L'île de la Réunion – chess at the base of the Niagara Falls

by ChessBase
10/14/2011 – The International Open at Réunion took a glamorous turn in its second leg with the players alternately enjoying mountain vistas and sailing alongside dolphins, with a surprise visit from a local beauty queen. Some final pictures from what turned out to be a very memorable event and a few thoughts on the future of chess on this little island, are provided by WGM Kruttika Nadig.

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13th Open International de l'île de la Réunion

Pictorial report by WGM Kruttika Nadig

Where is Réunion? The above map from Wikipedia reminds us

The 13th Open International de l'île de la Réunion was held at Saint Denis, Réunion from October 1-8. The tournament was jointly organised by L'Echiquier du Nord and Ligue Réunion Echecs. The time control for the games was 1 hr 30 min per player with a 30 second increment from move one.

Ah, Réunion! There was a free day in between the tournament on October 4 and to do justice to all that this place has to offer, participants were given the choice of multiple sightseeing trips. I was among the slightly ill-fated group that embarked upon the lofty journey to the island’s crowning glory Piton de la Fournaise (translated to “Peak of the Furnace”), one of the most active volcanoes in the world, which was last seen spewing lava in December 2010.

Alas, our hopes of admiring any craters were dashed when we found the view completely obscured by fog. Luckily for us there was a Plan B which led us to Cascade Niagara (yes, Niagara Falls!), a pretty waterfall in the countryside.

The Niagara Falls? Well, almost. The Cascade Niagara on Réunion

Unlike the one on the US-Canadian border, these falls are tropical

Some players hiked up to the mountainous region of Dos d’Ane

Free day blitz winner Denis Laplanche (2125), whose immunity to the cold mountain winds I envied

Others went some went dolphin spotting: Little Arthur Payet shares a boat ride with
organiser Jean Olivier, looking fetching in a pink Hello Kitty cap

... and were treated to spectacular acrobatics by these wonderfully intelligent creatures

The sixth round had some peripheral drama with the arrival of Réunion beauty queen
Ornella Chang-Po, seen chatting with Charles Roblet, who is chairman of the Ligue
Réunion Echecs (who has a stash of Rammstein and Jethro Tull CDs in his car)

Ornella delighted players like Loic Payet by posing with them

The tournament was convincingly won by Indian IM-elect
Akshat Khamparia (2404) with a near-perfect score of 8.5/9

The top four players (Khamparia, Reinhart, Letreguilly, myself) lived up to their original seeding and having come back to chess after ten months, I was quite relieved to be among them.

Juliane Romain (1450), C.E. de L'Etang Sale, REU

Anne-Claire Rivolo (1350), Echiquier du Nord, REU

Thibault Tang Hon Yue (1508), from Echiquier du Nord

Where else can you find an organiser in beachwear handing out fruit between rounds? Daniel Tching Sin (left)
with FM Olivier Letreguilly. Olivier is a publisher of chess books in French, many of which were given away as prizes.

One new and interesting experience I had at Reunion was that of visiting summer schools and talking to the kids about chess, travel and life in general (not to mention dodging their embarrassing questions about how much money chess players make). The island’s official chess association Ligue Reunion Echecs has initiated a widespread movement to introduce chess in schools by roping in local players to give lessons. Around 2000 children have been brought into the fold so far and the numbers are fast growing, a statistic I can vouch for since every five out of twenty students I met knew the basics of the game. I also learnt that two new chess clubs are joining the existing list of five.

FM Emmanuel Reinhart and his girlfriend Louise Roos have recently moved to
Réunion from Paris. Louise is the coordinator for the chess-in-schools programme.

As the dedicated team here is at pains to explain, Reunion is too cut off from professional chess expertise to have a system of tournaments and training for serious players yet – but it’s encouraging to see it developing a vibrant amateur atmosphere to begin with.

About the author

Kruttika Nadig is a Woman Grandmaster from Maharashtra, India. She has won three Indian national championships, the last one being the National Women Premier in 2008. She received her WGM title in the same year and also made two IM norms. In 2009 she won the Asian Women Zonal, which qualified her for the World Women Championship in Turkey in December 2010.

Kruttika took a break from chess in 2009 to study journalism and started working with Economic Times, a leading business newspaper in India. She left her job (surprise!) this month and will now be working as a freelance journalist and semi-professional chess player. She like to read, write, travel and aims to try all the adventure sports in the world at least once. She divides her time between Mumbai and Pune, where the family has a house in the hills, with two dogs and a cat. We welcome Kruttika to the staff our our permanent contributors.

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