13th Open International in L'île de la Réunion

by ChessBase
10/4/2011 – Réunion? Where on earth is that? It is a chunk of France floating between Madagascar and Mauritius, a tropical paradise, where an open tournament is currently being held. Our on-site reporter is WGM Kruttika Nadig of India, who has sent us a wittily written and wonderfully illustrated report with her first impressions. We welcome Kruttika to our permanent team of contributors.

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13th Open International de l'île de la Réunion

This event is being held at Saint Denis, Réunion, from October 1-8. Players have flown down from as far as mainland France to participate in the chess holiday by the seaside. Here are some initial impressions from this romantic island.

The tournament, jointly organised by L'Echiquier du Nord and Ligue Réunion Echecs, has attracted a field quite disproportionate to the very decent 7,300 Euro prize fund – only four titled players in the fray. One reason for this could be a lack of funds as evidenced by the conspicuous absence of sponsors’ banners. The time control for the games is 1 hour 30 min per player with a 30 second increment from move 1. There will be nine rounds with a rest day on October 4.

Réunion, or Reunion Island, as Anglophiles know it, is a chunk of France floating between Madagascar and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Governed by France while sandwiched between the two vastly different continents of Africa and Asia, the islanders display a charmingly mixed sensibility and typical tropical friendliness.

Where on earth is Réunion? The above map from Wikipedia gives us an impression

View larger map

The population is under a million (a difficult concept to grasp for someone living in Mumbai) and includes Europeans, Africans, Indians and Chinese. The most widely spoken languages here are French and Réunion Creole, a close relative that has evolved under the other ethnic influences on the island.

Réunion has two towering volcanoes, one of them active, three cirques, massive natural ramparts and a national park – all of which were left largely to themselves until UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site last year, throwing the gates open to tourism. While the average Réunionese are not as gregarious and tourist savvy as natives of more famous neighbors like Mauritius and the Seychelles, they are extremely warm and have the most impressive range of desserts.

The journey from India included a brief halt in Mauritius. A tour guide advised a quick visit
to Blue Bay where one can see schools of fish in a coral reef through a glass bottomed boat.

Some fish swim daringly close

Bougainvillea is the dominant flower in both Mauritius and Réunion. Most driveways are a riot of pink, orange and yellow. This house has a traditional thatched roof that looked cosily like fur.

Foreign players were enthusiastically received at the airport – that's organiser Daniel
Tching Sin holding the placard, accompanied by Bernard Dujardin from France

Players greeted by members of the organising committee: International Arbiter Stefane Escafre, Echequier du Nord president Jean Olivier, Johan Devos from Belgium, Francois Xavier Duprey from France, Fide Master Akshat Khamparia from India, Ishmael Bah from France

A banner promoting the chess tournament

View of the ocean from the tournament hall

The opening ceremony was short and informal, with many of the young participants
looking eager to get on with business

I was given the tricky task of addressing a largely French speaking audience

The tournament favourite Akshat Khamparia being interviewed by a local journalist

French Fide Master Emmanuel Reinhart with Osmin Renaux

R.S. Chetty, his wife Nicole and L’ACRI president Mrs Colette

Members of L'association Culturelle Reunion Inde. Their ancestors were brought from India a century ago as contract labourers but were treated little better than slaves. Today, these people proudly call themselves Réunionese and have formed an association to rediscover their cultural roots by inviting Indian artists and intrepid reporters such as yours truly to visit their adoptive land.

Kids fool round on a giant chessboard in the lawn

The mascot for this event is the dodo, a highly lovable and sadly extinct bird from
this region. Remember the saying, “as dead as a dodo…?”

A dodo’s eye view of the playing hall

A closer look at players in action

This young man, Loan Le Maguet, was the darling of the media – for obvious reasons

Labour of love: this patient lady knits under a miniature palm while
her husband Kurt Meier sweats it out over a chessboard nearby

Younger players unwinding between two rounds with a game of football

More football outside the playing hall

The board game battles continue with Mahjong, an immensely strategy game complicated involving 136 tiles (and we thought 32 pieces were tough to handle!) Patrick Vitry (left) introduces young Denis Valentin to the nuances

The domino like tiles are inscribed with various Chinese characters and symbols

And that’s why we should stick to chess! Philippe Lecaille with outfoxed Yohan Lebon

About the author

Kruttika Nadig is a Woman Grandmaster from Maharashtra, India. She has won three Indian national championships, the last one being the National Women Premier in 2008. She received her WGM title in the same year and also made two IM norms. In 2009 she won the Asian Women Zonal, which qualified her for the World Women Championship in Turkey in December 2010. Kruttika took a break from chess in 2009 to study journalism and started working with Economic Times, a leading business newspaper in India. She left her job (surprise!) this month and will now be working as a freelance journalist and semi-professional chess player. She like to read, write, travel and aims to try all the adventure sports in the world at least once. She divides her time between Mumbai and Pune, where the family has a house in the hills, with two dogs and a cat. We welcome Kruttika to the staff our our permanent contributors.

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