ACO Amateur World Championship on Crete

by ChessBase
11/24/2023 – In October, the ACO - the Amateur Chess Organisation - held its sixth tournament at the 5-star Hotel Fodele Beach in Crete. More than 160 participants from 24 nations enjoyed pleasant temperatures, ideal tournament conditions and a great social programme.

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By Uwe Ritter

ACO at the Fodele Beach Hotel for the 6th time

Chess players met for the sixth time at the 5-star Fodele Beach Hotel in Crete. With temperatures of more than 25 degrees and perfect bathing weather, 161 participants from 24 nations battled it out in 7 categories, giving their opponents a run for their money.

For those who have been to the event before, this year saw the addition of a majestic terrace with palm trees and a completely redesigned pool.

Chess players who arrived early did not go unnoticed for long, even without a board, as we were recognised at the reception and later in the restaurant or terrace bar by the long-serving staff and greeted with a loud "hello".

For first-timers, such as Canadian Milan Soskic (Group E), the first thing was to sort out their personal impressions of the tournament. At Heraklion airport he met a taxi driver who was born in Montreal but has lived in Crete since he was 20. Later, at the hotel, Soskic was impressed by the comfort of the playing rooms and the hotel, as well as the high level of organisation, a standard which, in his personal experience, is not found at FIDE tournaments.

German participant Manfred Kunze celebrated his birthday again this year (92). This makes him far from the oldest competitor ever, the previous record being 94, set in 2013.

The tournament was once again played in the tried and tested format. On the first four days, single and double rounds were played alternately, with one bye per player in each of the two doubles rounds. Rounds 7 to 9 were again single rounds.

The three Grandmasters Daniel King, Spiridon Skembris and Mr Entertainment Zigurds Lanka were also present to help with the analysis when needed.

Training with Lanka

Analysing with Daniel King 

On match days with single rounds, the afternoon grandmaster seminars were always well attended. Those who wanted to could then prove themselves in individual or team blitz, where some of the grandmasters also played. On the 6th day of intensive chess there was a day off and the organisers offered a bus trip to the sights of Knossos and Heraklion. Alternatively, there was the possibility of various individual activities on one's own initiative.

On the seventh day of the event, the ever-popular simultaneous event took place in the evening, where, as always, many a player hoped to make "their" grandmaster stumble, which Klaus Link (Germany), among others, managed to do, forcing Daniel King to resign after just 21 moves.

Simul with Daniel King

Results of the simuls:

GM Falko Bindrich +19 =1 -0
GM Zigurds Lanka +14 =2 -2
GM Daniel King +8 =1 -1.

Two tournament winners were already decided on the eighth day. IM Fred Behrend from Luxembourg (A group) and Jean-Marie Oster from France (F group) were able to accept their congratulations early.

The Luxembourg IM benefited from a brilliant performance by second-placed Suad Osmanbegovic, who successfully outplayed White in the following endgame.

At this point, there were two players in each of Groups B and C who had the best chance of winning the tournament with 6 points, so there was plenty of suspense on the final day. While Group B was a long-distance duel, Group C was a showdown between the top two players.

The two leaders of Group B then met in the final round. Karl-Heinz Kanneberg (D) and Dr Reinhold Schnelzer (D) both drew, leaving the tournament to be decided on the final score, which was won by Dr Reinhold Schnelzer. In Group C, Uwe Ritter (D) seemed set to play a great game against Edgar Wilson (ENG), but had to settle for a draw after an inaccuracy in the endgame. The exciting question now, after 50 moves had been played, was who had won the tournament? But in the end it turned out that Uwe Ritter had won the tournament thanks to his better tiebreak.

Group D was won by Austrian Mario Kristofic after a quick draw in the final round. At the prize-giving ceremony, he not only thanked the organisers for a perfectly organised tournament, but also pointed out that no matter what worries you have in life, ACO events can be a fixed point in your life that you can work towards to temporarily forget your everyday worries. The participants confirmed this statement with thunderous applause. Stephen C. Pride from England won the E group and Peter Albek from Denmark won the G group.

The winners

The award ceremony was once again in the hands of Daniel King, who is simply in a class of his own as Master of Ceremonies. In addition to the now customary honours for 5 and 10 participations, for the first time there were also three participants who had taken part 15 times each. Not to be forgotten is the honouring of the outstanding culinary achievements of the kitchen, where chef Manolis was able to collect his well-deserved applause from the participants on stage.

The prize money was very generous this year. In addition to the three cash prizes (€400, €200, €100), there was also a voucher (€150, €100; €50) from Chessbase. The top three players in each group also received a "Chess Genius Pro" computer worth €150 from Millennium.

Special prizes for outstanding performance on the chessboard went to Spyridon Ilandzis (GR) and Nicholas Schoonmaker (USA), both from Group B, and Kevin Winter (ENG) from Group D. As laudator Daniel King pointed out, it is all about recognising special moments in a game.

The two oldest participants, Manfred Kunze (92) and Jean-Francois Levier (F), were each presented with a bottle of fine wine by the hotel manager himself.

The oldest participants

This was followed by the popular Closing Banquet with a variety of culinary delights on the large outdoor terrace, crowned by a fireworks display.

We would like to thank the organisers, Falko Bindrich and Tobias Hirneise, for their outstanding performance as organisers, always ready to listen to everyone. We would also like to thank the Grandmasters Spyridon Skembris, Daniel King and Zigurds Lanka. Arbiter Alexander Hande once again impressed us with his confident demeanour, even in controversial moments. Not forgetting the ladies in the background, the always hardworking helpers Oana Florea and Thu Thao.

The organisational team

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