Montreal Open: a labor of love
By Alina L'Ami
XXL chess in the center of Montreal, I found them by mistake, when I got a little lost
If you had asked me one week ago, which words came automatically to mind when “Canada” is pronounced, most probably I would have chosen the “safe path”, with the same old clichés: maple syrup, ice hockey, friendly people and beautiful nature.
After one week, a very long and full week with two simuls, a weekend tournament, double rounds, a lot of sightseeing and a terrible jet lag, which I am still trying to get rid of, I can add much more. And chess is clearly making its way on my list! I discovered that the Canadians love to play this game and they do it quite well, despite their lack of chess tradition, as they often sigh.
A picturesque view in Old Montreal
I discovered two wonderful cities, two architectural jewels: Montreal and Quebec City, with their parks, old buildings and a matchless charm. I discovered that here people don’t like to lose time-if the traffic lights show red, it is only a cosmetic issue…it’s as good as green; of course, I didn’t mind blending in, especially when I was rushing to my games I found out that some doors in Canada are…unlocked, when nobody is there of course! That’s right, it’s a safe and peaceful place, but don’t try this at home! I learned that coffee can be interesting if you add a bit of maple syrup instead of sugar and that fries taste better with gravy and cheese on top. I learned that the less time I have, the more things I do and that chances never get lost. The ones I’ve missed will be found by someone else… I am so grateful for everything I experienced in Canada and, once again, I found out that life is made up by these little things which make it better.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal: a clear sign of the French
influences, which bears the same name as its relative from Paris.
I wouldn’t have been able to share all that if it wouldn’t have been the Montreal Open and its generous sponsors. I am a bit nervous that you may interpret the following as an exaggeration but trust me, I simply cannot describe it differently! Had you been here, I am sure you would agree. The tournament hall was excellent, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and the hotel was great, within walking distance and the organizers gave 1000% in their efforts to make it as beautiful event as possible. In my opinion, they did more than just organize a wonderful tournament.
The first four games were live on the internet and available for the live audience too
The top four boards, which were separated from the rest
Our tournament hall was in a...former chapel! Believer or not, it creates a special
atmosphere and I personally found it beautiful.
The Montreal Open reached it’s 91st edition this year and it means a lot for the Canadian chess community. Each year the participation grows exponentially, with 213 players appearing this time, spread over four sections: A, B, C and D. The A group was reserved for the stronger players, rated above 2100 Fide or the Canadian rating. To be honest, I was a bit confused with the real strength of the players: is that the one from the Canadian rating or the one from the Fide website?! Later or I understood that most of their tournaments are not sent to Fide and this is the explanation behind the Elo difference. For example, the number one rated player: Sambuev Bator, has a Fide rating of 2528 and a Canadian rating of 2700.
When I saw the sun glasses, the first thing I thought was: poker player. Unfortunately
it didn't help in the game, and Sambuev won.
On the right is the second-rated player in the tournament
The third rated player in the tournament
Rated, unrated, they are all so passionate when it comes to chess; they live it so intensely, that it almost “frightened” me. Although I say that tongue-in-cheek, maybe that’s why they choose such sharp lines, for example, the King’s Indian?! All in all, I was pleasantly surprised to see so much energy spent and directed towards chess, with so many children, parents, sponsors and organizers contributing to the same triggering purpose: the spread of the chess movement.
Children playing chess before, during and after the game, basically whenever they
get the chance.
I couldn't help but smile when I saw the little boy trying to see the pieces, it reminded
me of myself whenI was sitting on my knees.
The only detail which might have given headaches to the professional players was the presence of double rounds. Being a weekend tournament, to encourage and increase participation, you need experience to cope with fatigue and to keep playing on a high level under tough circumstances. Sambuev Bator, one of the best Canadian players, proved once again his class and finished in first position, with 4.5 out of five games, despite his draw from the second round, which was played at 10 o’clock in the morning. Also, Masse Hugues, rated 2239 but with a massive 2942 (!) shared 1st, with the same number of points. The only difference was the bye he took in the first round, an option available by the tournament rules, winning all the remaining games. Whether or not it was a strategy, I cannot say, but it worked out well for him!
The tournament underway
The final picture, in the black suit, close to the little girl in yellow, you can see the
of the organizing committee: Bernard Ouimet.
The time control was a normal one: 85 minutes for 40 moves, plus 20 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30 seconds increment, so it makes sense to have only five games in three days and then draw the line. Plus, I think it’s a good way to fight draws, one of the main concerns in the chess world. If you are willing to get a prize at the end of the tournament, you really have to work for it, otherwise there will be many other players with the same number of points. As for me…I could have played better, there is always room for improvement, but I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to coming again and and would hazard the suggestion to put the Montreal Open on your agenda next time!
A photo gallery
Marché Bonsecours is acknowledged as one of Canada's ten
finest heritage buildings and houses 15 boutiques featuring top-
quality "made in Québec" creations: crafts, accessories etc.
The famous Maple Syrup - the leaf of the tree from which they collect the main
ingredient can be seen on the Canadian flag as well.
A street in Old Montreal: the moment I entered this historical part of the city,
life seemed but a distant memory.
A picture in Old Montreal
... and new in cohabitation.
College Jean de Brebeuf: where we played the tournament
On the way to the playing hall, on the second floor
with the local talent: Roy Myriam, sixteen years old
Here I am with my Romanian friends! I got so much support and encouragement from
the Romanian community and I was surprised to speak my own native language!
Amazing: behind the glass, a stone's throw from the actual
chess board: the altar!
Live games and computer analysis
Mont Royal Summit: great view in the park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted,
famous for his work on Central Park in New York City.
Inside of St.Joseph's Oratory: The basilica is dedicated
Joseph, to whom Brother André credited all his reported miracles.
In front of the Oratory
Saint Joseph's Oratory: clearly reminds me of Sacre Coeur from Paris
What I found special about their markets is the presence of the trolleys. Maybe it's
not extraordinary but I've never seen them before in an open market.
Cafe Pi: the Mecca of chess fans in Montreal, just like Cafe de
la Regence from Paris; here I had my first simul.
Inside of Cafe Pi
Laval University, in Quebec City, where I gave my second simul
Quebec City in the night, seen from La Citadelle
I was surprised when I was told that in this building is a ...disco! - Quebec City
Dinner with my friends and enemies from the simul in Quebec: on my left - Charles Tremblay, the organizer of the simul and other chess events in Quebec; on my right - Major Régis J.R.R. Bellemare, the only one who drew against me. He would like to organize the NATO championship in 2014, which would be than held in La Citadelle, inspiring place!
Club Poutine: a typical dish in a night out in Quebec - behind the sandwiches you can
see the famous Poutine: beef gravy on French fried potatoes with fresh cheese curds. Delicious!
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec
Along the Old Town's streets in Quebec City
Old Quebec is extremely photogenic
I finally found the right door for me. It looks like it was especially
made for... hobbits! I wouldn't even have noticed it if it weren't for
the number over it.
Walking in Old Quebec is like visiting the city through a time machine
An elevated view of Old Quebec
Parliament building in Quebec
Montmorency Falls in Quebec, 84 meters high, which is 30 meters
higher than Niagara Falls.