A chess adventure in Colombia

by ChessBase
6/8/2005 – Sergey Tiviakov went, saw and conquered. The Dutch GM took the Magistral Huila 100 Años in Neiva, Colombia with 8/9 and a performance of 2823. But Sergey is also a bit of an adventurer with an avid interest in exotic countries and mysterious phenomenon. He sent us this extraordinary pictorial report.

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Magistral Huila 100 Años, Neiva

The Magistral Huila 100 Años was staged in Neiva, Colombia, from May 10th-15th 2005. It was won in fine style by GM Sergei Tiviakov of the Netherlands, who took clear first with 8/9. Here's the final table.

An chess adventure in Colombia

By Sergey Tiviakov

The winner of the event, Sergey Tiviakov, who has an avid interest in exotic countries and mysterious phenomenon, sent us the following pictorial report from his stay in Colombia. You may not want to read the very last section if you have delicate nerves.

Neiva is a town of about 450,000 inhabitants, about 230 km from Bogota, the capital of Colombia. It lies only 450 metres above sea level, in the fertile valley of the Magdalena River (the biggest river in Colombia) between the mountain chains of the Central and the Eastern Cordilleras. It has a typical equatorial climate, humid, with lot of rain average temperature of +30 degrees. Bogota, 2640 meters above the sea level, has a temperate climate.

I spent three days in Bogota, one day before and two days after the end of the tournament. All photos in Bogota were taken on May 9, 2005. I spent a day, May 15th, in San Agustin. The site of the ancient civilization flourishing between two and three thousand years ago, well before Christ. The San Agustin civilization has dissapeared, but left a lot of monuments and enigmas, still to be solved. San Agustin takes a very important place in the books by Erich von Däniken. Almost each of his books has references to the San Agustin civilization and lot of photos.

Having read his books I always dreamt of visiting San Agustin, to see everything with my own eyes. Finally my dream has been realised. Long before the tournament in Neiva I agreed with the organisers that I would visit San Agustin.


That is me with the cousin of the organiser Martha Munoz at the monument to Simon Bolivar. Martha accompanied Harmen Jonkman and me and showed us a lot in the city of Bogota.

Inside the church of San Francisco. The high altar, elaborately decorated ceiling, and choir stalls are standouts in this church dedicated to Saint Francis, which dates from the mid-16th century.

Exquisite golden objects crafted by pre-Colombian peoples such as the Chibcha, the Tairona, and the Quimbaya are showcased in Bogotá’s famed Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum, with a collection of more than 30,000 pieces. I visited the Gold Museum and saw its enormous collection of the pre-Hispanic ceramics, gold, bronze artifacts. Included are some famous gold and bronze collection of the airplanes (they are not insects!), created long before the appearance of the airplanes in the modern world.

Chess is popular in Colombia, one sees people playing everywhere

We even found an interesting chess club in Bogota

The Catedral Nacional The Catedral Nacional is a formidable presence in the Plaza Bolívar, the heart of Colombia’s capital city. The plaza is named for Simón Bolívar, who liberated Bogotá from Spanish rule in 1819—nearly three centuries after its founding by Jiménez de Quesada, a Spanish conquistador. Quesada's tomb is now housed in the 16th-century cathedral.

An imposing statue of South American liberator Simón Bolívar is the focal point of this lively central square, flanked by the Catedral Nacional, the ornate government palace, and the supreme court building, recently rebuilt after a devastating guerrilla bombing in 1985.

The Presidential Palace – actually it is forbidden to take pictures of it!

The colonial district with old colonial style buildings

A panorama of Bogota, with Dutch GM Harmen Jonkman

San Agustin

San Agustin is 230 km from Neiva. It took three and a half hours for us to reach the place.

On the Road from Neiva to San Agustin. In the above picture you see the fertile valley of the Magdalena River, with the Cordillera Central on the background.

A very high waterfall not far from San Agustin

On the road from San Agustin we stopped in Timana where there is an incredibly beautiful and large cathedral

On this central square in front of the cathedral I gave a simul

The next destination was the Archeological Park of San Agustin, which has lot of sculptures, dolmens, burial places – all on a very large area in the mountains, in the jungle.

Ancient burial chambers

The most important monument in San Agustin, a ritual fountain to wash the feet. There are more than 30 different figures of men and animals cut in the solid rock, and the water passes through all of them.

According to von Däniken this was an installation to separate the smolten metals from each other and foreign substances. Well, I can't agree with von Däniken, after seeing it by my own eyes.

Does this creature look like ET?

On the top of the mountain there is group of the sculptures, consisting amongst others of the most famous sculpture "My second me" (on the left). It is a hybrid of 3 different creatures into one sculpture. According to von Däniken its presence indicated the possible contact of the San Agustin civilization with the extraterrestrial creatures in the past (paleo contact).

A dolmen or megalithic tombs consisting of large stones set in formation.

A sarcophagus inside a dolmen. It was not just the Ancient Egyptians who used sarcophagus to bury their dead.

Inside a dolmen, so you can see the size

The stone plate on these figures weighs no less than seven tons

San Agustin is situated in the jungle and has a very rich flora and fauna. Naturally you see many succulent plants belonging to the family Agavaceae, which are used by the Mexicans to make tequila.

Here's a millipede we came across.

Butterflies are everywhere in San Agustin

The coffee tree with the beans. Colombia is one of the world largest producers of coffee.

After visiting the San Agustin Archeological Park I was joined by Oleg Korneev and we went to a famous restaurant. On the way we stopped at a canyon where the river Magdalena (the longest river in Colombia) passes trough. At places it is just one meter wide. An incredible spectacle!

The restaurant was one of the best in Colombia for serving cavy. We discovered that they are a native form of guinea pigs, which live wild in the Andes and are eaten by the people living there. In the restaurant they show you the cavies you are going to get. We waited for two hours while they were being prepared, and were served "chicha", an alcoholic beverage made from the sugar cane, during that time.

The cavies are prepared in separate dishes: first you get the liver and kidneys, served on popcorn. Delicious! And then the cavies themselves, hot from the oven. Cavies are a a delicacy in Colombia and are only eaten on special occasion. They are considered aphrodisiacs.

Previous reports by Sergey Tiviakov

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