Chess to enjoy — the Banff Open

by Agnieszka Matras-Clement
12/22/2018 – Playing in big open tournaments and watching top grandmasters in action is fine. But playing a small open for fun can also be a chess experience to enjoy. AGNIESZKA MATRAS-CLEMENT knows this and it is what attracts her to the Banff Open in Canada. | Photo: Banff National Park | www.pixabay.com

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Banff Open 2018

It's one of my favourite times of year! No, I'm not talking about Christmas, I'm talking about the Banff Open Chess tournament. I was very happy to take part in this amazing tournament for the second year in a row. This was the third year that the Banff open has been held and it's almost impossible to imagine a more beautiful setting for a tournament.

I was pleased to see that the Banff Open has continued to grow, with nearly eighty players, including three International Masters, two Fide Masters and one Woman International Master entering. It also attracted not only players from around Canada and the United States, but from as far away as India as well. It was also encouraging to see a large number of junior players and female players take part.

A lot of credit needs to go to the organiser, Ian Findlay, for putting together a truly unforgettable tournament. The playing conditions were wonderful, with a beautiful view from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where Ian's wife Janice is the CEO.

View from the playing hall | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

There were also small snacks, coffee and tea available during the games and a total of over USD $3,000 in prizes, with $1,300 going to the winner. The addition of Mark Dutton, IA arbiter from BC and his wife Christine, who were brought in to run the tournament, helped ensure that everything ran smoothly and without any problems. They really did an excellent job!

This year was even more special for me, though, as my husband joined me in Banff. He doesn't usually accompany me to tournaments, as he is a chef and has a busy schedule, but he just couldn't refuse coming to the Banff Open after he heard me rave about it last year. We had a great time spending our first evening downtown and then doing a hike up Tunnel Mountain during the day.

This tournament was perfect for him, as he was happy to lend a hand at the annual Wine and Cheese Party that Ian and Janice organised in their home. Don't let the name fool you though, there was a lot more available than wine and cheese, as Janice's team from the Arts Centre did a fantastic job. We also had some wonderful music courtesy of Pat Moore, who was a participant in the tournament and played at the party and conducted music trivia with two accompanying musicians.

It's party time | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

The tournament had an exciting finish this year, with three players each sitting at five points at the end of the six rounds, which were spread over three days. That meant a three-way 'Armageddon' tiebreak to decide first place. In the end, IM Mark Ginsberg took first place (for the second year in a row), with Ian Findlay in second and Omid Malek taking third.

Tournament winner IM Mark Ginsburg | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

 

In addition to the prize money, there were two special prizes for the best junior player and the biggest upset of the tournament — two great bobbleheads of Anton Kovalyov and Eric Hansen, which were donated by the Society of Chess Aficionados.

Bubbleheads | Photo: Agnieszka Matras-Clement

All in all, it was a fantastic tournament and my husband is already asking me if he can come with me again next year! The answer is, of course, yes...and I hope we can get over a hundred players to enter in 2019!

The dates will be November 9th to 11th, 2019.

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Topics: Banff Open

Agnieszka Matras-Clement is a Woman International Master originally from Poland but currently living in Edmonton, Canada. She is the top-rated woman chess player in Canada.
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