Duchamp in Rio off to a sunny start

by Albert Silver
11/16/2017 – It has been literally decades since Rio de Janeiro, nicknamed the “Wonderful City” in Portuguese, has been host to a strong international tournament. The most famous by far would be the Interzonal held in 1979. The 1st Duchamp Chess Festival is underway now, held in world famous Copacabana, and brings masters and grandmasters including Brazilian legend, Henrique Mecking. | Photos: Albert Silver

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Chess in Copacabana

Rio de Janeiro, and Copacabana are justly famous as postcard tourist destinations. The famous sites such as Christ the Redeemer, the beaches themselves, the Botanical Gardens and more are signature views of the city, and of course Copacabana itself has featured in movies such as Copacabana (1947) with the Marx Bros. and Carmen Miranda, and songs such as Barry Manilow’s 1978 hit of the same name.

Poster of the classic film with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda

One would think that the current political climate in Brazil, as well as the economic woes, would make hosting a serious and broad chess tournament in the city especially challenging. But Brazilian Chess Federation president, GM Darcy Lima, had made it his mission to do it, and together with the help of famous Argentine chess patron Eduardo Moccero, also chairman of the Marcel Duchamp Foundation, brought together the 1st Duchamp International in Rio.

Eduardo Moccero, president of the Marcel Duchamp Foundation, with GM Darcy Lima, president of the Brazilian Chess Federation, and vice-president of FIDE America

Making sure the tournament gets off to a smooth start

The tournament is being held from November 11-18, and brings together not just a strong Open, but a slew of events that give it the right to call itself a chess festival. Among the many chess activities held concurrently in honor of the competition are the Brazilian Rapid Championship, the Brazilian Blitz Championship, both of which serve to qualify players to the next World Rapid and Blitz championships. There are also two Opens for under-2200 and under-1800 players, and finally a Grandmaster Simul as well as a Masterclass.

The venue of the competition is the South American Hotel in the main conference hall, and provides very suitable conditions not often enjoyed by tournaments here. The space is well lit, well air-conditioned, with numerous digital boards transmitting the games live on Playchess and other servers, and the general feedback by players has been very positive overall.

The playing area is well spaced, air-conditioned (outside it is 34 C./93 F. as of this writing!), and comfortable

An international field

The main draw for many players is the presence of masters and grandmasters from abroad, which ensures the possibility of much sought norms, but also the rare opportunity to bump heads against such players. The top seed is GM Neuris Delgado from Paraguay, rated 2605 FIDE, and he has been steamrolling the field after six rounds with a perfect 6.0/6. To be fair, he has only had to dispatch one grandmaster until now, GM Luis Galego from Portugal, a regular visitor here in Rio de Janeiro, but he will have chances to continue to show his superiority to his colleagues before the end.

Neuris is an extremely friendly personality, whose focused posture and unforgiving play stand out in contrast to his smiling demeanor and accessibility

Milton Okamura was the first of Delgado's victims, but not the last. The Paraguayan GM has had a perfect 6.0/6 start

Among the visiting players is IM Geraldo Lebredo from Cuba and...

...IM Bernardo Roselli from Uruguay

There is no shortage of female players either. Above is Argentine WFM Anahi Meza.

FM Dirceu Viana Jr. discusses with GM Luis Galego the new book on the 2016 World Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin

The book contains well over a hundred color photos, many by the author of these lines, and commentary by Vladimir Kramnik

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Playing a legend

That said, the biggest name is unquestionably second-seed GM Henrique Mecking. The legendary player who won the national championship at age 12 and age 15, his two only participations, was a dominant player during the 70s, ranking regularly among the Top 10 and peaking at no.3 in 1978. No longer at the zenith of his forces at age 65, he is still a fierce competitor and is the idol of nearly every player in the hall. Outside Capablanca, no other Latin American player has rocketed through the elite as he did.

Two players managed to hold the former great to a draw, one of whom is my friend and colleague, FM Ricardo Texeira. Ricardo came to the game in round four with few if any expectations. He had played Mecking numerous times over the decades…all in simuls. And even then was punished for his temerity for sitting across from the legend. This is said slightly tongue-in-cheek since although Mecking may be a fierce fighter, he is also very friendly with a unique personality.

Even if you get drubbed, just having a scoresheet of a full-blooded game against an idol and legend is worth the entry fee tenfold

Mecking is also one of those natural geniuses with a prodigious memory that defy normal descriptions. While bringing up one of his games, in a simul with Mecking from 1975, Teixeira was not just a little astonished to hear 'Mequinho', as he is called here (pronounced Meh-keen-yo) not only remember the game played decades earlier, but cite where he had gone wrong in it. Let’s face it, these guys are just aliens visiting us humans.

Today was different, and was when the stars aligned for Ricardo as they normally never do for the rest of humanity: in spite of hundreds of Elo difference, and facing his idol, the game went perfectly according to his preparation, and a draw was concluded after a stubborn battle.

Playing one's hero can be both exhilirating and daunting. FM Ricardo Teixeira (left) pulled off a dream when he drew his idol GM Henrique Mecking.

Japanese in Brazil

Elation and euphoria were the flavor of the day, and I invited Ricardo out to dinner to celebrate. We went to a nice Japanese restaurant in Ipanema not too far from the venue. The idea of eating Japanese food in Rio de Janeiro, or Brazil for that matter, is often one of raised eyebrows and surprise to non-Brazilians, but Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population in the world outside of Japan, and counts no fewer than 1.6 million Brazilians of Japanese descent. The reasons make for interesting reading, and there is an extensive entry in Wikipedia on the subject, but one of the practical consequences is that Japanese food here is rampant and prestigious. Every major buffet service or Churrascaria (an all-you-can-eat-meat restaurant) will have sushi and sashimi in the salad bar.

The restaurant was called Yosuki Sushi House, an upper-scale Japanese restaurant with a very fine selection of sushi and sashimi with unique flavors and quality plating, meaning an effort to produce attractive presentations of even the most modest choices.

One of the fascinating and inevitable consequences of the long-standing presence of Japanese in Brazil, with the exotic ingredients the country has to offer, is the many unique combinations of flavors that one finds in sushi here

For reasons that I cannot even begin to fathom, we began to receive numerous ‘courtesies’ by the manager. At first I declined, thinking either the waiter had made a mistake, or that these ‘courtesies’ might find their way into the bill at the end, but was assured nothing of the sort was the case. Note these were delicious items, and we even received two more after we had paid our bills and were readying to leave.


If I had seen this offered to everyone, I’d make nothing of it, but somehow we were the Sushi lottery winners of the day it would seem. Whatever the case, the food was of a very high standard and is a hearty recommendation should you ever stop by Rio.

All photos by Albert Silver

Standings after Round 6

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Delgado Ramirez Neuris 6,0 0,0
2 Roselli Mailhe Bernardo 5,0 0,0
3 Galego Luis 5,0 0,0
4 Muniz Rafael 5,0 0,0
5 Lima Darcy 4,5 0,0
6 Bueno Alfeu Junior Varela 4,5 0,0
7 Mecking Henrique 4,5 0,0
8 Larrea Manuel 4,0 0,0
9 Teixeira Ricardo Da Silva 4,0 0,0
10 Rodi Luis Ernesto 4,0 0,0
11 Menna Barreto Felipe Kubiaki 4,0 0,0
12 Viana Dirceu 4,0 0,0
13 Carraro Denise 4,0 0,0
14 Borges Guilherme Deola 4,0 0,0

Click for complete standings



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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