In a serene little village: Solodovnichenko wins Paleochora Open

by Irina Bulmaga
9/3/2021 – Paleochora is a serene little village which occupies a small peninsula on the southeast coast of Crete. Even during the uneasy pandemic time, Paleochora welcomed more than 300 players from all around the world for the 14th edition of the Open, one of the strongest tournaments in Greece. Irina Bulmaga reports from a paradisiacal location.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Siga, siga

The Paleochora Open has been a constant of my calendar for many years now! It has charmed its way to my heart from the very first time I played there, back in 2010. Year after year I’ve returned — to play chess and to enjoy the “siga, siga…”  (‘slowly, slowly…’ in Greek) lifestyle of the locals in one of the most naturally beautiful locations I’ve ever been to!

Paleochora, GreecePaleochora is a serene little village which occupies a small peninsula on the southeast coast of Crete. Sandy beaches on one side, rocky ones on the other, and lots of tavernas covered in flowers in between. It is a perfect destination for a laid-back vacation!

Even during the uneasy pandemic time, Paleochora welcomed more than 300 players from all around the world for the 14th edition of the Open, which I believe has become the strongest one in Greece! With my 2440 rating at the time, I was ranked 35th in the starting list.

Coming directly from the World Cup in Sochi, where I had a disappointing performance, getting knocked out in the second round after having had a bye in the first one, I was not sure what to expect from myself chess-wise… My mood became even shakier after getting bitten by a spider while travelling. I was already remembering one of the previous editions of the tournament, where I lost 20 Elo points and broke my leg on the last day after blundering mate-in-1 with one hour on the clock against a much lower-rated opponent…

But it all seemed forgotten when I went out the bus and saw the familiar, pebbled, quiet and sunny main street of Paleochora. It reminded me of some recently read verses: “How happy is the little stone /That rambles in the road alone, /And doesn’t care about careers, /And exigencies never fears; /Whose coat of elemental brown /A passing universe put on; /And independent as the sun, /Associates or glows alone, /Fulfilling absolute decree /In casual simplicity”. All my worries disappeared, my bitten hand stopped aching and my shattered  chess player’s ego finally stopped whining.

Every morning I enjoyed the Cretan sun and sea. Then a traditional lunch would follow, a bit of preparation, some siesta and then, at 6 pm, the rounds would begin. After the games, a late dinner with friends, each evening in a different but equally welcoming taverna, thanks to the organizers’ idea to provide the invited players with coupons for different places for each meal! Jumping ahead — I had one of my most solid tournaments, not losing a game and scoring 7 points out of 9, finishing in 8th place and gaining some rating points!

Irina Bulmaga

Here is an interesting game I played in the 5th round against Israeli GM Evgeny Postny.


The tournament was won by Ukrainian GM Yuri Solodovnichenko, who scored 7½/9 points and had better tie-breaks than the other 3 players tied with him — i.e. GM Nikolas Theodorou, IM Szymon Gumularz and GM Hristos Banikas (who, together with his dog Najdorf, is among those who return to Paleochora year after year). 

There are many talented young players in Greece, and I always manage to make a humble contribution to their rise… This year was no exception, as I was paired against Nikolaos Koutlas (born in 2006) in the 2nd round. After a very hard-fought game, we agreed to a draw, and I was not surprised at all when checking the tournament’s final standings only to see this young man’s fantastic performance — he gained more than 150 rating points, losing only to the tournament winner and scoring an IM norm with 6/9 points! 


Remembering Paleochora made me a bit melancholic: it is one of those places that stays in your heart forever, and I cannot be more grateful to organizers Anelia and Kostas Tsarouchas, who put a lot of effort on making this event possible and creating a welcoming environment for all the players!

I have already reserved the next year’s end of July for the 15th edition of the tournament, and I heartily recommend it to all of you!

Final standings (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Solodovnichenko Yuri 7,5 0,0
2 Theodorou Nikolas 7,5 0,0
3 Gumularz Szymon 7,5 0,0
4 Banikas Hristos 7,5 0,0
5 Kelires Andreas 7,0 0,0
6 Basso Pier Luigi 7,0 0,0
7 Kharitonov Alexandr 7,0 0,0
8 Bulmaga Irina 7,0 0,0
9 Rychagov Andrey 7,0 0,0
10 Ioannidis Evgenios 7,0 0,0
11 Alsina Leal Daniel 7,0 0,0
12 Haug Johannes 7,0 0,0
13 Mendonca Leon Luke 6,5 0,0
14 Maze Sebastien 6,5 0,0
15 Postny Evgeny 6,5 0,0

...309 players


Irina Bulmaga is a WGM/IM born in Moldova, currently representing Romania. She became the youngest Moldavian Champion among Women at the age of 14 years old. Since 2010, she has been a part of the Romanian Olympic team, successfully representing it at 5 Olympiads, winning an individual bronze medal in 2014.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register