Bachus 'Alco-Chess' Cup in St. Petersburg

4/24/2010 – If you've seen the classic Graham Greene thriller "Our Man in Havana" (we include a video!) you'll know the setup: in a game of chess or checkers you have to drink the pieces you capture. Usually whiskey, vodka or cognac. In St. Petersburg there is an "Alco-Chess" tournament designed to bring people from business, politics, publishing and chess together, to test their endurance.

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Bachus "Alco-Chess" Cup in St. Petersburg

Report by Irina Sudakova, with photos by Elena Mikheeva

What can one do to draw public attention to amateur chess? Something unusual, vivid and memorable? The idea is not new – you can organize an “Alco-Chess” tournament and invite interesting people to participate, as the chess club “Overtime” in St. Petersburg, Russia, actually did.

The main idea of the event has nothing to do with alcohol. The general goal of the "Overtime" chess club is to set up a VIP chess house where one could come to spend some time in at nice place in good company. It is very important for our sport to bring together business people, political figures, top managers, lawyers, publishers who like to play chess – needless to say, the ancient game needs special support and promotion these days.


The tournament's poster, courtesy of "Artstream" publishing house

I know at least one successful example of such an event in the past: in the middle of the 1990s in Moscow Alco-Chess was played by the Russian State Duma Speaker, world-wide famous movie-maker and many other top level public persons.

Alco-Chess might sound provocative, but it works very well as a non-permanent action. It helped a lot to find the sponsors for the event – the "Merz Pharma" and "Valenta Pharm" companies, with a help of whose medications our participants were able to greet the next morning in good health and perfect mood. The third sponsor was "Stelmas" mineral water, which is an important part of one's everyday mode of living.


Tournament director, International Master and businessman
Alexander Sotsky greeting the participants

Let me say a few words about the rules. The tournament was a knock-out event with 16 players. White gets ten minutes against Black's eight, but in case of a draw Black advances to the next round. The players were allowed to choose the fuel themselves, either vodka or cognac.

A lost pawn was equal to 10ml, rook or minor piece 25ml, the queen 50. That means if your rook was captured you had to drink from the corresponding glass before making your next move. This was not really a strict condition, and some players were drinking together to each other's health, proposing toasts, etc.


Our dear sponsors tell us what to do...


... in order to survive the ordeals of the tournament


The competitive part was supported by a banquet, to everyone's pleasure


Professional poker player Yulius Sepman


Lawyer Arkady Scherbak


Businessman Alexander Maltsev

[Addendum: The names are all real, although Alan Hartley of Portland, Oregon, is justifiably suspicious. "Sotsky? Maltsev??" he wrote, "If this were April 1, I would be calling your bluff..."]


Businessman Dmitry Simkin


Civil engineer Igor Marchenko


Tournament co-organizer WGM Irina Sudakova, who was the only player allowed to drink wine. But still she was very happy that she didn’t have to play more than one game.

The semi-finals


Maxim Novik vs Mikhail Rusanov


Alexander Maltsev vs Andrey Petelin


And the proud winner with the Bachus Cup trophy, International Master and vice-president of a bank, Andrey Petelin, who turned out to be more alco-resistant than his opponent GM Maxim Novik – which is a huge advantage at the final stage of such a specific tournament.

We are sincerely grateful to the hosts of the party – the personnel of Georgian kitchen restaurant “Kabanchik”, which is located in the center of the city. They did their best to help us with organizational bothers, and the waiters proved to be real professionals, refilling the glasses properly even in time-troubles.


The restaurant’s owner, Koba Gordeladze, who was brave
enough to take part in the chess competition as well

Copyright ChessBase

Our Man in Havana


The famous Alco-Checkers scene with Alex Guinness and Ernie Kovacs from "Our Man in Havana"

Our Man In Havana is a novel written in 1958 by Graham Greene. Certain aspects of the plot, in particular the importance of secret military constructions, appear to predict the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place in 1962. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 1959, directed by Carol Reed and starring Alec Guinness, Maureen O'Hara, Burl Ives, Noël Coward and the immortal Ernie Kovacs.


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