Talking about the weather: Vlissingen in Summer

by ChessBase
8/13/2013 – It's a beautiful seaside resort in the south-west of Holland, a fishermen's hamlet that came into existence in the seventh century. Bathed in bright sunshine it is an ideal location for a chess open. 250 players participated – it would have been more if the playing hall had been able to take them. Once again we bring you a beautiful pictorial report by our playing and roving reporter WGM Alina l'Ami.

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This nine round Swiss tournament took place from August 3 to 10 in Vlissingen (English: Flushing), a city located on the (former) island of Walcheren and has been an important harbour for centuries.

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The rate of play in the tournament was 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move from the start of the game. Interestingly the FIDE "zero tolerance" rule 6.6a was not applied, and players had to be present at the chessboard only one hour after the scheduled time to start or risk losing the game ("unless the arbiter sees a good reason to decide otherwise"). We call that the "lotsa tolerance" rule.

Tournament report from Vlissingen

By WGM Alina l'Ami

Whenever we are trapped in the tight corners of conversational gaps and simply don’t know how to fill in the embarrassing dilated pauses, there is something that rescues us: weather of course, the last refuge of the unimaginative. In The Netherlands though, this topic could be considered as a national pastime or an important mainstay of almost any dialogue. It rains a lot, summers are short and cold, wind and rainfall are year-round factors, so I am no longer surprised by the rather long (ten minutes!) weather forecast on television. Obviously there is always an opportunity for some pleasant grumbling. The insatiable search for a happy ‘accident’ of spending one entire week in the sun is therefore perfectly explainable in this sea of grayness.

However, climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. Even if the calendar says August, the temperature can laugh into your face, without caring at all what time of the year it is. All in all, I wouldn’t bet my paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow, not in Holland anyway, where clouds seem to move according to an algorithm known only by Mother Nature.

It was easy to predict a wonderful tournament in Vlissingen, as we got used to it ever since 1995, but we couldn’t have anticipated that the 19th edition of the traditional HZ tournament would be absolutely superb, warmed up not only by the organizers tireless efforts but also by the sunny days! With the rounds starting late in the afternoon, at 18.30, the clear skies which accompanied almost the entire event were a perfect match, especially when the location is a lively seaside resort stretched on the North Sea coastline.

Nevertheless, soaking up the sun, sipping the (non)alcoholic cocktails or strolling along the beachfront may not be the main reasons for Vlissingen’s magnetism. A bonus – yes, but the chess players would politely point out the biggest attraction of them all: chess by the sea, in the traditional and strongest Dutch Opens – HZ tournament!

Quite often the organizers of a chess tournament are put in the unpleasant situation of withdrawals in the last minute. Not here, where everyone inscribed (250 players to be precise, the maximum amount the tournament hall can hold) showed up, to the injury of the waiting list. Many chess lovers were hoping against hope they would be given a chance to replace those to have changed their mind at very short notice. In other words, there is an attraction more powerful than any super glue could come up with, between the participants and this lovely event, or maybe more of an unseen chain that inevitably drags the chess players’ feet to the same playing hall each year!

Overview of the playing hall, located in the University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen

Open air chess outside – but no cell phones please!

In order to give you the reverse of the medal, too, I should mention a small incident which occurred during the tournament: while playing his game, a chess player went outside to … speak on the phone! Most likely, he was playing chess for the pure joy of this activity and was not accustomed to our strict professional rules. The appeal committee weighted all the pros and cons and finally decided to award a zero to the unfortunate amateur… But the story continues: next day, the very same person’s phone rang again while he was deeply calculating his next move! After this, not even the softest arbiter could do anything about it. Even if he had nothing to hide, even though unhappiness was clearly written on his face, he had to step out of the tournament. Pity, indeed, but rules are needed in society to avoid chaos; or cheating in some cases.

Without going any further into the endless topic of fighting against this malady, a funny idea has been pointed out in a recent facebook discussion: the opponents should exchange their phones before the game and swap it back once it's over! This idea has already implemented in India, in a tournament played this winter, at GM Teske’s suggestion! It works, unless a player has three mobiles like some of my friends…

Dutch GM Erwin l’Ami – don't get tricked by the lovely smile, it was very impolite to defeat his wife

And while I am still in the Facebook addictive region, I should mention my latest message: “It is official: Erwin l’Ami will be sleeping on the balcony tonight after winning against his own wife!” It might sound like a funny remark to you but trust me, I was not in such a cheerful mood. After a couple of hours though, I learned to be more generous and lent a blanket to my shivering husband…

L'Ami vs L'Ami, Erwin vs Alina, 1-0 in round five. After defeating his wife...

... this is the view Erwin could enjoy from our balcony, where he spent his night

On a more serious note: I had difficulties in separating the emotions felt during and after the game, especially when trying to avoid projecting my own frustration and anger on my dearest opponent. Erwin was obviously happy to add a new point on his way to the top, while I was fighting tooth and nail to keep my composure and pretend I was all right; after all, the rating points remained in the family, right?!

Turning point for the final standings: Pentala Harikrishna vs Thomas Henrichs

The German GM was leading with a perfect score up to this crucial round: 5.0/5! Unfortunately for him, from this moment on things took the wrong direction, after losing the sixth round against the Indian GM.

Top seed Pentala Harikrishna, who just crossed the 2700 border once again! He had a good tournament and the highest performance. But the odds were against him, propelling the Indian GM on the fifth place.

Second seed and winner of the tournament: Polish GM Michal Krasenkow

Third seed: GM Konstantin Landa. Seventh is not a dream place to be sitting on
but the Russian GM had the second best performance from entire tournament!

Top final standings (after nine rounds)

In the end four players were tied for the first place: Krasenkow, l’Ami, Lalith and Ducarmon, all with 7.5, quite a big score and a necessary one to stand out from a crowd of 250 participants.

Rank Name Score Fed. Rating Perf W-We BH SB PS
1 GM Krasenkow, Michal 7.5 POL 2635 2671 +0.52 54.5 44.5 38.5
2 GM L'Ami, Erwin 7.5 NED 2626 2653 +0.50 52.0 42.5 39.0
3 GM Lalith, Babu M.R. 7.5 IND 2576 2630 +0.72 51.0 41.5 38.0
4 IM Ducarmon, Quinten 7.5 NED 2438 2532 +1.26 48.0 39.0 36.5
5 GM Harikrishna, P. 7.0 IND 2696 2698 +0.19 58.0 43.5 39.5
6 GM Ernst, Sipke 7.0 NED 2560 2612 +0.76 56.5 42.25 38.0
7 GM Landa, Konstantin 7.0 RUS 2632 2688 +0.79 56.0 42.75 39.5
8 IM Burg, Twan 7.0 NED 2486 2512 +0.39 55.0 41.5 36.0
9 GM Ikonnikov, Vyacheslav 7.0 RUS 2555 2572 +0.43 52.0 38.5 37.0
10 Mostertman, Milan 7.0 NED 2280 2450 +2.12 48.0 36.0 34.5
11 FM Rijnaarts, Sjef 7.0 NED 2354 2369 +0.38 45.0 32.5 32.0
12 IM Van Delft, Merijn 6.5 NED 2415 2481 +1.05 54.5 36.0 36.0
13 GM Zhao, Xue 6.5 CHN 2562 2523 -0.09 53.0 36.0 36.5
14 GM Reinderman, Dimitri 6.5 NED 2598 2495 -0.83 51.5 35.0 36.0
15 Kerigan, Demre 6.5 TUR 2257 2420 +1.62 50.0 34.75 33.0
16 IM Akshat, Khamparia 6.5 IND 2354 2370 +0.43 48.0 31.75 34.0
17 IM Leenhouts, Koen 6.5 NED 2379 2318 -0.38 46.5 31.5 33.0
18 WGM L'Ami, Alina 6.5 ROU 2358 2309 -0.31 46.0 31.5 32.5

Full final standings of 250 players

Four players tied for the first place: M.R. Babu Lalith, Michal Krasenkow,
Erwin l'Ami and Quinten Ducarmon, all with 7.5/9. Krasenkow won on tiebreak.

A 'scary' opponent to face over the board but a wonderful person: Chinese GM Zhao Xue

Whoever says women cannnot achieve equally good results with men
should take one more look at Harika Dronavalli's title: GM!

Harika give a simultaneous exhibition in Vlissingen

There are many interesting games from the tournament to point out but I will limit myself to four:

  • Henrichs-Reinderman (Henrichs started with 5 out of 5, leading the tournament alone after winning against the current Dutch champion, Reinderman, in a nerve-wracking time trouble)
  • Krasenkow-van Delft (typical Krasenkow attacking style)
  • Landa-Ikonnikov (model game)
  • l'Ami-l'Ami (for obvious reasons!)

Replay the games

Select games from the dropdown menu above the board

Another reason for the special, laidback and friendly atmosphere of the HZ tournament was the adjacent analysis room (drinks were present too), busy until the wee hours since night is the mother of counsel.

Somehow fish tastes better in Vlissingen!

Zeeland is famous for its seafood, but mostly for its mussels, often referred to as 'black gold'

A Dutch house in green surroundings – reminds me of the Hansel and Gretel story

And because we all know it, chess players are night owls, the option of skipping breakfast and play rather late is a good combo; even for an early bird like me, giving me the option to explore the beautiful city and its surroundings!

Vlissingen, which is now the third most important port in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam, thanks to its strategic position as a passageway to Antwerp. It is also known as the birthplace of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter (above), probably the most famous admiral in Dutch history. Sea gulls of course have no sense of history.

Hard to beat: the seafront of Vlissingen on a warm summer's day

The green bus that runs on solar energy was also happy with the sunny days we had!

However lucky we were this time with such unexpectedly warm days, there wasn’t always the case and the Dutch people know it. Back in the 50s, soon enough after the atrocities of the Second World War, a combination of wind, high tide and low pressure caught off guard the Southern province of Holland, Zeeland (Sealand for the English speakers). In the night of 31st January 1953, Vlissingen suffered a horrendous flood disaster, causing numerous deaths and widespread property damage.

Marking the water level from various natural disasters, when the land was claimed by the sea.
The highest and hopefully the last one stands as a witness for the 1953 flood.

But the Dutch are a thorough lot. After the North Sea flood and extensive research, they came up with the so-called "Deltaplan", a series of construction projects in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land from the sea. The defense consists of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and storm surge barriers, Delta Works subsequently having been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Nowadays Zeeland is the dyke-protected province that people often associate with the Netherlands when they're not thinking of tulips or bicycles. And playing chess in this flat, mostly sub-sea-level region was a wonderful experience! Besides, I recently found out that life is not about learning to survive the storm but rather learning how to dance in the rain. Since Holland has lots of it, you can imagine its inhabitants are perfect teachers? From them I learned to cherish the sun whenever it decides to show up its round glowing fireball, taking in that Vitamin D like there is no tomorrow!

And truth be told, how would many people start a conversation if the weather wouldn’t change once in a while?


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