Chess events: e2e4 – best by test!

by ChessBase
2/25/2012 – Think back: was your last tournament staged in a dingy old club? In a sports hall or a school canteen? Gone, it seems, were chess congresses in elegant surroundings – until Sean Hewitt came along with a very bright idea: why not hold them in elegant hotels on weekends where special offers are easy to come by. His circuit has rapidly gained popularity, as Steve Giddins reports.

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e2e4 – best by test!

Report by Steve Giddins

Chess players tend to be hardy souls, to whom personal comfort comes a poor second to the demands of the chessboard. We are used to playing our chess in draughty church halls and school canteens, or the ubiquitous sports hall, with basketball hoops hanging from the walls and training shoes squeaking on the linoleum floor, with not a carpet in sight. Refreshments consist of curled-up cheese sandwiches, wrapped in clingfilm, whilst dinner is a hamburger and fries – possibly with extra ketchup for the player who has won.

But it does not have to be that way, and in England nowadays, it isn't. Thanks to the efforts of chess entrepreneur Sean Hewitt, it is possible to play one's chess in comfortable surroundings, in nice hotels. The organisers and arbiters are paid a fee, and do a professional job, rather than the event relying on local volunteers. Tournaments are FIDE-rated, with sufficient GMs and IMs to ensure the possibility of title norms, whilst at the lower level, events are structured especially so as to enable the less experienced players to achieve FIDE ratings.

Venue of the March 16-18 event: De Veres Uplands House, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

What I am describing is the "e2e4" series of events. Starting some three years ago, these have now expanded to the point where there are some eight to ten per year, held in various parts of Britain. Recently, the organisation has exported its model to the Emerald Isle, organising the 2011 Irish Championship under contract for the Irish Chess Union, and this year, there will be an e2e4 Easter tournament in Dublin. Some 1,500 different players have already played in these events, and many return time and time again. Once one has enjoyed an e2e4 tournament, it is hard to return to the sports hall-and-volunteer model.

The London Diamond Jubilee Congress will be held from 2nd - 6th June in the
Crowne Plaza, London-Gatwick Airport

The concept is simple. Many hotels, especially business hotels, are busy during the week, but deserted on weekends. They generally have conference facilities and/or ballrooms, which make ideal playing halls for chess. With a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, they are usually only too happy to cut a deal, under which they make 50-100 rooms available for a weekend, and perhaps longer, at a discounted rate. This guarantees them a certain income, leaving them free to rent out their remaining rooms at whatever higher prices they can get, so as to achieve their desired average occupancy rate. The chess event gets a comfortable venue, with serviced facilities, and the players can stay at the same venue where they play. Quality food and drink is available onsite, and with many players staying together at the same venue, an enjoyable, chess-dominated social atmosphere is guaranteed.

The latest e2e4 event took place in the four star Barceló Brighton Old Ship Hotel at the English seaside resort of Brighton, on the coast of Sussex. The hotel plays an integral role in Brighton’s history. It was closely linked with the escape of Charles II in 1651, and was home to Brighton’s elegant assembly rooms where many a grand occasion has been held; from the Prince Regent's Ball in 1819, to Nicolo Paganini's violin recital in 1831, and the banquet celebrating the opening of the London to Brighton Railway in 1841 to name a few.

Over the course of five days in Brighton, a series of eight ten-player all-play-all events was held. The top group offered an IM norm, whilst the bottom group enabled a number of unrated players to have the chance of achieving an international rating. Nicolas Croad of New Zealand won the Masters section with 6.5 / 9, and gained an IM norm. In the two Challengers events, the winners earned the right to play in the Masters section at a future e2e4 event. All section winners received trophies to mark their success. A splendid time was had by everyone, once again confirming that with his unique tournament concept, Sean Hewitt has struck a chord. His events cost a little more to play in than the average weekender, but in chess, as in life, you get what you pay for. And people certainly like what they get from e2e4 chess.

It seems Bobby Fischer had it right, when he declared that e2e4 is "best by test"! Check out the official website for details of future events.

Pictures from Brighton

The Paganini Ballroom at Brighton's Barcelo Old Ship Hotel – a picture of elegance,
and not a basketball hoop in sight.

Rob Bodicker, a recently retired school teacher, travelled from Amsterdam
for the e2e4 experience – and won his group with a round to spare!

Nicolas Croad of New Zealand won the Master group, and made
an IM norm – already his second in e2e4 events

Ravi Haria is one of many promising youngsters, winning their spurs at e2e4 events

Brian Tarhon's glass runneth over.

Akshaya Kalai Yalahan finished second in Major Group B

12-year old Robert Sisoev of Bulgaria

Sisoev is clearly a Topalov in the making, right down to the trademark black suit. On one day, he changed his shirt and tie between rounds – more often than some chessplayers do throughout an entire tournament!

Seven-year old Joshua Altman looks less than delighted with
his position, but he loved the tournament

Monika Gergelova of Slovakia has an English grade of just 44 (Elo equivalent 1000),
but is improving steadily, thanks to experience gained at e2e4 tournaments

Tarun Malhotra, another young hopeful we encounter at e2e4

And, finally, the man who made it happen – "Mr e2e4", Sean Hewitt, who has shown that good business sense and chess are not incompatible, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

e2e4 Chess is a group of chess players who enjoy running chess events as well as playing in them. Sean, Chairman of Leicestershire Chess Association (LRCA), as well as being a FIDE International Organiser, FIDE Arbiter and ECF Arbiter.

Calendar of Events

Brighton International 15-19 February 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
High Wycombe Chess Congress 16-18 March 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Dublin Easter International 5-9 April 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Sunningdale Chess Congress 18-20 May 2012 Event Details   Entry Form   Enter Online  
London Diamond Jubilee Congress   2-6 June 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Sunningdale International 15-19 August 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Leicestershire Chess Congress 24-27 August 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
High Wycombe Chess Congress 12-14 October 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Gatwick International * 26-31 October 2012 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Brighton Chess Congress 23-25 November 2012  Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
Brighton International 20-24 February 2013 Event Details Entry Form Enter Online
* = provisional

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