Chess on the beach

by Alina l'Ami
7/11/2018 – Would you be able to sit in a dark quiet room for, say, two months, with nothing to read, nothing to do, nothing but your own thoughts? According to (I think it was) Goethe, that's the veritable test of a true man. But as a chess player, and under the influence of Stefan Zweig's "Schachnovelle", my surmise is that we could all do it! Philosophers should rebuild their furnace because the supreme test for a grandmaster — and an amateur alike — is to play (and play well!) at the Hersonissos Open. | Photos: Alina l'Ami

Meeting the Gambits Vol.2 - Gambits after 1.d4 Meeting the Gambits Vol.2 - Gambits after 1.d4

When facing gambits the most important thing is not to panic, a feeling usually induced by lack of knowledge. Keep calm, learn the antidotes and face the aggression with renewed confidence.


Beautifully stranded

"I'm so glad I'm stewing my brains in this 6.Bg5 Najdorf instead of watching the sunset with feet in the sand & a cold beverage in hand," said no one ever. I do love my work, especially when on vacation, but to juggle chess and all the Cretan temptations is a very thin line to walk. I was born a chess player, not an acrobat!

It takes ruthless discipline not to allow the all-inclusive Lyttos Beach Resort to steal your points with its mischievous options, disposed along 15 hectares of indulgence. Pools, water slides, tennis courts, palm trees and an endless number of bars and restaurants — that would make even an ascetic forget about a life of austere restraint.

Tanning and chess planning — is that compatible?

Finding the point of equilibrium is possible though, if you are careful enough to balance the sweetness of Piña Colada in your right hand with the bitterness of Aperol Spritz in your left.

Absolute nightmare

More bad news: as if life was not hard enough, the dedicated bartender is currently working on a new cocktail recipe — Chess on the Beach :) 

In case you didn't know, Cretans are hilarious. They have a unique banter that will leave you in stitches — that's one of the many reasons why I enjoyed having conversations with the locals here. I bet you would too!

Given the circumstances, performing on the tightrope is like eating soup with chopsticks. For me that's very difficult, I would at least need a straw. But other players can be... diligent as an ant and... chess with the surgical precision of a sledgehammer.

That was the case of Dutch IM Theo Hommeles, who found his home (I know it is cheesy, sorry Theo!) on the top position after scoring an undefeated 7½/9. Only English IM James Adair, who had a remarkable comeback after an earlier loss against the Dutch, caught up with him.

The usual suspects — critical moments for the final standings and a couple of chess questions for you:


Winning with the King's Indian Attack

The King's Indian Attack is full of positional and tactical ideas and often an unpleasant surprise for the opponent.

Fun is fun, but a little work never hurt anyone. In fact, all the underrated and young islanders did ask us to work hard while the overall atmosphere reminded us to enjoy it too. And what I particularly liked at the Hersonissos Open is the encouragement the prize distribution offers to various age and category groups.

Running the risk of sounding official, I will thank Mrs Despina Plevraki and Mr. Evripidis Koukiadakis, for their support in offering us this beautiful chess gift

For the inner you

As much as I admire the winners' composure and self-control, I must say that a great deal of merit goes to the young yet experienced organizing team, led by an enthusiastic tournament director:

Kostas Klokas

I can't even begin to tell you how much work and passion this man puts into his events, efforts which would be cherished even by a nit-picker.

You don't have to take my word for it, the details tell their own tale:

  • For the closest supporters: you can follow your dear ones in the playing venue from the comfort of your hotel room;

You could simply press 71 on the TV remote control and technology would do the rest 

  • for the spectators: twenty live boards — a disproportionate number for the tournament's proportions;
  • for the fashion lovers: colourful t-shirts, which I would gladly wear outside the playing hall (and that is rare for a woman player);
  • for the moviegoers: the latest chess-related movies...but since I've seen them all:

I joined the football mania, and sometimes even the chess mania

Cosy analysis room

  • for the adrenaline seekers: blitz events;
  • for those interested in the rich historical tapestry: three different excursions to Spinalonga Island, Santorini and Knossos Palace (however, I heard that the Minotaur is, quite understandingly, on a holiday too); 
  • last but not least: for those seeking a bewitching scenery...

Welcome to the award-winning Blue Flag beach

I will take a wild guess here and say that the organizer's name, "Klokas", is a predestined one. Under his watchful eye, everything runs like clockwork, including the nourishment of young talents, as was the case of Pragu. In an earlier closed event organized by Kostas, the Indian wonder boy got his second GM norm, right here on the island, in April 2018. Perhaps the fact that he comes from a hot country helped him achieve a very cool result... Or was it the Cretan hospitality?

Taste the sunshine with the local cuisine

To tell the truth, I was not a disciple of all-inclusive holidays. I dislike cluttering with another 500 people at the hotel's restaurant just to serve a meal in the buzz of thousands of tableware. Guess what, I was converted. I didn't become an overnight social sensation, but I did find the perfect spots to be alone if I wanted to. One of them was the Fish & Lobster Grill Snack Bar, strategically positioned by the sea. Fresh lobster, people! Okay, I've officially died and gone to heaven.

Lost in reverie

A day at the beach, doing absolutely nothing

For mere mortals like your author, the usual multitasking attitude was replaced by its multi-slacking relative. Book, check. Drink, check. Nap, check.

Sun, sand, sea, check; brain...missing!?

I am curious to know what are the odds that, in the same round, not one but two 2300-rated players would lose against 1900-rated players in the exact same way: mated in one move! It is quite amusing now, when I think about it, but I can tell you I didn't find it funny at all back then.  

Just when I decided to take a break from my own masterpiece and gazed at the adjacent board, my colleague in suffering, the Norwegian Eivind Olav Risting, touched the c4-knight and played...Ne3?? Oops! Qh7# made my eyes bigger than tomatoes...

Approximately one hour passed after that episode, and in a completely winning position — see the diagram from the right — I went Re3?? Ten question marks wouldn't be enough to express my horror when Qg2# landed on the board.

Oh well... face in the sun, waves roll in, my thoughts roll out and all is right with the world again.

If you are like me, not made for winter and in desperate need for flip-flops, the dates for the 3rd Hersonissos Open are 15 - 23 May 2019. The countdown has begun!

The tans will fade, but the memories will remain. I'm finishing up this article trying to tone down that smile that has been threatening to break out of my face since I returned.


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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Liam Neeson Liam Neeson 7/11/2018 03:46
Alina, thanks for another report. I love your photos so much!
Hultin Hultin 7/11/2018 12:03
Very nice article! Colorful and well written.
Kirill Korolev Kirill Korolev 7/11/2018 09:18
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