Bogotá 2011 – Frigid and uncaring

12/19/2011 – When you look at photo reports sent from all over the world, you might think how nice it is to be a chess player: You see the world, visit exotic countries and win tournaments. Unfortunately, sometimes it is neither nice nor easy, and the playing conditions can make the experience a nightmare. Bogotá 2011 was an example, despite the beautiful city. An illustrated report by Sergey Tiviakov.

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Bogotá 2011 – Frigid and uncaring

By Sergey Tiviakov

When you look at my photo reports sent from all over the world, you might think how nice it is to be a chess-player: You see the world, visit exotic countries and win tournaments. Unfortunately, sometimes it is neither nice nor easy, it is a hard work, and it is not uncommon to have to suffer through very difficult playing conditions.

Unfortunately, my last tournament in Bogotá, Colombia, was one of the most deplorable experiences I have ever played in, and my trip there was almost non-stop suffering, despite the lovely city.


Organizer Orlando Ruiz, the only person with something to smile about

The tournament 'II JAHV MC GREGOR ITT" in Bogotá was held there for the second time in a row. I also played in this tournament in 2010 and tied for first place, winning the tournament on tie-break due to the higher progressive score.
This year the organizer, Mr. Orlando Ruiz, had promised improvements over the previous year. In 2010 there had been problems due to the incredibly long distance from the hotel to the playing hall, which consisted of a one hour drive by car to go, and another hour to return.

In 2011, instead of improvement the tournament conditions were worse all around, and even the prize fund was actually reduced, with the first prize going down from 3500 USD to approximately 2500 USD, with other prizes also going down accordingly.


The playing hall was an open space in a shopping mall

Though this year the hotel was rather close to the playing hall – it is because the playing ‘hall’ was the newly opened CALIMA Shopping Center, which was an incredibly bad choice, as the playing conditions were truly unbearable...

To begin with, we were playing in the passage-ways of the shopping center, and not in a closed space. As a result, the noise level was incredibly high: all the rounds were played with very loud background music, constant noise from the people passing by, talking, mobile phones ringing, kids playing, and shopping center announcements.


The conditions were so cold, that jackets with hoods were quite normal

It was also incredibly cold, and most players had to wear warm jackets, not to mention many even played with hats and gloves! This might surprise some, as Bogota is situated close to the equator, however due to its high attitude (2600 meters above the sea level) the temperature almost never goes above 17 C. to 20 C. and in the evening and nights the temperatures can drop as low as four degrees! Since the CALIMA Shopping Center doesn't have a permanent roof, the temperature inside is almost the same as outside, and it was really cold.


Polish GM Macieja had a good tournament. Notice the usual hooded jacket that can
be seen in the left corner.

Although all the players complained to the organizer, he had no intention of doing anything to improve the playing conditions. He clearly gave us the impression that he couldn’t care less about the conditions in which we played. “Don't like it, quit the tournament” was his answer!


Cuban GM Suarez plays against Polgar. No, this is not a secret sibling of the famed
Hungarian sisters, but is Polgar Ramirez Heimy (COL) rated 2067. Although she finished
in 79th place, her 2260 performance was higher than the fourth place finisher!

There actually was a possibility to have the top boards moved to a closed room, where we would be protected from the cold and the noise, but the organizer refused!

So my advice for all players who are considering playing Bogotá next year: don't do it! The playing conditions are terrible!! It is pure agony and you will never get any pleasure from playing chess there!

As if the playing conditions weren't bad enough, another serious problem was the tiebreak used by the organizing committee for given out at the end of the tournament. Before the tournament, the organizer had announced that the following tie-break criteria would be used for the prize-money (prizes are not shared).

1) The result of the game between the players involved
2) The number of wins
3) Progressive score
4) Buchholz

Despite my protest before the start of the tournament, against the absurdity of this order, the organizer refused to change it.

To better understand the problem, when playing in a big open tournament such as Bogotá, which had 380 players in 2011, the tie-break criteria of the number of wins favors either weak players, or players who played badly. The reason is that when you lose in an open tournament, this means that you played badly and as a result are paired against much weaker opponents. Though a player in this case might achieve the same number of points, it is obvious he would have done so against weaker opposition. As a result, this tiebreak system punishes the players who actually played the best.

The tie-break criteria of the number of wins should be forbidden in all open tournaments!

In the tournament, I shared 1st-3rd place with 8.5/10 with Macieja and Bruzon, yet Bruzon from Cuba was announced the winner in spite of having played worse than both Macieja and myself.

There is no question that  Bruzon is a strong player with his 2690 rating, but in Bogotá he was not playing his best chess. Look at his game against A. Zapata!


Colombian GM Alonso Zapata

Of course, it is a shame for Bruzon to lose such a game in 25 moves, but precisely because of his bad play and loss, Bruzon was awarded with an extra 1500 USD (1000 USD which by all rights should have gone to me, and 500 USD from B. Macieja, who would have taken second with any equitable tiebreak system).


The friendly and regular commentator GM Alejandro Ramirez

A further example is FM Contreras Henry (COL), rated 2240, who took 4th place despite a performance of only 2237! He played only one player with a normal rating, and all the rest were rated 1800-2000. His fourth place was his reward for losing his 1st round game to a player rated 1812.

I strongly believe that FIDE should outright forbid the number of wins as a criteria for breaking ties at open tournaments.

Photo Gallery

And now the selection of photos from Bogotá follows. Walking around Bogota I visited the following Museums: Botero Museum, the Museum of Art of the Banco de la Republica, Museum of the Mint of Bogotá (Museo de Casa de Moneda de Bogota), and the Colonial Art Museum.


A street scene of Bogotá, Colombia


A giant Christmas tree in Cathedral square


A lama in Cathedral square for the tourists...


... and the children.


The cathedral


The inside of the cathedral


Sergey Tiviakov at the Botero Museum


A Botero sculpture


This one could have served as a poster for Hitchcock's "The Birds"


The rounded themes are present in the artist's paintings as well


Posing next to one of the earliest mints in the Casa de Moneda


An even earlier coin press


A series of coins dedicated to former president Francisco de
Paula Santander, also known as "The Man of the Laws".


The Colonial Art Museum


Another view of the museum's exterior


Colonial artworks


A lovely clock


For private worship


The Museum of Art of the Banco de la Republica has a rich collection of works by
famous artists.


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