IV Taca Cuca Tournament in Angola
By WGM Alina L'Ami
Even if you are not an inveterate traveler, I am sure you’ve dreamed at least once of being a bit more adventurous, to get out in the world, explore the unknown and let yourself amazed by completely different things. For me, a European, what else could be more appealing than...Africa?!
Four Grandmasters in Luanda - just arrived. here we were waiting
for a car, to bring us to our accommodation. By taxi would have
too expensive, since our five-minute taxi ride to get here was $22!
The solution for us chess players is now simple: Angola, the new tropical paradise! If all you know about this beautiful country is: civil war, poor people and dangerous territory, it is time to take off the distorting glasses. I have to admit that I also wore them some while ago, and also had preconceived opinions…but I learned my lesson. The bad reputation due to civil unrest is a thing of the past and the country is on its way to a speedy recovery. And now, thanks to chess, its doors are wide open!
After a tough Russian Team Championship and a long flight, Viktor Bologan
resist the temptation of closing his eyes, just for a moment...meanwhile, the
GM Thal Abergel was full of energy.
It is the second time I am coming to Luanda, Angola’s capital, to play the already notorious chess tournament ‘Taca Cuca’, which reached its forth edition this year. If it wouldn’t have been the generous invitation of the organizers, I would probably be on a different continent right now; not because Angola is off the beaten touristic track nor because the unknown sounds scary most of the times. I have played last year and I know this African country is an eye-opener in more ways than one. But if I consider the insane prices which you have to face everywhere, than I would think twice before I would proceed to book my ticket.
Thanks to their extensive practice, I believe the Angolan women have a very straight
spine. I always admired their gigantic baskets on their heads; if you add the extra
weights from their hands and even babies...I cannot see myself performing like that.
And yet, I am here, thanks to a hand of very helpful and hard working people. The US$270 a night per person for our accommodation, which while nice is not Sheraton, doesn’t make them run away. On the contrary: we are given everything, from unlimited drinks to unlimited food, basically an all-inclusive treatment! You have to admit that this scenario cannot be seen everywhere, to be able to indulge yourself any time a day or night during a chess tournament. If you start calculating how much this all costs, for all the invited Grandmasters, I am afraid your eyes would pop out of your head!
"Dream Space" - where we are currently staying! Indeed, it is a
dream to find such
lush vegetation in Luanda.
Of course, Sergey
is as adventurous as usual. I bet he was an
explorer in his previous life.
Still, they do it for us, they do it out of love for chess and to make everybody see the upside of their beautiful land. The results can easily be spotted, especially if I compare it with last year: more and more players are coming to play in the tournament, the playing conditions are on the highest level, and the results can now be followed under the Angolan flag on www.chess-results.com, instead of the Portuguese or South African flags, as was the case before. In other words the chess movement is growing exponentially and I wouldn't be surprised if from now on even more players were to reserve the month of April for this traditional Angolan chess event. I don’t know if the main attraction is the generous prize fund or the typical terracotta-like soil…I suppose both.
Opening ceremony with Erwin l'Ami, Viktor Bologan and Sergey Tiviakov
If last year we could explore the city center and its beautiful colonial architecture (a curious mix where the new blends in with the old), since our accommodation was right in its core, this time things are slightly different.
Eating outdoors, which is a nice idea; if only flies wouldn't exist...they are constantly
coming around our food and they bring the whole family!
Our conditions were a dream-like scenario for the professionals: we eat, sleep and play in the same place. However, this advantage also has a drawback: we are far from the hustle and bustle of the noisy town, which, given the exotic location, looks very attractive to explore. I would say that you cannot have them all…and yet, today (which is free of playing), we are promised a tour! So there is something for everybody, the organizers are making big efforts to meet all our needs.
Sergey and Thal couldn't resist the heat; even Thsepiso Lopang from Botswana suffered
After such a hot adventure, we deserved to cool down in one of the pools. From left to
right: Viktor Bologan, Thal Abergel, Alina l'Ami, Anzel Solomons from South Africa, and Erwin l'Ami.
The only thing which they cannot control is nature. Usually it is boiling hot though we can hide from the burning sun in one of the four pools available in the complex we are staying at. More annoying are the aggressive mosquitoes, which clearly have no shame in having huge meals whenever they get the chance. Luckily, we have been provided with sprays and insects repellent - another sign of the organizer’s wish to make our tournament a memorable and positive experience.
The opening speech of the President of the Angolan Chess Federation, Dr. Aguinaldo
Jaime. He is personally involved in the organization, making sure that everything is
going according to plan.
The game between Dr. Aguinaldo Jaime and the top seed in the Open section, GM Viktor
Bologan, started with an Open Sicilian...as proof of everybody's desire to have long
fighting games, since no draws are acceptable before move 30.
In the playing hall: Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly with Dr. Aguinaldo Jaime
Second seed in the women section: the Portuguese WIM Catarina Leite
Tshepang Tlale from South Africa
The part which I like most is: the chess family atmosphere! No matter what happens on the boards, after the fierce chess struggles we all gather together for a Cuca beer, for some blitz and interesting conversations. If only the mosquitoes would be more polite…
Epah Tembo from Zambia
Thsepiso Lopang from Botswana
Sonia Rosalino from Angola
Yvonne Saina from Zambia playing against the Angolan Fatima Reis
The tournament hall which meets the highest standards: air conditioning, enough
room to walk and comfortably play your game; also, there are drinks and small snacks
to make your chess life more enjoyable.
Men's standings after five rounds
Women's standings after five rounds