Banff Open: Chess in the Mountains

by Agnieszka Matras-Clement
11/29/2017 – If you yearn for the mountain air, outdoor activities such as skiing or hiking, and a chess tournament to boot, then the Banff Open is for you. Now in its second edition, it brought players coming to enjoy the untouched beauty of nature (you could see deer in the forest from the tournament hall window!) as well as some solid chess competition. Here is a lovely report by WIM Agnieszka Matras-Clement. | Photo:

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The Banff Open was held in the beautiful town right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. This was the second edition of this tournament and it's getting stronger every year. The organizer, FM Ian Findlay, who participated as a player as well, keeps a perfect balance between being professional and making all of the participants welcome and it almost felt like home. I love chess, beautiful mountains and wine so I knew I had to play this tournament!

Banff is a gorgeous town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and as a result of its fame as a tourist point, is always busy and vibrant. Due to its location, it is known for its access to many great outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking and sightseeing and is busy during the summer and winter. It's also a pretty cool town for people who enjoy shopping and nightlife.

Banff National Park | Photo:

The tournament was held in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which was founded in 1933. Its mission is “to inspire artists and leaders to make their unique contribution to society". You couldn't imagine a better place for a tournament, where chess, art and nature come together.

Arbiter Dustin along with Jerry, Ian, Agnieszka and Georgi, who shared 2nd place | Photo: Dave Bhavik

The tournament had a total of 41 participants, including titled players such as IMs, WIM and FMs. It was a six-round Swiss, with a time control of90 minutes + 30 seconds per move. The stunning view of the mountains put everyone in good spirits and inspired them to play to the peak of their abilities. There aren't many tournaments where you can look out the window from the playing hall and see deer walking through the forest!

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Playing venue Kinner Centre for Creativity and Innovation at Banff Centre | Photo:

FM Ian Findlay (organizer) versus top-seed in the tournament Gary Ng | Photo: Dave Bhavik

Gorgeous view from the playing hall | Photo: Dave Bhavik

One of the highlights of the tournament was a cheese and wine party at organizer Ian Findlay home. He and his lovely wife Janice Price, who also happens to be the President of the Banff Centre, hosted the participants to a wonderful evening of wine, food and great conversation and the Society of Chess Aficionados sponsored fortune cookies with chess quotes.

Cheese and wine party! | Photo: Dave Bhavik

I didn't have to worry about my next game...thanks to my fortune cookie | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

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Final Standings (top 15)

The tournament was won by American International Master Mark Ginsburg who finished with 5½ points out of 6. Second place was shared by 4 players: WIM Agnieszka Matras-Clement, FM Ian Findlay, Georgi Kostadinov and Jerry Kobalenko who all earned 4½ points.

Top finishers of the open (complete standings PDF)

The Under 2000 section was won by Mike Zeggelaar and Under 1700 by Prayus Shrestha.

In such a great location, you need to find some time to visit the area. I decided to stay an extra day and do a small hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain, which stands at 1692 metres high and is a popular hiking spot for locals and tourists. The mountain was named for a plan in the late 1800s to build a railway tunnel through the mountain. The plan was never realized and an alternate route was found.

In case you get tired | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

Reward at the top! | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

From the top of the mountain, I had a beautiful view of downtown Banff and the surrounding area. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to visit Lake Louise, one of the most gorgeous lakes you can imagine. Oh year!

Town of Banff from the top of the mountain | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement


Agnieszka Matras-Clement is a Woman International Master originally from Poland but currently living in Edmonton, Canada. She is the top-rated woman chess player in Canada.


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