Chess on the high seas: Cartagena

by Michael Dombrowsky
5/18/2018 – The chess tournament at sea will take place on board the new Norwegian Bliss from Miami through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles this year. The first part of the journey followed in the footsteps of pirates and the slave trade along the coast of Cuba through the Caribbean to Cartagena, Colombia. MICHAEL DOMBROWSKY reports. | Photo: Jörg Hickl

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Journey through the Panama Canal

Grandmaster Jörg Hickl has once again called for a very extraordinary tournament and 19 players from five countries have followed him. The "New in Chess Cup" series continues with a "tournament at sea" for 15 days in May. It's a seven-round Swiss with 90 minutes for 40 moves, and 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds per move. Between rounds, there's ample time to enjoy the cruise and the port city destinations en route to Los Angeles.

Map of route

From Miami to L.A. by sea!

The first stop on this tour of the Caribbean was Cartagena de Indios in the north of Colombia. The history of the port city can benevolently be termed 'exciting'.

House of the Inquisition | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

In fact, the "Gold City" has a rather violent history behind it. In the 16th century, the Spaniards raided and conquered Cartagena. For their conquests and plundering ambitions, this port was an important hub. Weapons and soldiers were brought to South America, bringing gold, silver and gems back to Spain. This wealth aroused desire and attracted pirates. The Spaniards saw the danger and built a city wall, or better: they had one slaves.

Cannons and defensive towers line the city wall | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

Due to demand, the slave trade boomed in the 17th century. The glorious homes of the greatest slave traders are an expression of fortune and power.

City gate at the slave market | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

The restored old town reveals much about the past, the skyscrapers more about the present. With 1.2 million inhabitants, the port city is one of the seven largest cities in the country and is the safest among them. On a Sunday morning, 60 to 80 policemen who accompany tourists and citizens marvelling at the cathedrals and the magnificent patrician houses on a few square kilometres are not the norm.

The posh part of town | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

Gethsemane church | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

Mahogany altar in the cathedral Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

The chess tournament

Alan Henry (USA), Michael Ernst (Austria), Peter Erismann (Switzerland) and Michael Klyszcz (Dresden) lead with two points each in the "Panama Channel Championship" after two rounds.

playing hall

Tournament atmosphere on board the "Norwegian Bliss" | Photo: Jörg Hickl

Highlight of the first round


Continued in part 2...


Michael had been working for almost 40 years as editor and journalist for various newspapers and magazines before he started to write chessbooks. His first chess book was "Berliner Schachlegenden", in which he tells about the lives of a number of famous chess players in Berlin which gives insights into the history of Berlin and a chess culture of the past.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register