family, where any small problem can be fixed within seconds!
The attention for details (usually the breakfast stops at 10.30 but they made it longer, especially for night owls like chess players:), until 12 o'clock!), the tremendous work, which starts long time before the beginning of the tournament, the high number of people involved, all in all makes this tournament the best one I have ever seen.
I will do my best to keep you updated and for now a few impressions from the opening ceremony of the C-Group:
Yesterday, at 20 o'clock, the drawing of lots for the C-Group took place. They are a bit more "lucky", with an extra day to prepare for the first round (or to agonize:), which will start on Saturday, at 13.30. The exact schedule can be seen on the Official Website.
What makes this tournament so unique, is also the fact that it is constructed in a characteristic way: you can play in the amateur groups and if you win, you get a promotion by playing in the C-Group; if you win again you can play next year in the B-Group and than, of course, the A-Group will follow! That means, even if you are not a top GM to get an invitation from the organizers, the structure of all these events gives you an opportunity to rise and make yourself remarked.
Before I continue, a small Trivia question for you:
Name the player who succeeded, over the years, to be promoted in the A-Group, after winning all the other preliminary events: amateur, Grandmasters C and B!
Back to our C-Group and welcome drink of yesterday: players from all the groups could be seen last evening, talking, joking and smiling to the cameras, in a relaxed atmosphere, without the tension and the fighting atmosphere that will soon follow:)
I can tell you that chess players are mannered people, despite what others might think, with a sharp sense of humour. Wine glasses, invisible waiters, informal conversations, small jokes: this was the yesterday's atmosphere.
Who is the tallest chess player in the tournament? - Siebrecht from the C-group, with a height of 2.02, when asked later on about the exact numbers! In fact, he is not that tall, if you compare him to his brothers: 2.08 and 2.14!
And who is the favourite of Godess Fortuna for the first place in the same C-Group? We might say...Swiercz, after breaking a glass on his way to the stage for the drawing of lots! In many cultures broken glass is a luck bringer, so we will wait and see if it's true:)
|Organizers enjoying dinner just before|
the drawing of lots.
|Parents talking about their sons strategies?!|
Left: Giri's father; Right: Carlsen's father.
|Friends and opponents at the same time:)|
The fight is only on the board!
|From left to right: Sargissian, Aronian and|
Smeets' second: Gustafsson.
|The rising stars: Anish, Benjamin and Robin.|
|Drawing of lots: anxiously waiting|
to find out their opponents for the first round!
|Me and my husband:)|
|The always cheerful Aronian and the always|
polite and modest Navara.
|Coach and pupil: Chuchelov and Giri.|
|In the background you can see the |
beautiful and never tired
hostesses of the tournament.
The evening continued until aprox 21.30, when the players decided to go back to their rooms or to have a short walk. A professional attitude, which is highly recommended for such a long, tiring and energy consuming event. Afterall: Tata Steel Chess is a respected tournament, with a long tradition and history, a tournament which chess lovers were waiting since the last edition has finished! Top Grandmasters, parents, kibitzers, children, they are all here, enjoying and playing our beautiful game: chess!