Chess through pink-tinted glasses

7/11/2012 – WGM Alina L'Ami is frank about it: she was never a big fan of weekend tournaments for the obvious reason: too much chess in too short a time. But never say never! As it turned out, the Nova College Chess Tournament changed her mind. Not just her as one surprise guest was famous GM Ulf Andersson. It didn't hurt that it was in Haarlem, Holland, a postcard setting, not to mention: pink everywhere!

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Chess through pink-tinted glasses

By Alina L'Ami

Somehow I was never a big fan of weekend tournaments for the obvious reason: too much chess in too short a time; clearly not the best treatment for my head. 


Let the tournament begin! The first move is made by the regional director of the Nova
College, Ton Paffen, assisted by the tournament director, Harry Wierda.

But never say never! As it turned out, the Nova College Chess Tournament changed my mind. Yes, it was tough to play three rounds last Saturday, especially the third game of the day – I had trouble trying to stop yawning after 23 o'clock.

And yet, I truly enjoyed it! First of all: the organization was of course held to the high Dutch standards; second of all: the location was one of the most beautiful cities of Holland (Haarlem), and last but not least: Erwin won the tournament.


The winner Erwin L'Ami with the tournament director Harry Wierda

Besides, who wouldn't want to start immediately another game after an unfortunate loss? Why prolong the agony of an unpleasant defeat until the next day? Better forget about it while playing a brand new game.

In fact, it works both ways: also if you win, why not take advantage of your surprisingly good shape? To remove any further doubts, the tournament was not sent to FIDE for rating purposes. This meant there were no barriers in the players' way to fully taste chess’s pleasures. And so we did last weekend, during the six games we had to play: the first round on Friday, three on Saturday and the last two on Sunday. A true chess marathon!


The last person they expected was chess legend Ulf Andersson

Remarkably there was the presence of the legendary Ulf Andersson, who took up the challenge in Haarlem, to the public's delight. But the trophies were finally shared between the three Grandmasters: Erwin l'Ami, Stewart Haslinger and Robin van Kampen, all with 5.0/6. Eventually, the better tiebreak allowed Erwin to end a successful weekend beautifully.


The final round game was a grueling draw


Group C was swamped with junior players

And I would like to add one last thing which I only noticed in Holland: don't be surprised if during the game your opponent suddenly asks if you would like something to drink! It's not a trick to disturb or annoy you! In translation - 'we are not enemies and we could both enjoy a nice game while drinking something together'. Why not?! The game becomes a purely intellectual war and not a personal one! And after the game has finished, a glass of beer while analysing will surely not hurt. It is wonderful to see the joy and happiness of the Dutch players, which makes me believe that a loss is not that painful after all.


The steeple of Saint Bavo Church


The interior is as lovely as its exterior. At the end is the great
Mueller pipe organ.


According to records, it has been played by Händel, Mozart,
Mendelssohn and other famous people throughout its history.
In his famous novel Moby Dick, Herman Melville compare the
inside of the whale's mouth to the many pipes of Haarlem's great organ.

To make our weekend even more interesting and exhilarating, Haarlem reserved a surprise for us all: the Pink Saturday! The famous Gay Pride turned the entire city into one big giant pink-sphere. Everywhere I looked I could see the "true colours shining through...like a rainbow" and hear the rather loud Cyndi Lauper hit. There were so many festivities, parties, concerts and celebrations going on that even the grumpiest character would have surely turned into an optimist.


A living tribute to Edith Piaf's classic "La vie en rose"


The statue of Laurens Janszoon Coster, locally called "Lautje", a pioneer of book
printing who has become an icon of Haarlem - also ready for the party!

As for us chess players, we had a different type of enjoyment in the Nova College Tournament. But not less appealing! 

This was in short, the Haarlem adventure, written from my...pink laptop.


The famous Dutch wooden shoes, called 'clogs'

Photos by Alina L'Ami

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© Frits Agterdenbos of ChessVista


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