Bologan takes Taça Cuca by storm
By WGM Alina L'Ami
One of Africa’s major oil producers, Angola, is also becoming one of the world’s most interesting places to…play chess. Sure, there are many beautiful and exotic locations to set someone’s curiosity ago for a once in a lifetime chess experience. But how easy it really is to actually reach such tournaments? Or how expensive?
Aiming to become a milestone, not only for the African chess community, the "Taca Cuca" tournament held in Luanda, Angola, between 18 – 26 April, is ready to tread in Europe’s footsteps and to widely open a relatively virgin chess ground: Africa! To be honest, I will not be surprised if in the near future we will trample for a spot in the already prestigious Angolan tournament, given the prizes and the support the organizers offer to the ‘adventurous’ Western players. Until that moment, let’s first see how the 2012 edition continued…
Victor Bologan has added 45 Elo in the last weeks and is 18th in the live ratings list
With an absolutely 'insane' score, eight points out of nine, Victor Bologan convincingly won the men section, and jumped to an enviable 18th position on the live rating list while grabbing the $5000 first prize! Only two draws slipped through his fingers and, with a bit of luck, the Moldovan Grandmaster might have won them all! His performance is even greater as he played all his last seven games against strong Grandmasters, winning game after game!
The second place was claimed by Sergey Tiviakov, also with an amazing score (7.5 out of 9 games), given the strength of his opponents and the fact that he was not in his best physical shape ever. For mysterious reasons, he got one after the other: a terrible allergy, fever, stomach pains, a cold, but, despite all of that, his play continued to be on the highest level!
Sergey Tiviakov is a happy traveler, always open to the new and exotic
I don't know what we ate exactly...but the pink fruit had a sour/bitter taste and a fibrous
pulp. Not everybody liked it though, the Western palate is not accustomed with all flavours.
More known but still in the exotic area: bananas, and different roots with potato like
taste. My favourite for now is the white-yellowish one, yuca, also known as kassava
Being sick, in general, is never any fun, especially in Africa, where your body is not used to the food, climate or germs. Beneath the surface of the luxurious resort and extensive international menu, lurk the same health issues that exist across the globe. But fear not, dear chess friends, there is plenty of information so that you can handle whatever Mother Africa decides to punch you in the face with! Only one thing we couldn't really fight against: waking up extremely early, sometimes even before 8 AM!I guess the hot and humid climate was laughing at us, forcing the players to stand up and even have breakfast:)
In the women section, the race for the first place and for the 3000$ prize lasted all the way until the very end! After a draw in round 4 of the undersigned against the second seed, the Portuguese WIM Catarina Leite, we both continued to win all our games and finish up with 8.5 out of 9. So who is going to be first in this marathon?! Only the fourth tie break criterion was able to have the final word on it: bucholz. Nothing was decided until the last score sheet has been signed, on the last board! It was quite exciting to follow the outcome of our opponents, to see who is going to have more luck with the results. And it was Catarina!
WIM Catarina Leite (left) won the Bucholz lottery to edge out WGM Alina L'Ami
WGM Alina L'Ami had a good tournament and excellent trip
South African WIM Anzel Solomons, who finished third
Lorita Mwango from Zambia
Chess is a sport so luck will always be part of the game. Sometimes it is on our side, sometimes not, but it always makes for interesting fights to watch! How boring it would be otherwise...
Time has come to reward the winners
Rising the profile of the game in Angola and beyond is part of Angola's former Deputy Prime Minister Aguinaldo Jaime's plan. Dr. Jaime is not only a very successful and respected political figure but also an inveterate chess supporter. His extremely busy schedule couldn't stop him to attend the closing ceremony and to enjoy a good glass of wine with us.
There were plenty of trophies to go around
One trophy was mine for the second place in the women's section, while all the other three were won in the men's competition.
Also all the prices were unshared, since the winners had a different number of points. Maybe it was not a coincidence but rather a tough fight to reject any possibility of having to depend on tie breaks. Not sharing the prizes is maybe a good way to motivate the players for long and fighting games, so the public is happy. Plus, sharing your prize with someone who didn't play any games on the top boards and only by pure chance he finished with the same score as you - is not completely fair. On the other hand, depending on someone else's results is also beyond one's control...so I don't know which system is better. Perhaps Hort's?!
The Botswana's girls: Thsepiso Lopang and Boikhutso Mudongo
The only part which the players regretted is that we couldn't see more from what this beautiful country has to offer. We were far from the city centre, thus impossible to explore more than our resort. The excursion which was planned to take place in the free day, didn't happen. But you never know what you gain in return, when you lose something. Plus, most probably, if we would have been in the centre, between concrete, cement, noise and dust, we would have craved for a more greenish and peaceful environment. It's human nature to always want what we don't have.
Back to our case, we remained chess players, enjoying some blitz, the swimming pool and each other's company. Only a few became a bit more dare devil, as you will see later on...
The Angolan ladies enjoy the pool's refreshment
The Cuca beer, tournament's main sponsor, cannot be missing of course!
GM Maxim Dlugy challenged for a blitz game by the Zambian FM Daniel Jere
Angolan money - some of the most colourful notes I have ever seen! What I find
interesting is that they almost never use the coins, it is heavy and pointless. What
could you possibly buy with them,in the most expensive city in the world?!
Always seeking adventure, Sergey tried the trees too
Sergey Kasparov applies the motto, "If you can't beat'em, join'em!"
Others prefer to sit back and relax: French GM Thal Abergel and Boikhutso Mudongo from Botswana
It's not a rose, it's a big tree! Apparently, they are trying to protect themselves from
being eaten by wild animals.
And that was, more or less, our African adventure. Naturally, I thought this was it, time to go back home, time for the airport. But I was wrong. On my way to the International Departures, I still got the chance to capture a few extra images.
A perfectly natural place to buy eggs
Luanda's skyline can be seen in the background.
I look forward to coming back!
Pictures by Alina L'Ami and Sergey Tiviakov