Chess on the high seas concludes

by Michael Dombrowsky
5/27/2018 – From 11 to 23 May, the Norwegian Bliss was the scene of a "chess tournament at sea". The ship and the tournament travelled from Miami through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles. The winner was Michael Klyszcz from the SG Löberitz, an amateur angler and ex-basketball player. Jürgen Meijerink and Henry Gregory Allen earned prizes. On its last leg, the chess tourists visited "Switzerland in Central America" and then a land of the volcanoes (see picture towards the foot of one of them). | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

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See part 1 and part 2

From "American Switzerland" to volcanoes

The Republic of Costa Rica is proud of the nickname "Switzerland of Central America", and seems to do it justice. Panama's neighbour lives peacefully with all neighbouring states — which is fortunate as Costa Rica is the only land in the Americas with no federal army!

Only 2,500 police officers (officially, although unofficially perhaps twice as many) ensure law and order for the more than five million inhabitants. And evidently with good success, considering the statistics showing a low incidence of crime. So it is not surprising to find that over one million people from the surrounding states (mainly Nicaragua) have fled to Costa Rica.

Google Maps

There's another area in which Costa Rica strives to be exemplary: animal conservation. A good example is the nature reserve on the river Tarcoles. There are not only 2,000 crocodiles living there, but also many endangered bird species, iguanas and other rare animals.

feeding a crocodile

Don't try this at home kids! | Photo: J. Meijerink

Guatemala appears quite differently. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala's largest port, owes its rise to cruise shipping and growing freight transport. In some places, ecology has moved into the background. It has long since overtaken San José, a few kilometres away. There, the shallow and rocky coastline forced San José to bring goods and holiday guests to the shore with shallow, small boats, placing the city at a long-term disadvantage. The magnificent buildings of the immigration office, the customs administration and the railway company have long since been abandoned and only hint at the splendor of bygone times. Even the wide beach is deserted, with black volcanic dust that emphasizes the transience of splendor, glory and prosperity.

The black volcanic sand is to a certain extent a trademark of the country, even though of the 33 volcanoes in Guatemala currently only three are active. But they have it all. Our tour guide showed us a video just a few weeks old, showing a tour group on an observation deck. Suddenly behind them thick, black ash clouds are ejected from the nearby volcano. Volcanoes have determined the history of the capital of Guatemala. Quakes and glowing lava flows do not stop at capitals. Guatemala City is already the fourth metropolis in the country.

Wrought iron, car tires and an electric motor, plus the name 'Mac Give' indicate the designer of this nutcracker machine in Costa Rica had a sense of humour | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

The chess tournament

While there were no eruptions at the tournament on the "Norwegian Bliss", there were certain minor quakes. The pair after leading after four rounds Michael Ernst and Peter Erismann lost their games (against Michael Klyszcz and Gregory Henry respectively), which brought their two conquerors to the top of the table.

In the sixth round, the two leaders continued to score, and it looked as if they would share the title of "Panama Canal Champion". In the final round, Henry faced Jürgen Meijerink and Klyszcz was paired with Norbert Pfitzer.

There was excitement until the last second, literally — it was not until the Elo favourite's flag fell that the tournament was finally decided. The American Gregory Henry maintained a superior position and most kibitzers expected a quick victory. But Juergen Meijerink from Nordhorn [northwest Germany near the border with the Netherlands -Ed.] resisted and showed good nerves.

Jurgen Meijerink

Juergen Meijerink played with great concentration and a little luck | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

The master of the Panama Canal dreams of Patagonia

Maybe his experience with his hobby, fishing, benefited him. There as well, stamina and calm often make the difference between success or failure. The 48-year-old IT entrepreneur has also had these experiences (too) often in business life. In addition, the tall (1.92-meter) former basketball player knows that many games are only decided by a shot at the buzzer. And his opponent, the 63-year-old lawyer from Bradford, Pennsylvania missed several opportunities to win the game. In the end, it was too many minutes spent without finding a solution that resulted in a decision against him.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry

A disappointed Gregory Henry was soon cheered up by his partner Debbie | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

That left Michael Klyszcz crowned the winner of the tournament. Prof. dr. Norbert Pfitzer, born in Hamburg, had previously been the "Caribbean Master" of 2017, and scored six points, but lost to Klyszcz in the last round.

"The game against Norbert Pfitzer was the best in the tournament, especially because it was not decided by a blunder," said Klyszcz.

last round

Michael Klyszcz (right) buries his face in his hands against Norbert Pfitzer, as tournament IM Erik Zude supervises | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

The 55-year-old started out in the IT industry after completing high school, then worked as a consultant. He moved to Cologne, where the company was so enthusiastic about his advice that they hired him directly. And so from the initial plan of three years in Germany's fourth largest city, he has now spent 22 years.

After many years as a player, club chairman, on the board of the Hamburg Association and as Bundesliga arbiter, he had actually stopped his chess activities for two or three years.

"Three games per season, that's my limit, but the journey through the Panama Channel was very appealing to me so that even the hurdle of playing chess was not enough of a barrier. At the start it went bumpy, but to end it went better."

More exotic destinations await: A trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway is planned for next year. And he still dreams of a tour through Patagonia. "But I've already refrained from doing this expedition on horseback — I'll rent a motorbike," he explains with a laugh.


L-to-R: Jürgen Meijerink (2nd), Michael Klyszcz (1st) and Gregory Henry (3rd) | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

Results of Round 7

Bo. No.   Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts.   Name Rtg No.
1 9   Meijerink Jürgen 1885 1 - 0 5   Henry Gregory Alan 2170 1
2 4   Pfitzer Norbert Prof. Dr. 1986 4 0 - 1 5   Klyszcz Michael 1909 6
3 5   Dombrowsky Michael 1916 ½ - ½ NM Ernst Michael Mag. 2119 2
4 3   Erismann Peter 2029 0 - 1   Tiede Andreas 1901 7
5 10   Wirfs Joachim 1789 0 - 1 3   Wilhelm Albert 1900 8
6 16   Seidlitz Cliff 1543 3 1 - 0 3   Fernandez Garcia Alfonso Javie 1640 13
7 12   Sörensen Bernhard Werner 1730 1 - 0   Grunwald Günther 1489 17
8 14   Kaesemann Holger Dr. 1636 0 - 1 2   Köhler Ingo 1636 15
9 11   Schoch Heinz 1750 2 1 - 0 1   Jarchov Frank 1176 19
10 18   Back Andreas 1379 1     bye

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Klyszcz Michael 6,0 24,0
2 Meijerink Jürgen 5,5 26,0
3 Henry Gregory Alan 5,0 30,5
4 Tiede Andreas 4,5 26,0
5 Ernst Michael Mag. 4,0 30,5
6 Pfitzer Norbert Prof. Dr. 4,0 29,0
7 Dombrowsky Michael 4,0 24,5
8 Wilhelm Albert 4,0 24,5
9 Seidlitz Cliff 4,0 23,0
10 Erismann Peter 3,5 29,0
11 Wirfs Joachim 3,5 25,0
12 Back Andreas 3,5 20,5
13 Sörensen Bernhard Werner 3,5 17,5
14 Köhler Ingo 3,0 26,5
15 Fernandez Garcia Alfonso Javie 3,0 22,5
16 Schoch Heinz 3,0 19,0
17 Grunwald Günther 2,5 22,5
18 Kaesemann Holger Dr. 2,5 19,5
19 Jarchov Frank 1,0 23,5

With a fantastic sunset, the journey through the Panama Canal found an impressive end | Photo: Michael Dombrowsky

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


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.


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