The chess player – a Don Quixote in disguise?

by ChessBase
11/15/2012 – In a week filled with some of the toughest chess on the continent, playing in the Spanish League, itinerant player and traveloguer WGM Alina L'Ami found herself inspired by the beautiful settings of Leon, home to the start of one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world. This led to some soul-searching amidst the hardened competition and warm open-arms of the Spanish locals.

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The chess player – a Don Quixote in disguise?

Report and pictures by Alina L'Ami

In the dead hours of the night, in a half-lighted room, with the Houdini engine running at its best parameters – I managed to revive Don Quixote! Not the hidalgo of La Mancha but a certain type of…chess player, looking as if descended straight from Cervantes’ book.

The revelation wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere than in León, with its roots firmly planted in the Spanish soil of northern Spain. Situated on the pilgrimage route of St. James’ Way (Spanish: El Camino de Santiago), one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem, León offered me a wonderful gift: the key to self-knowledge.

Although I haven’t embarked the 900 km trip, the mere fact of being there and seeing dozens of pilgrims, gave me a moment of respite to…think. So, while my computer was happily calculating for the roughest tournament of my life, Spanish League, my thoughts slipped away…”wee hours and I am awake of course; and for what?! – this guy will surely play something else!; but what if?! Maybe I should keep on searching…searching for the best move, the best line, searching for Bobby Fischer’s ideal and in the end for the truth…What is true and what is not anyway?! What is real, imaginary, ideal?! What do we want with chess and why do we play it?” – a pell-mell pack of thoughts without head and tail.

All the games were live, which is of course the way it should be done but it's not
always happening. The Spanish though prepared well: all four matches between the
eight teams were broadcast live online.

The winning team - Sestao Naturgas Energia, having four players above 2700! - Dominguez,
Vachier-Lagrave, Giri and Fressinet. Also their board five was not bad either - Edouard Romain

Ivan Cheparinov

Anish Giri playing on third board for Sestao Naturgas Energia
had a very good performance: 2853!

Our team: Foment Martinenc, before relegation, to quote our team captain Alf 

And than it struck me: we, chess players, are Don Quixote(-)s in disguise! A genuine chess player cannot make himself understood elsewhere than on the actual wooden board. Not because we have some sort of psychological antipathy for realism, not because we hate mediocrity and we would like to stand out (which is not that bad by the way!), not because we are searching for the truth. But because we are pursuing our own dream, whatever that is for each of us.

¡Viva España! I haven't seen elsewhere such a joy for life, especially amongst the
elderly. Here everybody enjoys a glass of...something, usually not a strong drink.
'Clara' is a typical example: a mixture with beer and lemon soda.

The scallop shell on the ground is the symbol for Camino de Santiago, a 900 km pilgrimage
going back 1000 years. It crosses Spain and ends in the city of Santiago de Compostella
where the remains of St. James are believed to be. It is the most crossed pedestrian
path on Earth and is part of the Unesco World Heritage!

A statue of St. George slaying the dragon executed by Llorenç
Matamala i Piñol.

Just like in the case of Don Quixote, the typical chess player’s craziness is only a mask, maybe the only one able to protect the deepest bows of his being from the insidious attacks of the way too practical and realistic people outside of our magical chess world. We are also playing a ‘role’ but we are perfectly conscious of that. Besides, despite all the painful defeats we are constantly experiencing, our quixotic spirit keeps us moving on! We start all over again even with bigger hunger than before.

The Casa de los Botines (built 1892-1893) is a Modernist building designed by Antoni
Gaudí. It was adapted to serve as the headquarters of Caja España, a local savings bank.

Santa María de León Cathedral

Gaudi's works in the moonlight of Barcelona

No matter how hungry for points you are, no matter how good your lines are, sometimes things refuse to go your way. Maybe Tartakower was right: “In chess there is only one mistake, over-estimation of your opponent. All else is either bad luck or weakness.” Cannot agree more, especially after a unfortunate loss in a typical Tartakower kind of positions.

Comfort food

It might look like a couple of innocent chocolate candies but that's partly fact,
I chose the weirdest flavours I have ever tried! With beer, vinegar, olive oil and tomatoes,
with salt or with sun flower seeds - a delicious adventure!

The competition I was playing was on a very high level, so I cannot say I was not full of respect for my opponents. Although I managed to squeeze three draws, the last four games were not in my favor. And yet, how happy I am to have had such an experience! This wouldn’t have been possible if not for the kindness of my wonderful team mates from Foment Martinenc Barcelona! A few large smiles, kisses on the cheek and a couple of ‘spanglish’ words were already enough to establish a sincere bond and perfect complicity. Thanks to them I (re)discovered the real Spanish soul: spontaneous, warm, emotional, generous, waggish. I never heard any spiteful words, not even when I lost my fourth game in a row. No such things as stress, hate, or tension: just a shoulder to cry on. I simply love these people!

Mihail Marin catches a local reading his latest book

Returning to our chess universe and dreams – the world is what you think it is. Quixote was sane and so are we. But the biggest wisdom is to create it according to your own wish and believe in that for all one is worth.

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