Morelia at last, let the games begin

by ChessBase
2/17/2006 – Were you beginning to worry? After a 23-hour odyssey, your ChessBase team has arrived safely and set camp in a charming Mexican town. After some glitches involving (would you have guessed?) Internet access we are now all set to report on the second big chess event of the year – live from Morelia.

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Morelia – getting there

We take up the tale of our trip to the Mexican town of Morelia from our departure from Madrid on Wednesday. Your faithful ChessBase team embarked on the 10,000 km trip with feelings of trepidation, having been told that the Aeromexico flight would be in a small aircraft with two engines that would "attempt to cross the Atlantic" in a 13-hour non-stop jump.

Leaving Madrid at 2:30 pm on Aeromexico flight 002

Turns out we were on a Boing 767-200, with about 180 seats, which gave us a very smooth ride all the way to Mexico city. In spite of just two engines it took the shortest (bravest?) route, straight across the ocean, flying at 11,600 m (38,000 feet) and a speed of 750 km/h (465 mph). The food was okay, the journey definitely too long, but sweetened by three excellent films.

The long haul: moderately cramped seats, good service and excellent movies

The movies they showed on our flight were:

  • Dreamer is about trainer Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) saving the life of a racehorse named Sonador, who breaks a leg on the track. Ben quits his job and takes the horse in, hoping to breed her for profit. He transfers ownership to his daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning, the star of the movie), who hatches a plan to enter Sonador in the prestigious and expensive Breeders' Cup.

  • Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is the most recent remake of earlier film versions based on Jane Austen's novel – it's magnificent; a must-see for everyone.

  • Just Like Heaven with a delightful Reese Witherspoon playing a dedicated, workaholic doctor who is way to busy for a life. One night, she gets into a horrible car accident and becomes a spirit stuck between heaven and earth. She doesn't know she's dead and thinks nothing has happened until she meets a lonely architect, who has rented her old apartment. Although the two are complete opposites they somehow form a relationship.

Etienne Bacrot, who was on our flight, watched ten minutes of the first movie ("I know the horse is going to win in the end") and switched to reading and sleeping for the rest of the flight. Similarly Peter Svidler, on an earlier flight, who had seen P&P and was not interested in the other two. Players lacking romance in their hearts, or perhaps, unlike us, not suckers for chicks' movies. Thank heavens for Peter Leko, who fully appreciates movies like these, and who has recommended a number of other films which we are determined to catch.

Following the sun westwards for 13 hours. No, Vishy, this is a genuine
shot from the Aeromexico flight. We do not recycle older pictures.

Transfer from Mexico City Airport to the bus terminal

¿Internet? ¡No!

We were supposed to spend the night in a hotel in Mexico, but at the airport we were met by members of the organisation who decided that we had just enough time to catch the night bus to Morelia. So we were zipped by minibus to the transport terminal, about half an hour away. There we boarded a "Superior" bus with wonderful reclining seats, similar (we hear) to the first class seating in better airlines. Although everyone was completely exhausted we did get our first three hours of quality sleep on this bus trip. At 3:00 a.m. local time, 10 a.m. body time, and 23 hours on the road, we arrived at our hotel.

Lots of carriages, no Internet – the charming Hotel Soledad

The Hotel Posada de lat Soledad dates back to the 18th Century and was originally an inn. During the 19th Century the demand for lodgings was so great that a second floor had to be added. The two stages of construction are clearly evident: on the ground floor facade the cornice is clealy baroque, while on the second floor it is neoclassic. The interior is austere, with bare stone walls, unadorned doorframes, thresholds, and arches resting on thick pillars.

We have no idea why, but the hotel is full of quaint oldfashioned carriages

The courtyard of a traditional Mexican four-star hotel

"¿Internet? ¡No!" replied the reception to our hopeful query. So your faithful ChessBase team was faced with a quandary: remain in one of the most romantic hotels we have ever had the privilege to stay in, or bug the organisers to move us to a modern hotel with "why-fee", as the Spanish call wireless LAN facilities. Naturally (sigh) we went for option two, and after a final lunch moved into Hotel Alameda, which provides fast and uncomplicated albeit somewhat overloaded Internet access.

Meals in tropical splendor – but still without Internet


Morelia is the capital of the state of Michoacán in Mexico, with a population of over half a million. The town, and especially the downtown area (Centro Historico de Morelia) where we are located, has many beautiful colonial style buildings, churches and parks, built of reddish sandstone. There is much to see, and we are determined not to remain stuck in our hotel rooms, but instead try to explore as much as possible of this beautiful chess location.

The main street, with the players' hotel on the left

The Hotel Virrey de Mendoza, where 2700 chess players are wont to reside

A school bus in 19th-century train look

The niñas really love to ride it

The playing site, just a stone's throw away from the players' hotel

The stairway up to the playing hall

The playing venue, still under construction

Where the giant Open will be held

Here we end, somewhat abruptly, part two of our Morelia diary. We have already attended press conferences given by a number of players, and the very impressive start of the giant Open. But it is time to go to the Opening Ceremony, and collect more impressions of the mega chess event that will begin tomorrow. More reports and pictures will follow soon. See you all soon.

Report by Frederic Friedel

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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