Cork (or Corcaigh in Irish) is Ireland’s second largest city. It is situated on the south of the country with a population of approximately 120 000 people. The town is known as the “Rebel County” since 1491 when the local supported the English Pretender Perkin Warbeck. These are things that I learned from Wikipedia, but when I arrived here everything appeared to be true, and confirmed by my new friends. Corkonians also refer to the city as the real capital of Ireland.
Some months ago I got an invitation to take part in the annual Cork Chess Congress that takes place 26-28 March. But before that the organizer of the event Michael Bradley invited me for a joint simultaneous exhibition (together with Bogdan Lalic) on 24 March and a lecture on the next day. I picked up the theme “Discovered Attack, methods and patterns”.
In the foyer of the Gresham Metropole hotel I meet Bogdan Lalic. The Croatian-born GM currently lives in London. He has just bought a new camera, and asks me a few things about how ho handle it. In the meanwhile Michael Bradley comes and picks us to the City Hall where the simultaneous exhibition will take place. He is in good mood, and he is anxious for he is participating, too. Some of the players did not appear on time, so we decided to give a joint simultaneous. I start the simul, and Bogdan makes the second move. This is fun as we do not always understand the ideas of the other. The City Hall is open during the whole event, and while we are playing some people come to watch. One of them tells me that he is working for the BBC, and he is here to cover some economical news. However, when he saw the door opened he decided to have a glance and see what happens. Pity he did not come earlier, he was really willing to take part.
We have some wins, and a couple of draws, and finally there are two boards left. One of it we still manage to win, but the last man standing, a young fellow plays flawlessly, and takes away two GM scalps in one go. His name is Kieran O’Riordan, nice Irish name, and he is one of the best juniours in the area. His results improved the last couple of years, and he is now rated around 1750. Do not get misled by the low ratings, people here have very few rated events and the Elo factor lacks dynamics.
We have some free time between the chess events to visit the most remarkable places in the area. The main street in Cork, St. Patrick’s is one of those. We also have a famous English Market, beautiful park, nutritious Irish breakfast (sausages, bacon, beans, eggs, some more meat and tomatoes- a great stuff to start an eventful day). Corkonians are also proud producers of Beamish and Murphy’s Irish stout. This is something that makes the whole country worth a visit, as well as the size of the pint-it is 568 ml, not the conventional half liter…
Some ten miles away from Cork is situated the harbour of Cobh (pronounced Kov), the second largest harbour in the world. It was also known as Queenstown once (after Queen Victoria). It was the last place where Titanic stopped before it went to the journey with no return, and there is still a small museum of the lost ship. Some years later the tragedy repeated with the sinking of the ship Lusitania, when more than thousand people could not be saved.
The town saw many immigrants leaving the green Ireland to find their luck in new places, such as the USA, and Australia. Although the population of Ireland is about 4.5 million, many more millions have moved to other countries and established there.
The Cork chess club is situated very near to the Gresham Metropole hotel where the tournament will take place. It was founded some twenty years ago, and has approximately eighty members from young children till eighty-year experienced players.
The tournament starts on Friday, there will be six rounds, and the top seeded player is the Irish situated GM Alex Baburin.
Yesterday was a free day in Rijeka, and most of the players took their time to recover after the first seven rounds. In the evening before it the organizers gave another good sample of their hospitality with the party for the participants. It was conducted in the Hemingway bar in Opatija, and all the players were presented with a typical Croatian drink, called “stock”. It is a kind of brandy with a specific taste. The morning saw many of the participants chasing away the stress with dances, and some drinks. The rest day that followed was really needed.
Apart from the ECU general Assembly, two important from chess political view events took place. Anatoly Karpov officially announced his candidature for the FIDE president, and Silvio Danailov made a cocktail party yesterday, with which he started his campaign for becoming an ECU President. Bulgarian’s motto in his campaign is “I know”, with which he stresses on the fact that he is in chess all his life- as a player, manager, trainer and organizer of important chess tournaments. In a short speech he explained his ideas, and showed his respect to the previous ECU presidents for the work that they have done so far. Among the guests at the cocktail were his rival, Ali Nihat Yazici, Anatoly Karpov, FIDE’s vice-president Georgios Makropolous, and many other officials. Some weeks ago Danailov made a generous gesture to Rumen Nikolov, a twelve years old chess player, and participant in the M-tel Juniour Circuit. Danailov presented his own money for Rumen, who needed an emergency eye operation in Germany.
In the meanwhile the tournaments continued with exciting games. After his somewhat lucky escape in the seventh round, Baadur Jobava beat the top seeded Zoltan Almasi today with the white pieces. The Georgian is sole leader now, and is the only player who has scored “plus six” so far. However, there are 408 participants, and it is not clear that such a score will suffice for the first place. Contrary to some other years the participants are not happy with short draws when they make reasonable score but continue to search the maximum.
In the female tournament Monica Socko is already sharing the first place with Victoria Cmilyte from Lithuania who won against K. Arakhamia-Grant in extremely sharp game.
The players’ open letter with demand for thirty-minute tolerance due to the travelling time was signed by hundred and ten participants. However the arbiters decided not to change the zero-rule tolerance for the obvious unfairness to those who have lost points already.
The town of Opatija is surrounded by the Ucka (Uchka) mountains. It is a popular tourist destination, near both the Italian and Slovenian boarders. The architecture is from the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the resort has a typical Mediatarian look.
There is a nice park near the Milenij hotel and a boulevard of fame on the main street. Today the weather got wormer, and very nice for walking, so I am sending you some pictures from this beautiful place.
The strongest European Championships so far are taking place in Rijeka, Croatia. Statisticians calculated that twenty seven from thirty best women in Europe are taking part of the event. The only missing are the world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, as well as the young mothers Katerina Lahno and Natalia Pogonina. The male part is also seeing most of the top European players, including nine who are rated over 2700 Elo barrier. The consistency of the players is also very good, and there are almost hundred participants over 2600. There are almost 600 participants in total in the tournaments. Both the champions from the last edition- Russians Tatiana Kosintseva and Evgeny Tomashevsky are defending their titles.
Starting from the first rounds many of the top seeds already lost points, but this is hardly a surprise since they had to face strong opposition, even GMs in most of the cases.
Almost all participants live in the nearby town of Opatija, in luxury hotels, and have to travel every day some hour before the start of the round.
The “zero tolerance” rule is causing some troubles because of that. The first round saw one of the buses arriving only three minutes before the round, and many participants literally running to catch their games. However, only in the second round in the male tournament there were five games decided by default. This is too much, and most of the players strongly disagree with the rule. Indeed such measures will be very appropriate for super-tournaments, where you have six-fourteen players, and it will be shame for the audience to see empty boards at the start of the round. However in such a massive tournament, with so many players and additional transfer of almost all of them many unforeseen consequences can appear, and prevent the players from arriving in time. Probably fifteen minute tolerance is the best solution of the problem.
Except for this problem Croatians are providing excellent conditions for the championships. The hall is spacious and both women and men share the same place. There are free refreshments in the hall, as well as internet access in the venue. Food in the hotels is excellent, service is great. The weather is relatively cold, but Adriatic see is nevertheless beautiful.
The widely respected Croatian GM Miso Cebalo and world senior champion is commenting the tournament for the official site.
In brief- interesting games have started, and we expect even more fascinating chess in the coming rounds.