Chess adventures in Luanda (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
8/6/2015 – Already in its thirteenth edition, the Luanda Open took place once more in the heart of Angola, a country growing very quickly thanks to oil-properity. This is seen in business and streets (and prices!), as well as the modernizing skyline that expands every year. The tournament held both a men's and women's event, won by GM Adly Ahmed and IM Alina L'Ami, who brings her colorful report.

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I have no idea how these ladies manage to carry so much on their heads and backs, while still
keeping their balance. Our IA Carlos Dias tried to do the same but I am afraid he was less
successful. Thanks Carlos for the photo with you and we all hope your recovery is going strong
and with the speed of light.

I really enjoy reading, anytime, anywhere and under any circumstances: on the train, in the tram, even when walking on the street (not really recommendable, but you get the picture). Books are my fateful companions, always and everywhere, be it fiction, chess or biography. Maybe this is precisely the reason why I like traveling so much, seeing, feeling and knowing: the whole world is nothing else than a big book which needs reading, page by page, row by row.

On Luanda's streets

A typical scene from the city

One can find everything and anything on the colourful streets of Luanda, including improvised beauty salons

Meeting the locals

Our chess life frequently offers us miracles: how else could I have reached Angola when just two days before embarking my flight, I didn't have any idea if I was going to play or not? I truly wanted to attend the already traditional Cuca Open in Luanda but practically speaking, one and a half day for all the necessary formalities is not a very generous amount of time. Yet, I am not the type of person to just whistle Dixie, so I guess the universe decided to go along with my plan?!

Miradouro da Lua, which I attempted to see but we got lost along the way...

Luckily I found some old images

View from my hotel room - completely forgot that it was winter time in
Angola! The weather was still pleasant and quite hot at times but with
chilly evenings, dark skies and rains.

Life is full of surprises, hazard, karma, destiny, or whatever you may wish to call the small and big moments awaiting you around the corner. Some of them are extremely pleasant, some others less so, but the actual question is how to handle them. This is how our life as chess player goes, shaped by the three big C's: Choices, Chances, Changes.

Just as when facing a critical chess position, the question is which decision to take. Should you take some risks or better play safe? Is Fortuna on your side or does a radical change scare you even more than the initial position? One week ago, my big dilemma was: should I book my flight for Luanda trusting that the very short time left would be enough to get my Visa, or better wait until the Visa was issued, risking that prices would explode or the places in the airplane would be sold out? The exquisite memories of my previous two visits in Angola made me put the bid on the big pot, so I went head in first: ticket booked!

The modern face of Luanda

The changing skyline

I felt rewarded when the puzzle pieces seemed to all fall into the right places. The official paper arrived just in time, giving me the impression that I had mapped out everything and controlled the chaos! At the airport I found out that I was wrong and, as pointed out by a dear friend, even though "chaos has its rules, so just relax!" it felt more like if I was playing on an empty board.

It will take some time until selfies will get out of fashion. Ahmed Adly and your photographer
in the background, taking the landscape shot (the previous one of the skyline).

The Botswana players, helped by our driver to negotiate, were trying to buy Angolan handcrafts

The winner: Ahmed Adly, who was kind enough to be my bodyguard one morning, when I
ventured on Luanda's avenues


The pretty colonial building of the Central Bank of Angola

Angolan passion for chess...

...when tables are not available, we can use cars. Why wait to analyze your game?!

In spite of a paper I had received from the immigration office that clearly stated that I would be granted a Visa upon arrival, the airline's employees kept telling me that they couldn't operate my check-in without the Visa on my passport and they would have to cancel my trip. According to their rules, there were only two exceptions, eligible for a Visa upon arrival - the sailors or  the workers in the petrol sector! Although a chess player has multiple talents, I just couldn't convince nor stop them from saying “No” every five seconds. There seemed to be no way out of this 'zugzwang', but fortunately the flight had a one-hour delay and during this time the miracle happened - I managed to persuade them that my paper was a Visa, since I had my old passport with me, with my previous two (!) Angolan stamps, acquired in the exact same way. This was how a new page of my book as an experienced traveler was written and I know there is always room for more... As an amusing coincidence, this was going to be the 13th edition of the Cuca International tournament, a number which, as the airport experience proved, can be lucky with a bit of perseverance.

Tournament poster

Angolan and African players following with great interest the game of Vadim Malakhatko

The winners of both sections: Ahmed Adly and yours truly

The tournament winner, Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly, will soon open his
chess Academy in Cairo, for which we wish him loads of success!

Life doesn't need perfection to be wonderful. After such adventures I felt as happy as a child when I set foot on Angola's reddish soil. And maybe the initial mishaps gave me the strength to win the women tournament, even though I must confess that the tighter fight took place in the men section.

The media was always present

And this is what I call love for chess (or is it madness?!) - Ahmed Adly and Borya Ider playing what
we call a-tempo chess, where both players have to move instantly, so no need to use the clock.

The strange part though is that they were playing right before their own game against each other!
It ended in a draw, which was not prearranged.

The French IM Borya Ider, who finished in second position but shared first with Adly and Malakhatko

I couldn't not remark the good appearance of the local participants...

...Soares Erikson Roberto Mauric shows taste and variety, above and here.

Photos by Alina L'Ami

Final men's standings

1 1 GM Adly Ahmed EGY 2591 7.5 45.5
2 3 IM Ider Borya FRA 2414 7.5 45.0
3 2 GM Malakhatko Vadim BEL 2514 7.5 44.0
4 4 IM Makoto Rodwell ZIM 2403 5.5 49.0
5 16   Dias Vanderson ANG 2076 5.0 35.0
6 5 IM Jere Daniel ZAM 2340 5.0 48.0
7 14 CM Miguel Sergio ANG 2158 4.5 49.0
8 9 IM Soares Erikson Roberto Mauric ANG 2217 4.5 43.5
9 17   Gama Edivaldo Jr ANG 2066 4.5 34.5
10 12 FM Pascoal Eduardo A ANG 2180 4.0 50.0
11 13 CM Simoes Joao ANG 2176 4.0 32.5
12 7 IM Silva David ANG 2244 3.5 41.0
13 6 IM Phiri Richmond ZAM 2305 3.5 39.0
14 15 FM Aguiar Cristiano ANG 2100 3.5 33.0
15 11 CM Alberto Manuel ANG 2191 3.0 37.5
16 10 CM Cambando Jose ANG 2208 2.0 39.0
17 8 FM Ramos Aristoteles ANG 2239 1.0 34.5

Final women's standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts   TB
1 1 IM L´Ami Alina ROU 2371 8.5 42.0
2 2 IM Zozulia Anna BEL 2331 8.0 41.0
3 3 WFM Mwango Lorita ZAM 1938 6.0 43.0
4 8 WIM Lopang Tshepiso BOT 1753 5.0 42.5
5 5 WFM Rosalina Sonia ANG 1801 5.0 42.0
6 11   Gabriel Irineia G ANG 1609 5.0 41.5
7 6 WIM Caxita Esperanca ANG 1789 4.5 42.5
8 4 WIM Mudongo Boikhutso BOT 1830 4.5 37.5
9 13 WFM Pires Luzia ANG 1533 4.0 46.0
10 9   Rocha Valquiria ANG 1744 3.5 34.5
11 7 WIM Domingos Maria M ANG 1775 3.0 45.0
12 12 WCM Reis Fatima ANG 1608 3.0 40.0
13 10   Sussu Margarida ANG 1639 3.0 35.0

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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