by André Schulz
6/29/2016 – In June the Grand Chess Tour came to Paris and Leuven. Hikaru Nakamura won in Paris, Magnus Carlsen won in Leuven, and the top players are already on their way to other top events in Dortmund or in Bilbao. Paris is a justly famous city but the lesser known Leuven is also worth a closer look. Which André Schulz took while he was visiting the Grand Chess tour.

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According to wikipedia Leuven "is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Brussels. ... It is the 10th largest municipality in Belgium and the fourth in Flanders. Leuven is home to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and the oldest Catholic university still in existence. ... The city is also known for being the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer and one of the five largest consumer-goods companies in the world."

One of many squares in the historic city of Leuven


About the history of Leuven Wikipedia writes: "The earliest mention of Leuven ("Loven") is from 891, when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia .... According to a legend the city's red and white arms depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dyle after this battle.

Situated beside this river, and near to the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy between the 11th and 14th centuries. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture is shown in that ordinary linen cloth is known in late-14th-century and 15th-century texts as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain).

In the 15th century a new golden era began with the founding of what is now the largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven, in 1425.

In the 18th century the brewery Den Horen (meaning "the horn") flourished. In 1708 Sebastien Artois became the master brewer at Den Horen, and gave his name to the brewery in 1717, now part of AB InBev, whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven and sold in many countries.

Leuven has several times been besieged or occupied by foreign armies; these include the Battle of Leuven (891), Siege of Leuven (1635) and Battle of Leuven (1831).

Both world wars in the 20th century inflicted major damage upon the city. Upon Germany's entry into World War I, the town was heavily damaged by rampaging soldiers. In all, about 300 civilians lost their lives. The university library was also destroyed on 25 August 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501). ... It was rebuilt after the war, and much of the collection was replaced. Great Britain (on the initiative of the John Rylands Library, Manchester) and the United States were major providers of material for the replenishment of the collection. The new library building was financed by the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and built to the design of architect Whitney Warren; it was officially opened on 4 July 1928.

In World War II, ... from 14 to 16 May 1940, the German Army Group B assaulted the city with heavy air and artillery support. The British withdrew their forces to the River Senne on the night of 16 May and the town was occupied the next day. The new university library building was set on fire by shelling on 16 May and nearly a million books were lost."

The old post office

De Kotmadam, a statue by Fred Bellefroid built in 1984 in honour of the kotmadam.

According to the "Guide to the statues of Leuven" “'Kot' is Flemish slang for a student room, and the 'kotmadam' is the landlady of the building, who would prepare meals for the students, tidy their rooms and help them when help was needed".

Old buildings everywhere

A café close to the library

Bust above the restaurant "Het Moorinneken"

Shop with chess decoration

Leuven, city of beer

The restaurants around the station square offer ample
opportunities to drink the beer that is brewed in Leuven.

The University of Leuven

"The University of Leuven was founded in 1425 by John IV, Duke of Brabant and approved by a Papal bull of Pope Martin V. It flourished for hundreds of years as the most prominent university in what would become Belgium, and one of the more prominent in Europe." (Wikipedia)

Hadrian VI, the only Dutchman ever to become pope, studied in Leuven
and later was permanent vice-chancellor of the University.

Statue in the honor of Pieter de Somer, the first rector
of the Flemish Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

The University of Leuven is one of the world's most renowned and prestigious universities and listed as number 35 on the "World University Rankings".

University library

Close to the library is the "Ode to friendship" sculpture

University building with...

... garden

Another look on the library

The celestial globe of Ferdinand Verbiest

"Ferdinand Verbiest (9 October 1623 – 28 January 1688) was a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China during the Qing dynasty. ... He is known as Nan Huairen (南懷仁) in Chinese. He was an accomplished mathematician and astronomer and proved to the court of the Kangxi Emperor that European astronomy was more accurate than Chinese astronomy. He then corrected the Chinese calendar and was later asked to rebuild and re-equip the Beijing Ancient Observatory, being given the role of Head of the Mathematical Board and Director of the Observatory.

He became close friends with the Kangxi Emperor, who frequently requested his teaching, in geometry, philosophy and music.

Verbiest worked as a diplomat and cartographer, and also as a translator, because he spoke Latin, German, Dutch, Spanish, Hebrew, and Italian. He wrote more than thirty books." (Wikipedia)

Ferdinand Verbiest's celestial globe

De groot Beguijnhof

"The Groot Begijnhof has the appearance of a small town in the city. It is a succession of streets, squares, gardens and parks, with tens of houses and convents in traditional brick and sandstone style.

As a community for unmarried, semi-religious women ... this béguinage originated in the early 13th century. The oldest written documents date back from 1232. A Latin inscription on the church mentions 1234 as founding date. The community is presumably a few decades older. Local historians from the 16th century, including Justus Lipsius, mention 1205 as founding date. ...

The last priest of the Beguine community died in 1977 at the age of 107. He is buried in the graveyard of Park Abbey. The last Beguine died in 1988." (Wikipedia)

Map of the community

Erbaut im 15. Jahrhundert 

The municipal park

Close to the city hall and the university is the municipal park, which still contains parts of the old city wall.

The old city wall

The last remains of a city gate

The city hall

"The building today known as the city Hall was the Voirste Huys (front house) of a larger complex of municipal buildings on which construction started in 1439 at the site of an existing City hall. The first architect, Sulpitius Van Vorst, died soon after the back wings of the complex got started and was succeeded briefly by Jan Keldermans II, whose death in 1445 ended the first construction campaign.

The project resumed in 1448 under the direction of Matheus de Layens. The first stone of the Voirste Huys was laid on 28 March of that year. The cellars of some demolished houses were incorporated into the new construction and can today be accessed through a small door at the left side of the cHall. The initial plans, influenced by the City hall at Brussels, included a belfry tower at one of the corners. This design was modified by de Layens, resulting in the symmetrical arrangement of turrets observed today.

The exterior masonry and roof were finished in 1460, and in 1469 the building was complete.

In the 19th century, the city Hall underwent renovations made necessary by centuries' worth of decay. The building remained standing amid the devastation of Leuven during World War I, escaping with only minor damage. In the Second World War, a bomb strike in front of the building caused yet more damage; it took until 1983 before repairs were completed." (Wikipedia)

City Hall

The building next to the city hall is impressive but pales in comparison.

Ah, here chess is played.

Team Nakamura: Kris Littlejohn, Sunil Weeramantry and Hikaru Nakamura, giving an autograph to a young fan.

Entrance to the city hall - and the chess tournament

The entrance hall. On several monitors the public could follow the games.

Or they could listen to the live commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Anna Rudolph. Magnus Carlsen just arrived to share his thoughts about his latest game.

The tournament venue

The walls of the city hall are decorated by numerous paintings - here is one


The "Blitz and Rapid Tournament" in Leuven was played from 17th to 21st June in the old City Hall. Ten of the world's best players took part: World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov. It is a while ago since Belgium was host to a world class tournament but the tournament in Leuven is the strongest tournament that ever took place in Belgium. The tournament was part of the "Grand Chess Tour 2016". It is the second Grand Chess Tour, a series of tournaments that last year comprised the Norway Chess Tournament, the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic.

Norway Chess decided to go their own ways but with Paris and Leuven two new attractive venues were found. In Paris the organisers found a new sponsor in the real estate company Vivendi and a new media partner in Canal plus. Both, Vivendi and Canal Plus, were satisfied with the start and want to continue to support the event next year. The tournament in Leuven was sponsored by the chess foundation "Your next move" which is closely linked to the Kasparov Chess Foundation. Garry Kasparov is "Spiritus Rector" of the Grand Chess Tour. Sponsor of the tournament in Leuven is Jan Callevaert, a renowned Belgian businessman and owner of the Option N.V. company.

The tournament in Paris was won by Hikaru Nakamura. This year, World Champion Magnus Carlsen cannot play in the tournaments in St. Louis and London because he will have to defend his title in November, but Carlsen played in Paris and in Leuven. In Paris he did not finish where he usually finishes but in Leuven he soon found his stride and won the tournament convincingly.

All rapid games


All blitz games



Tournament director Malcolm Pein

The playing venue could seat about 150 spectators and on all four days was filled to capacity.

Anish Giri

Wesley So

"Big Vlad"

Carlsen and Giri

Anand and Kramnik

And the winner was...

Aronian and Carlsen

Vachier-Lagrave and Nakamura

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave helps to make chess in France more popular

Fabiano Caruana

Giri and So

Veselin Topalov



This is the man who occasionally disturbed the quiet of the games - he is responsible for striking the time on top of the Sint Pieter church. Listen carefully and you can hear him in the video.

The first three rounds were scheduled for 2 pm, the fourth and last round should start at noon. But on Saturday, the second day of the Rapid tournament, there was a slight delay before the round. Almost all players were present and sat in first row but the organisers took their time and did not seem to be in a hurry to start the round. Maybe they were waiting for Magnus Carlsen who was not present. But Giri soon inquired why the round did not begin: "Seriously, what is this? We always start at two o'clock, don't we?" And seconds after tournament director Malcolm Pein had started to introduce the players and to announce the pairings, Magnus Carlsen arrived with, to quote Pein, "his impeccable timing" and soon after the games began.

Malcom Pein a press officer Jan Poté

The players wait for the round to begin

Veselin Topalov

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik

Fabiano Caruana

Wesley So

Levon Aronian and Vishy Anand

Photos: André Schulz


Tournament page Grand Chess Tour...

Grand Chess Tour on Twitter...

Tournament page Leuven...

Your next move...

Website of Leuven...

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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