My continuing Chess Renaissance: Wijk aan Zee 2013

04/02/2013
By admin

The terrible past and the new clean and efficient Europe next to each others at Wijk aan Zee

The e-mail that I received from my long-time chess friend Antti last October made me to think about my 30 past on-off years as a chess amateur. Antti is a part-time chess journalist living in Paris and we have somehow been able to maintain contact and managed to play blitz during the past decades. He gave me 5 minutes to answer whether I would like to join him for the last weekend for his 7th annual reporting trip to WAZ. An offer that I could not refuse, he said.

Memories of my early teenager years came fresh to my mind: how it was like to study the games from the magical Big tournaments: the WAZ, Tilburg, Reggio Emilia, Linares… Sadly, many of them are no longer what they used to be, but this gem was now celebrating its 75th anniversary. For me personally, having now finally moved back to Europe after 15 years of globetrotting, and having re-started to play again in Brussels, after a break of about 20 years from rated games (though I had become champion of Senegal (!) in 2006 and 2007, my previous rated game dates back to 1991), indeed I concluded that Antti was right: I just had to go. This turned out to be the best move of my chess career so far.

The press room with live games on screens

Arriving late when the round 11/13 was already finishing, I was immediately captivated by the special spirit of WAZ, which is something very special and yet difficult to describe. It is more than the excellent set-up ensured by the kind and highly professional organizers, more than the lingering cozy village feeling, or perhaps just the feeling of being together with really who’s who in the chess world. After the electric atmosphere and fight at the chess table, one can spot a number of GMs together at the excellent nearby Italian restaurant. Yet their privacy is respected. The players are accommodated to the same hotels with us mortals: not in every place of the world one can say hello each day to 6 of the best 10 chess players in the world!

The World Champion focusing to his last game

As a very kind gesture organized by Ms Truus Valkering, I was introduced to the organization committee and granted access to the player’s stage, analyzing room and to the pressroom. This turned out to be a real insight, as I was also able to follow the players analysing their games on the spot.

Perhaps the greatest of the living legends of the 80's at WAZ: GM Jan Timman with a +1 score in the B-group

What could be said about the tournament itself? Seemingly Magnus Carlsen cruised to the win, but the A-group could have been much tighter, had Aronian been able to avoid Anand’s spectacular home preparation (the game is surely one of the candidates for the game of the year) and been able to convert the small advantages he had in many games, including against Carlsen. Caruana seemed to be just tired, whereas the woman world champion Hou Yifan was clearly sparkling of energy.

The Viking cruising at still waters

The women’s World Champion cutting the tournament anniversary cake (it was tasty!) with GM Peter Leko giving interview at the back

This is what it feels like to beat the World Champion: GM Wang Hao a few minutes after winning against Anand at the last round

In the B-group, the sensational Richard Rapport seemed to be cruising to win, but the last round monumental endgame win by Arkadij Naiditsh with Q+h-pawn against Q gave him the victory by tie-break and a place to the next year’s A-group. (The organizer’s and Tata Steel were happy to announce that WAZ 2014 will take place even during the economic crisis receiving a big applause from the audience). Group C was won by GM Brunello with an out-of-this world score of 11/13!

GM Sipke Ernst a few minutes before succumbing to defeat after a long fight at the last round against GM Arkadij Naiditsh, making the latter the champion of B-group

As a chess experience, this is hard to beat ! Needless to say that I would return and if time allows next year, I would also participate to the rapid amateur tournament. Club members are welcome to join !

The magnificient Levon Aronian accepting an invitation for coming to Brussels time allowing from a person who thinks he won something special during the week-end

Epilogue

As the weather at WAZ was truly horrible and our hotel just 100 m from the sea blasted by wind, I decided to go to the playing hall by car for the last round. Returning to the hotel in the evening, and entering the hotel from the car-park I found out that I did not have the key to open the back door. Fortunately, I saw two persons approaching from inside and waved to them signalling the door to be opened. As it happens, the nearest of them who came to open the door was nobody else than Magnus Carlsen; for once Magnus seemed to be off the balance during the tournament, as I blurted out in Swedish “Thank you very much, Magnus”, but he soon regained his composure and winked. In which other sport would the world number one do the same kind gesture?

The winner Magnus Carlsen at his press conference: “I guess I am the best chess player in the world”

Report by Ismo ULVILA

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