Summer in San Salvador (part one)

by Alina l'Ami
12/20/2015 – Enjoying a much needed relief from the below freezing temperatures in the northern hemisphere, Alina L'Ami travels to Latin America where the sunny climate reigns. First on the list was San Salvador, where the second San Salvador Open took place, won convincingly by Evgeny Romanov with 8.0/9. In the hectic schedule, time was found to visit ancient pyramids.

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As wide and varied the world we are living in might be, I start having déjà vu feelings whenever I travel to a new destination. This was partly the case with my recent trip to El Salvador, hosting in December 2015 the second edition of the San Salvador International Open.

As some of you may know, I love long-haul flights. I look forward to the excuse
to do nothing, read, watch mindless movies or gaze at the beautiful landscape
beneath – in this case: flying over Greenland on my way to El Salvador.

I couldn't refrain from smiling when, right after landing, I got such messages on my phone: "Welcome to Guatemala", "The Romanian Embassy in Cuba..." or "Roaming costs in Jamaica...", a confusion of the telephone companies I had similarly experienced at my arrival in Suriname in 2014. Coming from the depths of European winter, I reckon my mobile needed to warm up a bit under the gorgeous Salvadorian sun, just like its owner, carrying an invincible summer within.

The advantages of a warm climate : lush vegetation, with bright and bold colours

Tried for the first time freshly picked coffee beans! The taste is...all right but I do prefer them
in my coffee mug. (Insert big smiley here)

Enjoying the adrenaline rush, the great Salvadorian “pupusas” (corned tortillas filled with
a blend of various ingredients), the gorgeous views and the good company.

There were things which diverged from my initial expectations, though. I had hoped that my well-calculated fears when entering a country reported as one of the most dangerous in the world, would turn into a feeling of safety, as was the case when I played in Mexico City earlier this year.

Nevertheless, how could I feel secure when I occasionally saw soldiers or even civilians on motorcycles with guns, barbed and electric wires almost everywhere or noticed that the buildings had their windows protected by lattice works not only on the ground floor but also on the higher ones?

Everything you want is usually on the other side of fear...therefore: “Chess team loves El Salvador”!

I do know that all of it, all the kind suggestions and advice were with the best of intentions at heart, to make us vigilant and cautious, just to avoid any possible troubles. However, when you hear it often enough you start doubting, scanning everything and seeing unnecessary ghosts, forgetting to simply enjoy the beauty around you, be it people, a great game, a good meal or just a swim in the pool… which we had.

The reality is that you have 99.9 % chances of coming back happy and well at your home/hotel, if plain common sense is applied. Safety is also a state of mind and it depends on each person's comfort zone. Mine was Ok, so happy traveling everyone!

Rewards for those who dare: in San Andrés with Evgeny Romanov and Sergey Tiviakov...

visiting the pre-Colombian pyramids.

Great feeling to “escape” winter...

... as well as soaking up culture.

Actually I also experienced a fierce attack: that of some little local ants! They can bite the hell out of your legs, as it happened with me. I must admit it was surely my fault; trespassing and walking on “dangerous” looking vegetation just to get a better angle for one of my shots was not a successful idea.

The “bloody” picture...but it was for a good cause, as I have never seen how the cocoa beans grow!

I have to emphasize that the organizers did their best to make our stay in San Salvador secure and pleasant. We were accompanied wherever we wished to go and the day before the first round we were offered a wonderful trip including a visit to the oldest vestiges of the Mayan culture.

I would extend my positive feelings to the Salvadorian people in general, by calling them an absolutely wonderful people, words which I have used a lot for Latin-Americans (and not only) and deservedly so.

Hmmmm, it seems the dangers are not over yet – sitting on a “ticking
bomb”: the Boquerón vulcano ("big mouth" in Spanish), which erupts
every 100 years and is expected to show its power again.

The tournament itself was a tough experience, with double rounds and the relatively strong field added to the seven-hour jet-lag. All in all I feel that my five rating points lost were a fair price to pay for an overall thrilling experience. The main three favorites, Tiviakov, Ortiz Suarez and Romanov occupied the first three places, even if in a shuffled (or long castled, 0-0-0) order.

The winner's brand

Evgeny won the tournament in style, with 8.0/9! Only two draws slipped
from his pockets – back to the 2600 club.

As we all know, it is very important to start well in a tournament...things could have gone wrong
for Evgeny but he was alert to potential damage on the chess board.

Feliz Mara - Evgeny Romanov

[Event "II San Salvador Chess Open 2015"] [Site "San Salvador"] [Date "2015.12.05"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Felix, Mira"] [Black "Evgeny, Romanov"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B41"] [WhiteElo "1978"] [BlackElo "2590"] [Annotator "Alina L'Ami"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b2rk1/5ppp/3pp3/q3P3/1p2NP2/1R2Q3/P5PP/5R1K b - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "12"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:24:21"] [BlackClock "0:28:32"] {The tournament winner had the occasion to find out that San Salvador was a dangerous place, indeed, from the very first round. In the position above he was about to play:} 23... Ba6 {but noticed in time the following fantastic variation:} 24. Nf6+ Kh8 (24... gxf6 $2 25. Qh3 {offers White a winning attack} ) 25. Qe4 gxf6 {It may seem that White's attack has come to an end but...} 26. Qxh7+ $3 Kxh7 27. Rh3+ Kg6 28. f5+ $1 {Preventing the king's escape to the centre.} exf5 29. Rg3+ {with a perpetual check. I was deeply impressed by this resource which Evgeny showed me during the bus ride back to the hotel. And I must say I have a huge satisfaction when given the chance to say that engines are hopeless...the Russian laughed in their face, as they were unable to find this forced draw, until shown! :) So instead of 23...Ba6 he played 23...Bb7, controlling the e4-square and won a good technical game and the tournament in style!} 0-1

The number one rated player, Sergey Tiviakov, played a good tournament too, finishing in second
with 7.0/9. True, he is not so happy with the two draws in the final rounds but a tough schedule
has its he was beating your reporter, unfortunately.

Sergey Tiviakov - Alder Escobar

[Event "Open 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.12.07"] [Round "5"] [White "Tiviakov, Sergey"] [Black "Escobar, Alder"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [Annotator "Alina L'Ami"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bq1rk1/1pn1ppbp/p1n3p1/2p1P3/P3B3/2P2N2/1P3PPP/RNBQR1K1 w - - 0 12"] [PlyCount "17"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {The second prize winner, Sergey Tiviakov, seemed to have learned something from the incident above. In this position he could have played for an attack with 12.Qe2 for if 12...Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.Bh6 White has strong initiative. But he wisely decided that the lesser pieces the lesser "dangers" and gladly entered a slightly better ending where he could prove his known technique:} 12. Be3 Ne6 13. Bxc6 Qxd1 14. Rxd1 bxc6 15. Na3 a5 16. Nc4 Ba6 {Black has managed to question the stability of the blockade on light squares but the c5-pawn is hoplessly weak:} 17. Nb6 Rad8 18. Nd7 Rfe8 19. Nxc5 Nxc5 20. Bxc5 {and Sergey won soon.} 1-0

A great tournament for the player from Nicaragua, Mauro Ampie, who held a draw in a tough position against Sergey.

With two rounds a day and horrendous traffic, no time to go back and forth to the hotel...power nap time!

Continued in part two

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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